The OSU offense showed aggression and balance on Saturday. The unit seems to be hitting their stride as we head down the home stretch of the season.
Many may ask why we didn't see that kind of production against Texas and Penn State. Many factors go into that answer. Troy Smith was shaking off rust. The Buckeyes didn't have a consistent physical running game. The Buckeye offense had mistakes and blown assignments at times. More than anything though, the Penn State and Texas defense are just really, really, really good.
As we discussed last week, I will take execution over strategy every day of the week. The offense did not turn the ball over in the Metrodome. The offense executed and did the little things right, which sets up the big plays. The third-and-5 completion to Anthony Gonzalez on the first series allowed them to stay on the field. While the Santonio Holmes touchdown gets all the praise, it's the third-and-5 conversion-type plays that create the opportunities. We would not have seen a well designed fake end around with a misdirection pitch to Antonio Pittman with a pass option on it had the offense been on the sidelines that first series. Execute and the offense gets to have some fun.
Pittman's running really opens the offense. Funny how that works. How do we open up the offense? Well, you blast the ball inside with a physical running game. It is a necessary piece to OSU's offense opening up.
Nickel and dime packages facing predictable spread offense plays is not the ticket to success. Ohio State faces defenses that are good enough to take away a short underneath passing game if we don't have other threats. These defenses can also send a player over the top and take away the deep ball if we allow them. When Pittman is rushing for 60+ yards on a touchdown run, they all the sudden worry about Pittman instead of worrying about the perimeter. Then they can use Ginn (as fast as any receiver in college football) and Holmes (as good as any receiver in college football). The balance is the key.
Laurence Maroney is a tough player, but Gary Russell is a nice player as well. Amazing how Marion Barber isn't missed because of Maroney's dominant running. They won't miss Maroney because Russell will take over when he departs. The cupboard is not bare at tailback for Glen Mason. Dominic Jones sure is a nice player. Of all the Ohio guys, including Cupito, I think Jones is the one I would want. He's a little guy, but he is a ferocious hitter. He plays hard. Dominic will only get better, and while he doesn't have the size of some of those NFL centerfielders, he will be well respected within the Big Ten.
It's important that the Buckeyes create highlights against a poor Illinois team. If they can't load up on big plays against Illinois, they can't load up on big plays against Michigan or a bowl opponent. You don't just hit the switch and say "Oh, we have a marquee game today, let's hit the ‘big play' switch." I feel the Minnesota offensive production was a result of getting things going against Indiana. They need to keep the train rolling.
Buckeye Leaves –
Donte Whitner – So fast and so physical. Climbing draft boards.
Josh Huston – The only problem is the kickoff unit might be sleeping when he actually kicks a returnable ball.
Nick Mangold – In the battle of the two best centers, Nick comes out a winner.