In his fifth season, Coach Tressel once again has the Buckeyes getting better and better as the season progresses. November seems to be the time when the Buckeyes hit their peak. I was a very concerned Buckeye fan as the Wildcats marched down the field in the opening series. A third and 18 conversion along with a big Tyrell Sutton rush made me think Northwestern would take Ohio State well into the fourth quarter.
Thankfully I was wrong. The team settled down and thrashed Northwestern in every phase of the game. It is very obvious why the Buckeyes enter the final week with a Big Ten Championship on the line.
The special teams were special. A pooch kick to a potential first rounder, Santonio Holmes, set up a short field on our first possession and first score. A punt return to the Northwestern 29 on the second possession made life easier for our second score. Maybe we shouldn't give credit to the "special teams unit" on the third touchdown because the defense created the punt block and score. While it wasn't the special teams personnel, it was at least a special teams situation. Speed and depth on the roster bring great special teams. Speed and depth along with great coaches and coachable players bring OSU special teams. The Buckeyes are clearly in a class of their own in that very important third phase of the game.
The interception by Youboty was very meaningful to the defense. After quarterback Troy Smith threw a rare interception, Northwestern had halted momentum temporarily. I won't say the momentum pendulum swung their way, but they at least felt they could turn 21-7 into 21-14. Well, the defense went to work. They went and got the ball back.
Saying they "got the ball back" is not just some general term to fill space on this paper. Literally, defenses will harp on getting the ball back every single day in practice. When the offense commits a turnover, no defender hangs their head low or points fingers. The defensive unit's first thought before they even put their helmet on to take the field after a turnover is "let's go get it back." You are not angry at your quarterback for a pick. You are angry at the opponent's defense. "How dare they create a turnover…that is our job…we will show them…we will one-up them."
Great defenses think that way. That is why the Youboty interception felt so good to the defense. Ohio State threw an interception, but it was a case of "No big deal, let's just go get one back for the offense." 21-7 didn't turn into 21-14. It turned into 28-7.
As I say every year, you bet the Buckeyes were looking ahead to Michigan. I struggle with the constant questioning from the media and constant political correctness from the players before the Michigan game. Let's just clear the air. Yes, the current, past, and future OSU players think about Michigan every week, not just during Michigan week. I'd be disappointed and checking for a pulse if my teammates or the 2005 Buckeyes weren't thinking about this game constantly. It's the Michigan game…how could you not think about it for a week?
Michigan will be ready. Lloyd Carr and Michigan demand excellence. They have been short of excellence in 2005, so they have their fists up. They will come out swinging. They will have a flawless game plan. They will press and press for perfect execution on the practice field this week. Both teams will error on the side of too much preparation, focus, and energy as opposed to not enough. It should be another classic.
Buckeye Leaves –
AJ Hawk – The touchdown, forced fumble, and sack on his final defensive play were just another day at the office for that All-Century Player.
Quinn Pitcock – Thankfully Quinn missed the day when the football gods explained you don't block a kick when you line up in punt safe.
O-line – Pittman rambled towards the north stands and south stands as opposed to the east and west bleachers. Did OSU even throw the ball Saturday?