Captain's Corner: Buckeyes Survive

The Buckeyes got a scare today. So did Michigan, and so did Florida. Sometimes the best teams get pushed by the teams that aren't expected to do the pushing. It's all part of college football, says Jerry Rudzinski. Check out his OSU-Illinois game thoughts in the latest Captain's Corner.

OSU fortunately recovers the onside kick to preserve the seven-point victory.

Michigan hangs on as Ball State can't connect on fourthdown in the red zone.

West Virginia loses.

Florida clawed to a six-point victory over Vanderbilt.

That is just a sample of what is happening in college football. Welcome to November. November 2007 and November 2008 will be no different. There is actually good news coming from Buckeye camp though. The good news is that OSU won. That was the game I feared. That was the surprise fourth quarter survival game. That was that spooky, creepy week 10 game where a Big Ten underdog finds some rhythm. Thank goodness the Buckeyes survived.

Unless you play in the Big East, it's not "how", it's "how many". I am not putting a positive spin on the seven-point victory because unfortunately Ohio State showed the world they are partially human. OSU may be human, but they are also undefeated.

Offensively, you could see just how much Beanie Wells means. He is more than a luxury. Chris Wells is a running back we rely on. His power is critical not only on 3rd and 4th downs, but in the 3rd and 4th quarter. He needed to be sidelined after coughing up another fumble, but his absence made a difference. Who wants to tackle that guy in the 4th quarter on a cold November afternoon? Not me. The coaches had no choice but to sit him down, but it is important he gets back for Michigan.

Give some credit to Ron Zook. He was named the Florida and Illinois coach for a reason. Ron Zook has that team competing despite the 2-8 record. Illinois is no longer a bye week and those linebackers, especially J. Leman, deserve some applause. I see bowl games in coming seasons for the Illini.

Troy's Heisman campaign was on my mind. I find myself stat-watching Troy and Quinn at this point in the season. While I am fired up when Pittman or Wells crosses the goal line, there is a tiny internal voice in my head saying, "I wouldn't have minded seeing that TD to interception ratio get a little jolt there." Shame on me, but I am just telling the truth. Thank goodness Tressel and Bolman don't feel that way because they plan on winning the surest way. OSU needs a "No. 10 Smith" sign in the north end of the Horseshoe if you know what I mean. Just throw a TD or two next week and play Troy-like in Michigan. That is all he needs to do. Easy to say as a spectator.

That was one amazing special teams performance by the Buckeyes. My goodness! A 50 yard field goal. All kinds of touchbacks. Return men that are so dangerous that teams do those embarrassing rugby punts. Trapasso downing critical punts inside the 3. Trapasso with a 59-yarder. A perfect snap by Norman with 11 rushing the punter. Critical aspect of the game. OSU may have lost if they were good instead of great on special teams this past Saturday.

Defensively you just can't say enough about OSU. Five and out. Five and out with a fumble recovery giving the offense the ball at the Illinois 39 which lead to a score. Six and out. Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Three and out. Six and out. Five and out. Seven plays and a FG (but keep in mind Illinois got the ball on the OSU 47). One and out with a pick that gave the offense the ball on the 35. That is what happened on the first 11 Illinois offensive possessions. The Illini had an effective drive to score late in the game but Buckeye fans can't ask for anything more from the defense. However, Heacock will still ask for more and that is why the Buckeyes have the best scoring defense in the country.

Buckeye Leaves…

AJ Trapasso – Tressel can pick specialists as good as anyone in college football.

Aaron Pettrey – 17 points instead of 14 points made the fourth quarter more comfortable. A 50 yard field goal in cold weather deserves helmet awards.

The Linebackers – Illinois had some very impactful linebackers, but they were still the second best corp on the field. Freeman, Laurinatis, and Terry played at a championship level.

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