A game that will henceforth be remembered - by me - as simply "The Drive"
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Prior to "The Drive", the game would have been remembered – at least by me – as "The Mistakes". How many mistakes? Let us not count the ways. Special teams alone made enough mistakes to justify losing this game. Fumbles and non-returns and field position errors and shanked punts and penalties and missed field goals and even missed PAT's for god's sake!
It seemed that the onslaught of errors and miscues would never end. Plus, how many of you went through the thought process of:
I knew that OSU had lost the game when…
And to fill out that thought you could have picked from a number of answers, including all the mistakes I just listed above PLUS:
1) When Bobby Carpenter broke his ankle
2) When Lamar Woodley goes off the field "for good" then comes back a play later to create a critical turnover
3) When Michigan runs a key play after time had expired and no one seemed to notice
4) When Nick Mangold limps off the field
5) When Holmes is flagged for an absurd "celebration" penalty giving Michigan equally-absurd field position
6) When Michigan then fumbles on the next play (probably their only mistake of the game) and recovered anyway
Yet, their Hart was eventually out of the game, just like our Carpenter. And they had injuries and fought back. "Heart", though, was on the side of the Buckeyes in this one as a determined Troy Smith and his heroic cronies were simply not to be denied.
Hey – here's one last sodden thought: How many of you out there were wishing it were Justin Zwick in there for "The Drive"? Yeah, I thought so…
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Lloyd Tressel and Jim Carr…For the first hour or so of the game, it seemed like the coaches had switched sides. There was Lloyd Carr's guys, out-manned but playing gamely at home, executing a very conservative game plan, making no mistakes and playing well on special teams. And there was a Jimmy Tressel club with senseless penalties, mental errors, and fumbling around like a high school freshman on his first date. Had we seen a sea change in this duel – had the tide finally turned for the beleaguered Raging Lloyd?
Remember the story told about Bum Phillips (or by him –it's unimportant…)? It talked about a great coach of whom the country boy said admiringly: "He could take his'n and beat your'n. Or he could take your'n and beat his'n". After all, that is what makes a coach great.
And I think Jin Tressel is a great coach. So, in the end, his guys reverted to form. There was the inevitable Carr Wreck, playing not to lose, popping neck veins at the officials over every perceived slight, and coming up with questions when answers were needed. And there was JT; keeping his head when all around him were trying to lose theirs. Milking the clock, playing the percentages, staying with the QB he had taken so much heat over and –
Walking off a winner. That's right. Victor valiant, indeed…
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Coach Cooper's deadly duo…This has surfaced before, but – as good a salesman as John Cooper was – he couldn't close the deal. I am referring to the last two games of each season, which tend to define that season to the fans. The last two games are supposed to be "Michigan" and "Bowl Game". Twice (‘88 and ‘99), Coop didn't even make it to a bowl game and you have to wince when you see that. But what were the "last two game" stats in the Cooper Era?
Dreadful. Only once in thirteen years did a Cooper team win their last two games! And that year (1998), it happened after they had just blown the national championship against Michigan State. Nine times in thirteen years, they didn't win either of the Michigan or bowl games. That's bloody awful. In fact, he only won three bowl games and (of course) two Michigan games in his tenure with the Buckeyes.
Contrast that, if you will, to Coach T's record. If the Buckeyes bring home a win in the bowl game this season, that will make it three times in the last four years that Tressel has won both the bowl game and beaten Michigan. This class of seniors will be 3-1 versus the Wolverines and 4-0 in bowl appearances.
Now, that's closing the deal…
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Getting offensive about recruiting…Many of our fellow Bucknutters have expressed their concern about Ohio State recruiting this year. Do not count me amongst those concerned. This was a "strategic" year, a year to fill niches in a transitional time. And I am impressed as to how this whole recruiting thing will come out. Worry not.
Let's look at the offense as one (of only two) examples. They needed one running back. They took one (Chris Wells), who might be the best in the nation and is the perfect big complement to their smaller established starting back. OSU needed a quarterback and found one in rural Georgia (Antonio Henton), a Troy Smith clone (hey – you're not laughing at that reference anymore, are you?) and another great complement to the two drop-back underclassmen QB's.
On the front line, they needed a tight end and have an outstanding large athlete coming aboard in Jake Ballard. The Buckeyes (always) need two great receivers and have the unique Josh Chichester at 6'8" already committed. And the "small" receiver? Ray Small, who some at Glenville have taken to calling "TG III". I think Ray comes to join TG II. Finally, on the O-line, they have a great one in Connor Smith, a good one (I think he's coming) in Bryant Browning), a good shot at winning over Joe Thomas, and they will either get the best of the rest or possibly convert jumbo athlete Jake Ballard to a tackle.
All in all, that's good stuff. It's a great group of athletes with at least four of them having the potential to be three-year starters. Could you want anything more? Oh, yeah, you probably are:
Getting defensive about recruiting…As you can see from the discussion above, I am already a bit defensive because I think the staff has been unfairly maligned that they 1) Don't have a large enough group of applicants to pick from and 2) Haven't gotten more commitments at this point. And – as you can also surmise from the offensive discussion – you will feel better after ruminating about the defense. Remember – it's not just about talent – it's about fit, match and growth, as well.
On defense, the Buckeyes have a pipeline full of young defensive ends (Gholston, Worthington, Wilson, and Williams) as well as mid-line pluggers. But you always need one more at each position that has the potential to for big playing time. The DE in question will be Robert Rose, I believe and he could be a great one. The inside guy will come from a group including Dexter Larimore or Alex Dekle, both of whom fit the need.
We knew OSU would need three-four linebackers in this class and they are going to get a great group. Ross Homan has "superstar" written all over him and Tyler Moeller will get a chance with a year or two of growth. They might already have Fast Freddie Lenix (tell you more after his grades come in…) and have a shot at Thaddeus Gibson (see: "Freddie Lenix") and Mark Johnson or Navorro Bowman. Perhaps the best odds are with Floridian Colin McCarthy.
As to the defensive backfield, an under-appreciated Kurt Coleman is on his way and the Buckeyes have good shots at national recruits AJ Wallace and Ryan Hill. At safety, they have Grant Schwartz and they are looking at Elijah Fields and Derrell Johnson, plus don't forget Freddie if he can make it to campus.
Overall, there are still other exciting guys in both the offensive and defensive mix like Jeff Cumberland, David Ausberry, Bryan Thomas, McKenzie Mathews, Walter Dublin and more. But those are "bonus points". If OSU gets near the group I presented in these two bullets, they not only have a Top Five-Ten class, but – more importantly - they have the kids we want.
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And how about 2007, anyway…At the high school level, Ohio is loaded with talent next year and the oddity (?) is that much of it is at defense. Of the top dozen early prospects, probably nine are defensive standouts. You know that the coaches this year factor that into their thinking for next year. Although sometimes us recruiting experts forget that part of the equation…
The top two guys seem to be Devon Torrence (huge OSU lean) and Ben Martin (slight Notre Dame lean plus he's from Cincinnati…). The other biggest names on defense at this early reckoning are almost all potential defensive backs (Eugene Clifford, Andrew Dailey, Jermale Hines and Brian Gamble). OSU can't get them all – and won't – but you know that the larder will continue to be well-stocked once this crop is harvested…
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That last touchdown/field goal or field goal/touchdown…All right, I want to see a show of hands here. How many went along with that asinine drivel that the ABC guys were spinning on Saturday that "Ohio State would rather take the field goal, not the touchdown"? Hands please…Well, except for you two nerdy guys not paying attention way in the back, I see that we are all in agreement. Even Huston trying a chip shot with no time left would have been Cardiological Overload for me, what with all the special teams blunders up to that point. But Huston trying to launch one from 45-50 yards? My TV would have blown a circuit before it could have withstood that pressure.
And while we are on the subject, what is the deal with that annoying sycophant Jack Arute talking to Huston during the Buck's last drive. What, wasn't there drama enough in the game that the talking heads had to come up with "an angle"?
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And finally…The other manufactured ad-lib and on-going TV cliché had to be the oft-spouted Musberger-ism that Chad Henne "took it personally" when the Buckeyes won in 2004. Now, they will only say that when it looks like Henne's team is going to pull it out, of course. Otherwise, it looks like you're just picking on him.
Here's what I think…The game two years ago in Ann Arbor was an aberration, so we should forget about it (and no one should take it personally…). The first time OSU whipped those Wolverines in the Tressel Era, the score was 26-20. This time, it was 25-21. I see a trend. In two years, when they come back to That Stadium Up North, OSU will win. This time by 24-22.
And Henne will take his fourth straight loss. And he will take it personally…
If you want to take anything personally, or simply want to share some upbeat anecdote about Michigan friends that are deeply depressed, feel free to express yourself to Mr. Bucknuts at MrBucknuts@yahoo.com