Mr. Bucknuts' Bucket of Bullets

Yes, the Buckeyes came out on top in a big way at Indiana... so why isn't everyone satisfied? Mr. Bucknuts discusses that and more in this week's Bucket of Bullets, including some lousy officiating during Saturday's game and plenty of linebacker chatter.

41-10…

We should be happy. Ohio State won convincingly and postponed the call for Jim Tressel's head for at least another week, no? And I am happy they won. But there is this nagging voice that says, peel back the layers of the onion a bit and you feel a little teary-eyed. Why?

Well, let me say this about that:

Remember reading about the old baseball barnstorming teams? Babe Ruth would put together a gang of all-stars (so did Lou Gehrig…) and they would come to your town, take on your best nine and everyone would ooh and ahh and generally have a Good Old Time.

That's what this Buckeye team feels like to me. Except they are eleven instead of nine and many of us squirm and scoff through the performance.

This All-Star strategy is working great on defense. You have eleven bona fide all-stars that have an identity, cohesion and a mission. They play well together and cover for one another. The strategy works great – most of the time – on special teams, too. Terrific skill positions, an identity, discipline and overwhelming talent. But it just doesn't sparkle on offense. Yet. Sure, there is no better talent. There are more hidden weapons than you would find in a hostile Middle Eastern country. But, identity? Discipline? Mission?

Ohio State uses a strange brew of big mistakes, big plays and big defense to beat the teams they should beat in 2005. And maybe that will take care of things the rest of the way.

But it is still hard to get comfortable with an offense that features so many skilled players yet so often looks as if it's a book in search of a title. How about "Name That Plan"? The all-stars are certainly fun to watch and, given enough time, they will figure out a way to score. At Penn State, unfortunately, they only had sixty minutes…

And, as I reflect, this offense reminds me of an offense I have seen in high school. Wait a minute…now I remember! The Glenville Tarblooders. Of course!

This could be the year that the fabulous Glenville Guys win it all in the big division Ohio high school championships. Every year so far, some disciplined talented teams have, well…derailed the ‘Blooders, despite the consistently amazing individual skills that Coach Ginn's teams routinely exhibit. And when you think that – in just the past three years – the Buckeyes have added Glenville players like Troy Smith, Ted Ginn, Dareus Hiley, Curtis Terry, Jamario O'Neal and (maybe) Freddie Lenix to the program, perhaps that's where the overt resemblance between Glenville and OSU is generated.

Then, when you realize (and hope…) that the Buckeyes will probably be adding Ray Small, Robert Rose and Bryant Browning from Glenville next year, that's nine players in but four seasons.

And just like Babe Ruth's nine, Ohio State will generate some offense every time out. They just might not win every game on the barnstorming exhibition circuit…

* * * * *

And another stupid theory about the stupid "All-Star Theory"…So let's imagine that you are a veteran on this here All-Star squad and you know that you only have a few plays to get some attention, so you are pressing and you do, well…some silly things. If you are Alex Boone, you clip on the first play of the game. Or so the refs say. If you are Santonio Holmes, you hold in the middle of the field while Pittman is scampering way over to the other side for 30 yards or so. Or so the refs say. And if you are Mike Kudla, you make sure that you pile drive the quarterback after he has thrown a desperation pass on 4th and three. For the second time in two weeks, one of the vets on defense has given up points doing the same play: a personal foul after the play was over Last week, Carpenter turned their three into seven with a late hit on Stanton. This week, Kudla turned zero into three doing the same thing.

Because you only get so many chances on an All-Star team. Mistakes are inevitable. At least that's my theory…

* * * * *

Upon further review…The officials missed a pretty good game Saturday. Seriously folks, have you ever seen – conclusively – a game that was called worse, consistently, from beginning to end? It must have been an SEC crew ‘cause it certainly looked like someone was one the take. The calls seemed divided into two types: calls that were missed and ones that were made up. And this is not sour grapes from an Ohio State fan as more of the bad calls went the Bucks' way than they did against the Hoosiers (as a Schembler-esque Hoeppner would testify). Of all the bad calls – and there were too many to recount – the most imaginative and intriguing had to be when two officials dropped the yellow hankies on a clipping call, only to be over-ruled when the third of the blind mice indicated that the clipper (Lumpkin) was trying to get out of the way, but blocked Whitner in the back nonetheless. It's going to be a new game when the refs start to analyze player "intent"…

* * * * *

From the Department of Redundancy Dept…And in honor of playing in Indiana, a state that the NCAA has asked to change their name to something more appropriate and less openly hostile…

Now that the NCAA brain trust has confronted the burning issue of the day (offensive mascots) and the nation is enthralled with the chance-of-the-century to right this dastardly wrong, it was only inevitable that other ethnic groups would chime in. No, something more intelligent than my ranting about "Fighting Irish". This comes from a Dayton writer, Don Balduf, who asserts:

"I'm all for the NCAA's ban on the use of American Indian nicknames for college sports teams. I'm hoping it will help me get traction for my new movement, which I call "Stop Using All Viking Epithets" or SUAVE. Now that the NCAA has banned one sort of nickname as "violent and abusive", perhaps they can take another step and end the use of "Vikings" as a team name. I'm tired of seeing my ancestors portrayed as bloodthirsty savages…at schools such as Barstow College, Augustana College, Cleveland State and many others. If you must ban American Indian sports mascots, let's apply the same standard to mascots based on the Scandinavian heritage".

Now, it's possible that Don is writing this tongue-in-cheek because he sounds relatively intelligent. Hey – maybe the NCAA was just kidding, too! No, using that same criteria (intelligence and wit), probably not…

* * * * *

Linebacker backers…Two weeks ago, AJ Hawk had 19 tackles against MSU and…Bobby Carpenter was voted the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week! How good are the linebackers? Carpenter did have eleven tackles and a record-setting four sacks chasing around Drew Stanton all afternoon. But Jerry Rudzinski said that AJ Hawk's game was the best line-backing game he had ever seen at Ohio State. Stout praise, indeed…

So we know it won't be easy to replace these two phenoms. One spot will likely go to super-LB Marcus Freeman, of course. The other? Maybe Curtis Terry. Maybe James Laurinaitis, who seems to have passed Terry. Maybe perennial "Wait-and-See" John Kerr. And if you want to wait and see someone very special, wait until you see Ross Homan, the new ‘backer from Coldwater. The same day Hawk got his 19 tackles, Homan had 32 tackles against #1-in-the-state Versailles. Not only that, he led the Cavaliers in rushing! Not only that, but our recruiting guru Duane Long said: "Homan had the best game I have seen a high school player have this season. He would be the #5 back in the state, maybe #4". (That's running back, Bucknutters…) And then: "It was a performance you had to see to believe. He was player of the game just as a running back. The best performance I have seen all year. No question."

So the outside spots are looking good. What about inside? The Buckeyes are losing Anthony Schlegel, who has been an inspiring Mike the last two years. Personally, I thought he was a step slow and that the "real" Mike (D'Andrea), when healthy, will be an improvement in the middle. Behind D'Andrea? We have chafing and chomping Chad Hoobler, who has to get on the field. And far off in the wings is a project named Austin Spitler, who is still under wraps. I will posit a plan I put forward a year ago: Why keep burning Hoobler's eligibility? Let D'Andrea and Kerr man the middle next year, red shirt Chad and let him star (along with Homan and Freeman) for two more years.

* * * * *

Turning on those Faucets…Anyone else think that Coldwater could have a better mascot than "The Cavaliers"? And is there a better nickname in the Division Three college ranks than the Heidelberg Student Princes? But I digress…

In a previous bullet in this column, I described the extraordinary game that Ross Homan played for #1 Coldwater in their victory over #1 Versailles. We have followed Ross since the seventh grade - that's when a long-time hardcore fan from Coldwater (are there any other kinds there?) called me to say there was this kid that hadn't been tackled yet in the first seven games. He scored every time he touched the ball. Let the buzz begin!

Homan is the real deal folks and the comparisons to Hawk are apt, if simply premature. Coldwater is the real deal, as well. Coach John Reed has one of the best high school programs anywhere – disciplined, high-octane offenses, great special teams and smothering defenses. All for a school just three miles down the road from St. Henry – another program that has produced famous folks (two Hoyings, a Hartings, a Jim Lachey, one Todd Boeckman and a Wally Post!). Rumors are rampant in Coldwater that Ohio State wants Reed to join the Buckeye program as a staff assistant to work with the kids (morally and academically) much in the same way that Butch Reynolds works with them on their speed. If that's not a legitimate rumor, then I am pleased to start it.

Incidentally, there is another Homan Being at Coldwater, brother Adam who is a 6'1" 233 pound freshman and plays on the line. Probably not in the Ross Homan category, but who is? The Cavalier fans say there is one that might be: freshman quarterback Cory Klenke. That's a name to watch for, and this is simply a great program to watch if you enjoy well-coached and well-disciplined football teams…

* * * * *

Upon further review…No one uses instant replay quite the way that professional golf does. Craig Stadler once lost a big tournament check when a television viewer noted that (the day before) Craig had "built his stance" by placing a towel under his knee – to keep his pants from getting dirty. The PGA acted on the replay. They acted again a week ago when it was posited that Michelle Wie took an incorrect drop out of a fairway bush. They had her "re-create" the scene the day after it happened, decided that she had incorrectly placed the ball (about 12-15 inches ahead of where it should have been) and disqualified her, costing Michelle a wee bit more than $50,000.

Contrast that spirit hyper-integrity to the amoral world of college football. The same day that Wie made her technical bobble, millions upon millions of fans watched Reggie Bush push Matt Leinart into the end zone to keep USC undefeated and in line for a national championship. My point here? On page117 of the NCAA rules (Rule 9, Section 3, Article B), it clearly states "…The runner shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, push, lift or charge into him to assist him forward in progress". It's a proscribed 5-yard penalty.

Never called, never enforced. Could have been accidental, you say? Not based on Reggie Bush's post game gloating that included this quote, " I used all 200 pounds of my body to push Matt in". I guess that the bushes in golf represent a different standard of integrity than do the Bushes in college football…

* * * * *

One last piece of trivia from that high school big MAC…Everyone that follows high school football in Ohio recognizes the Midwest Athletic Conference as the toughest small division conference in the state. Besides the previously noted Coldwater, St. Henry and Versailles, the MAC also is home to Marion Local, and Delphos St. John, the school that holds the state record (any division) for the longest winning streak in state history. That record, incidentally, was formerly held by Versailles. At one point this year, Coldwater, Versailles and Delphos St. John were each the #1 team in the state in three different divisions (IV, V and VI). Then Delphos lost to Versailles in week five and Versailles lost to Coldwater. The individual team records would certainly be better – if they didn't have to keep playing each other!

One record that was set (we think…) at the venerable H.B. Hole Stadium in Versailles two weeks ago at the Coldwater-Versailles showdown: the "50-50 raffle" had almost $11,000 in the pot with some lucky fan getting $5400. A typical high school "50-50" win is about $200, for comparison sake. The attendance in Versailles was 4500 (or more than the population of the town…) although fans in attendance say there were another 1000 squeezed in and around the stadium trying to see parts of the game.

It reminds me of the time that I interviewed Jim Lachey on the radio and asked him about the biggest rivalry in his playing career. Was it the Dallas Cowboys versus Washington Redskins? Or was it Ohio State-Michigan? He laughed and said, "That's easy. It was Coldwater-St. Henry". Yeah, that's what we're talking about…

* * * * *

And another thing…Way too much is made over this whole "returning starter" shebang. I mean, if a team is great the previous year and a bunch of those starters are back – I will buy into that kind of analysis. But if a team is lousy one year, and they return almost all the starters, who's saying that year-older-lousy players are any better? Huh? A case in point: Purdue had a not-so-good defense in 2004. In the 2005 preseason, they were ballyhooed because they were returning all 11 of those same starters on D. As of last week's national standings, the 2005 Purdue defense was ranked 115th out of 117 teams.

I rest my case…

* * * * *

Say bye "bye"…It seems that most teams in the Big Ten will be happy to skip the bye week. Two weeks to prepare for a game has simply meant a loss of "mo" and some balky performances. Ohio State's are, unfortunately, well-documented with an egg laid last year against Northwestern after a bye week and then someone forgetting to bring the offensive game plan along to Happy Valley this year following a week off. Next up for the Bucks? Minnesota, which has had two weeks to think about that shameful loss to Wisconsin; a loss that even an optimistic Barry Alvarez couldn't have figured out a way to win until the Minnies simply handed him the game with 30 seconds to go. Just for the record, here is how Big Ten teams have fared, thus far, after taking the two weeks off prior to resuming play:

Already had the dreaded bye week

Purdue: First week of the season (!); they got it over with early, then the rest of the year has gone downhill from there…

Indiana: They beat Kentucky big before the bye week then lost by a bunch at Wisconsin when they got to play again…

Iowa: The Hawkeyes killed Northern Iowa before the bye and then were subsequently killed by the Buckeyes after…

Michigan State: Lost in overtime to Michigan prior to the rest period, lost to OSU afterwards…

Illinois: After losing to Indiana before the bye week, they were slaughtered by Penn State afterwards. Their best performance in the Big Ten so far this year was the bye week…

Ohio State: Bad beatings by-the-bye as detailed above…

Minnesota: Will hopefully keep the conference string of losses alive by getting beaten by the Buckeyes on Saturday…

Still to face the inevitable

Wisconsin: Barry Alvarez shows again why he is superb AD material; they play straight through and take the bye week before a final post-Big Ten game at Hawaii…

Michigan: They play at Northwestern, then get a bye week, then get a second bye week by playing Indiana, then face the Bucks (hey – I'm trying to spin it here for you…)

Which leaves Northwestern as the only team that beat the curse this year, so far. They did it by losing to Penn State before the bye week then, having rested up, they beat Wisconsin 51-48.

Next year, all teams will play every week. Ohio State's bye week game will be Bowling Green, which might make it a tougher week, but will hopefully break the string of losses we have experienced in the subsequent game (next season at Michigan State!)

* * * * *

One Kerr out of the doghouse…The last time John Kerr played at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, he was the Big Ten freshman defensive player of the year. That was nearly three long and soul-testing years ago for John, a terrific young man who had endured a lot to play for his beloved Buckeyes. So, it was good to see him back on the turf for his final appearance in front of the Indiana faithful, most of whom didn't remember him – or you would have heard the boos to prove it. John gets one more year to prove his worth to the Ohio State faithful, and I predict you will be surprised – and pleased – with what you see next season…


If you have anything to prove, or you just want to rant and rave a bit, feel free to let it out on our poor unsuspecting Mr. Bucknuts by e-mailing him at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com


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