Offense Sluggish, Slugs It Out For Victory

Between a strong showing by the Penn State defense and sloppy weather conditions, the Buckeyes offense did not have the greatest afternoon against Penn State. But still, there was one play that got everyone talking. Charles Babb has a look back at the performance of OSU's offense against Penn State.

"Hats off to Penn State," said Troy Smith in his opening comments following the Ohio State win. "They came in and it was a tough game through and through, all four quarters, it was a fight, it was a battle. Offensively things aren't going to go the way you want them to go all the time. I think the mark of a championship caliber team is to keep plugging away, keep going, keep going, keep going, and we did a great job up front today."

Despite stating their intention to start faster as a unit for the past two weeks, the Ohio State offense has looked like a horse left at the starting gate. Dropped passes, missed blocks, untimely penalties, and a general malaise are plaguing the unit which was supposed to be leading the Buckeyes.

Doug Datish admitted, "It seems like I've been starting this way the whole time, but thanks to the defense, they were tremendous for us today, they scored 14 points, really took Penn State out of their game, made some scores."

Yes, Ohio State fans and players are surely thanking the defense and in particular Antoine Smith and Malcolm Jenkins, the two defensive backs responsible for the touchdowns which put this game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. Without their near Herculean efforts, another team would be wearing the mantle of #1 today, and if the offense continues to force this type of performance from their defense, it is only a matter of time before they are upset.

Guard T.J. Downing at first joked. "I guess we can afford it with our defense," but he turned serious and said, "Sooner or later that will come back to haunt you. We have to start putting the ball into the end zone in the first half and not wait until the second half to start it up."

Smith, coming off of three performances judged worthy of Heisman consideration, tossed his first interceptions since 2005. He completed just over half of his passes with a 12-22 showing. His 115 yards through the air were his worst since the Northwestern game last November where he managed just 7 of 12 for 77 yards and an interception. To be fair, the Wildcats were so overmatched Smith played only a fraction of his normal snaps, but his stat line for yesterday included the entire game.

Perhaps the problem is not the offense as much as it is unrealistic expectations. it's not as if the Nittany Lions are the sisters of the poor. Every year the Lions give the Buckeyes their best shot. for Paterno and State College, this is their biggest rivalry game remaining now that Pittsburg has been dropped from the schedule.

"They're always good," said Kirk Barton. "They are always athletic and strong up front. We have to keep improving, (but) Penn State has a good defense. They probably have – their two linebackers will probably be first round picks, and their one defensive tackle will probably be a first rounder. They have good players and good skill."

"It was very physical," said Downing. "It was a battle. They have great defensive linemen and linebackers. We knew it was going to be an interior war. I'm just glad we came out on top of it. It shows we have some type of toughness on our offensive line, and that is the character we want to build for ourselves – an attitude and toughness."

Coupled with the inclement weather conditions – what could have been a track meet turned into a trip to the meat packing plant where both teams tried to grind it out and bludgeon one another into submission.

Buckeye freshman Bryan Gray pointed out, "With the conditions out there today, you aren't always going to have an explosive offense with the rain. Obviously the passing game was really hurt. As you can see, a lot of guys were dropping balls. It is harder to cut obviously, so we had to focus on the running game. That's what can hurt explosive offenses is a day like today. It is good to see we could run the ball and win the battle in the trenches."

"That is the beauty of running the football," said Barton. "If you continue to hit the guys up front, eventually they get sick of it, especially if hit them hard and well and stay on them. they get sick of it. It is like a boxing match. You lean on the guy and keep punching him he is going to put his fists down, and you hit him with the knockout."

Whether the Lions grew sick of it and put their fists down is a question that cannot be answered, but clearly it took its toll. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Penn State defensive front was sucking wind. They were still gunning for Smith, but they had lost a step, and that was all the ever dangerous quarterback needed.

Dropping back to pass on second and 9 from the Lions' 37, he found himself under pressure. Trying to avoid the sack, he executed what is fast becoming his signature move by planting his feet, reversing direction by pivoting, and then threw a strike to an open Brian Robiskie in the end zone.

Smith praised Robiskie and smiled as he admitted, "I just tried to improvise and keep things going. The Penn State defender was making ground on me, and I did one of the things that Coach always says don't do and that's reverse field."

Considering the results of his pirouettes against Michigan, Notre Dame, and now the Lions, coach Tressel may wish to reconsider. Maybe it should become part of the offense – perhaps a whole package should be installed – Smith pivot left, Smith pivot right, Smith pivot and run (or pass) up the middle...

Tressel explained and even defended the actions of his quarterback, "I don't like Troy to reverse field that deep because if it's a fast guy like one of our defensive guys, we're going to have a problem. But like on checking off plays, if he wants to change the play, that's fine, if it works. If he wants to reverse field, it better be a touchdown, but sometimes there's moments where you just feel like you need to do something. Sometimes when you're out there in the fray, you have to play."

Whether it is a sandlot play with an acrobatic catch to Anthony Gonzalez against the Wolverines, a much needed scramble to burn clock by getting a first down at the end of the Fiesta Bowl, or a 37 yard touchdown pass to break the Lions, Smith continues to come up with signature moments to bail out his teammates and rescue the offense.

Barton said after the game, "When he made that play, I was like, ‘Hello Heisman!"

That may sound like hyperbole or hype, but it just may be true. Smith appears to be the kind of player and leader who refuses to allow his team to fail. If everyone else is mired down in the muck and in mediocrity, he will take the ball in his own hands and create.

"You need moments like that when you're down and out when things aren't going the way you want them to go," Smith mused. "You've just got to keep going." Keep going they did and they have.

"That's the difference between successful teams and unsuccessful teams," Downing stated emphatically. "The guys that have the heart and determination and will to do better and get after it on the next play. Teams that aren't very successful probably don't have that attitude."

The gritty touchdown, coupled with Antonio Pittman's 110 yards on 20 carries lifted the spirits of the Buckeyes and put them in control of the football game. They would be challenged again, but they pulled forth the whip of their defensive backs. Hissing and sputtering, the Lions were finally driven back to their lair in State College, Pennsylvania.

In the end, Smith probably said it best. "This game lived up to what it was supposed to be, it was a Big Ten game, it's like a back-yard brawl out there. It's a great game. Penn State did a great job. I'm just glad we came out with a win."

Penn State would have dearly loved to win ugly, but they go home with an even uglier loss and a .500 record while Ohio State came out with the victory and moves on to face Iowa in a game the Hawkeyes have been pointing toward since the last play of their 2005 season.

Ugly, pretty, or somewhere in between – it still counts, and that is all Ohio State's offense cares about as the clock hit zero.




Buckeye Sports Top Stories

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","mobileBody":"\"Hats off to Penn State,\" said Troy Smith in his opening comments following the Ohio State win. \"They came in and it was a tough game through and through, all four quarters, it was a fight, it was a battle. Offensively things aren't going to go the way you want them to go all the time. I think the mark of a championship caliber team is to keep plugging away, keep going, keep going, keep going, and we did a great job up front today.\"

Despite stating their intention to start faster as a unit for the past two weeks, the Ohio State offense has looked like a horse left at the starting gate. Dropped passes, missed blocks, untimely penalties, and a general malaise are plaguing the unit which was supposed to be leading the Buckeyes.

Doug Datish admitted, \"It seems like I've been starting this way the whole time, but thanks to the defense, they were tremendous for us today, they scored 14 points, really took Penn State out of their game, made some scores.\"

Yes, Ohio State fans and players are surely thanking the defense and in particular Antoine Smith and Malcolm Jenkins, the two defensive backs responsible for the touchdowns which put this game out of reach late in the fourth quarter. Without their near Herculean efforts, another team would be wearing the mantle of #1 today, and if the offense continues to force this type of performance from their defense, it is only a matter of time before they are upset.

Guard T.J. Downing at first joked. \"I guess we can afford it with our defense,\" but he turned serious and said, \"Sooner or later that will come back to haunt you. We have to start putting the ball into the end zone in the first half and not wait until the second half to start it up.\"

Smith, coming off of three performances judged worthy of Heisman consideration, tossed his first interceptions since 2005. He completed just over half of his passes with a 12-22 showing. His 115 yards through the air were his worst since the Northwestern game last November where he managed just 7 of 12 for 77 yards and an interception. To be fair, the Wildcats were so overmatched Smith played only a fraction of his normal snaps, but his stat line for yesterday included the entire game.

Perhaps the problem is not the offense as much as it is unrealistic expectations. it's not as if the Nittany Lions are the sisters of the poor. Every year the Lions give the Buckeyes their best shot. for Paterno and State College, this is their biggest rivalry game remaining now that Pittsburg has been dropped from the schedule.

\"They're always good,\" said Kirk Barton. \"They are always athletic and strong up front. We have to keep improving, (but) Penn State has a good defense. They probably have – their two linebackers will probably be first round picks, and their one defensive tackle will probably be a first rounder. They have good players and good skill.\"

\"It was very physical,\" said Downing. \"It was a battle. They have great defensive linemen and linebackers. We knew it was going to be an interior war. I'm just glad we came out on top of it. It shows we have some type of toughness on our offensive line, and that is the character we want to build for ourselves – an attitude and toughness.\"

Coupled with the inclement weather conditions – what could have been a track meet turned into a trip to the meat packing plant where both teams tried to grind it out and bludgeon one another into submission.

Buckeye freshman Bryan Gray pointed out, \"With the conditions out there today, you aren't always going to have an explosive offense with the rain. Obviously the passing game was really hurt. As you can see, a lot of guys were dropping balls. It is harder to cut obviously, so we had to focus on the running game. That's what can hurt explosive offenses is a day like today. It is good to see we could run the ball and win the battle in the trenches.\"

\"That is the beauty of running the football,\" said Barton. \"If you continue to hit the guys up front, eventually they get sick of it, especially if hit them hard and well and stay on them. they get sick of it. It is like a boxing match. You lean on the guy and keep punching him he is going to put his fists down, and you hit him with the knockout.\"

Whether the Lions grew sick of it and put their fists down is a question that cannot be answered, but clearly it took its toll. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Penn State defensive front was sucking wind. They were still gunning for Smith, but they had lost a step, and that was all the ever dangerous quarterback needed.

Dropping back to pass on second and 9 from the Lions' 37, he found himself under pressure. Trying to avoid the sack, he executed what is fast becoming his signature move by planting his feet, reversing direction by pivoting, and then threw a strike to an open Brian Robiskie in the end zone.

Smith praised Robiskie and smiled as he admitted, \"I just tried to improvise and keep things going. The Penn State defender was making ground on me, and I did one of the things that Coach always says don't do and that's reverse field.\"

Considering the results of his pirouettes against Michigan, Notre Dame, and now the Lions, coach Tressel may wish to reconsider. Maybe it should become part of the offense – perhaps a whole package should be installed – Smith pivot left, Smith pivot right, Smith pivot and run (or pass) up the middle...

Tressel explained and even defended the actions of his quarterback, \"I don't like Troy to reverse field that deep because if it's a fast guy like one of our defensive guys, we're going to have a problem. But like on checking off plays, if he wants to change the play, that's fine, if it works. If he wants to reverse field, it better be a touchdown, but sometimes there's moments where you just feel like you need to do something. Sometimes when you're out there in the fray, you have to play.\"

Whether it is a sandlot play with an acrobatic catch to Anthony Gonzalez against the Wolverines, a much needed scramble to burn clock by getting a first down at the end of the Fiesta Bowl, or a 37 yard touchdown pass to break the Lions, Smith continues to come up with signature moments to bail out his teammates and rescue the offense.

Barton said after the game, \"When he made that play, I was like, ‘Hello Heisman!\"

That may sound like hyperbole or hype, but it just may be true. Smith appears to be the kind of player and leader who refuses to allow his team to fail. If everyone else is mired down in the muck and in mediocrity, he will take the ball in his own hands and create.

\"You need moments like that when you're down and out when things aren't going the way you want them to go,\" Smith mused. \"You've just got to keep going.\" Keep going they did and they have.

\"That's the difference between successful teams and unsuccessful teams,\" Downing stated emphatically. \"The guys that have the heart and determination and will to do better and get after it on the next play. Teams that aren't very successful probably don't have that attitude.\"

The gritty touchdown, coupled with Antonio Pittman's 110 yards on 20 carries lifted the spirits of the Buckeyes and put them in control of the football game. They would be challenged again, but they pulled forth the whip of their defensive backs. Hissing and sputtering, the Lions were finally driven back to their lair in State College, Pennsylvania.

In the end, Smith probably said it best. \"This game lived up to what it was supposed to be, it was a Big Ten game, it's like a back-yard brawl out there. It's a great game. Penn State did a great job. I'm just glad we came out with a win.\"

Penn State would have dearly loved to win ugly, but they go home with an even uglier loss and a .500 record while Ohio State came out with the victory and moves on to face Iowa in a game the Hawkeyes have been pointing toward since the last play of their 2005 season.

Ugly, pretty, or somewhere in between – it still counts, and that is all Ohio State's offense cares about as the clock hit zero.

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