What was learned against Texas Tech

Banished Buck is back with another look at the Texas Tech game.

Well, well, well…  After all the ink had been spilled, all the interviews granted, all the Buckeye fans tossed and turned, Ohio State and Texas Tech finally put on a show in the Horseshoe.  While, the performance was rather one-sided and only the first game for either team, there has been quite a reaction to the contest on a national stage.  Some pundits are now even considering looking at Ohio State as a darkhorse national title candidate if they can sneak past Washington State on September 14 (big IF).  Furthermore, Maurice Clarett has not only been named offensive player of the week for the Big Ten Conference, but he has also been all but handed a couple of Heismans by Buckeye fanatics… 

All of this is nice, but it begs the question, "How much can we really learn from the Texas Tech game?"  I think we can learn a great deal…and virtually nothing all at the same time.

We learned a great deal about…

Jim Tressel.  Yes, we have had nearly 2 years to see this man and observe him, but this is only the second season and 13th game he has been at the helm.  Ohio State lined up in some very interesting formations on Saturday.  Formations with 3 wide receivers and formations without any receivers were beheld on the sacred turf at the Horseshoe.  What we can learn from this is that what has been said about him by Youngstown State folks, "He will tailor his offensive schemes to take advantage of his personnel," is true.  Tressel played to the strength of the team yesterday.  We will see if this continues, but I think it bodes well for the future.

Jim Bollman.  If anyone had the slightest doubts about this man's ability as a coach, then they were crushed on Saturday.  He has done wonders with our offensive linemen in under 2 years.  The rest of the conference better shudder to think about what he will do in the coming seasons once he has had 3, 4, and even 5 years to prepare a player to attack the defense.  When you have walk-ons who never even started in high school starting for any division I-A program, it is a testament not only to the desire and work ethic of the player but also the abilities of the coaches he plays under.  Just imagine what Ohio State's offensive line might look like if a few more blue-chippers were smart enough to come play here?

Simple works.  Texas Tech is still busy whining about how what Ohio State did was simple.  If it was so simple, then why did they not stop it?  SIMPLE!  You do not have to run a complex play to score.  You simply need to execute.  Vince Lombardi made a living and won championships with his ability to get his runner to the outside edge of a defense.  (It is said that he could literally spend hours diagramming one play at coaching clinics).  Everyone knew that Lombardi and the Packers were going to do this…but nobody could stop it consistently.  Simple works.  It is simply all about execution of your assignments. 

Craig Krenzel.  Craig had a solid game.  He proved that he is indeed the leader of this offensive unit.  He showed he could put together more than just one victory.  Yeah – I know… 2 victories is not exactly hall of fame material, but both of those wins have been because of an uncomplicated formula.  The quarterback must make good decisions with the football.  Craig did just that, and he might just help OSU to reach some rare air if he can keep that kind of smart play up.  I will take that kind of play ANY day and TWICE on Sunday over the performance of a player who is reported to have a golden arm and be "NFL bound" but makes poor decisions.  Keep it up Craig, we are all rooting for you. 

The Freshman Class.  It was only a month or two ago when some seemed to just lose it over the loss of the Ohio team to Pennsylvania in the Big 33 match up.  Were these kids in the #2 rated recruiting class completely over-hyped?  Were the Pennsylvania players really that much better?  Would Ohio State get the production they need from these guys?  Well, we can all relax.  These freshmen are a good bunch.  A few of them may not turn out like we fans (and the coaches) would like, but they look to be able to play some football.  Hawk, D'Andrea, and Carpenter all made some solid contributions.  Clarrett… well what more can be said?  Everett, Underwood, and Salley also saw the field late in the game.  I think before the end of the year, we might see upwards of 12-15 players from this class on the gridiron, providing much needed depth. 

Spread offenses and Dantonio.  We have learned that Dantonio needs to give clinics on how to dismantle the spread offense.  A disciple of a former OSU assistant , Nick Saban, Dantonio has apparently picked up some neat tricks over the years.  He has learned how to embarrass powerful offenses.  Kudos to the coaches and our defensive players.  We pulled off this kind of win last year against Northwestern and now this year against Texas Tech.  I am now wondering if we can do the same with Washington State.

Jim Tressel - Player Rotation, and 14 Game Seasons.  Jim Tressel has referred to the extended season this year more than once.  I think he is uniquely qualified among division I-A coaches to know how to conduct himself in this situation…  Between 1991 and 1994, Youngstown State played 60 games (that's 15 games per season for the mathematically challenged) under Tressel.  This is important because Ohio State has 13 scheduled games with a likely bowl bid adding 14 for the year.  He knows how from prior experimentation exactly how to keep a team going over the long haul, and this is part of the reason that we saw so many players shuffling in and out on Saturday.  The other reason (in my opinion) is that Jim Tressel wants to reach a point where he has many interchangeable parts on both sides of the ball.  He was well known for substituting multiple players at multiple positions while at Youngstown State, and he showed that he would like to do this at Ohio State on Saturday.  This excites me beyond belief.  Why?  The way to win championships is to create opportunities for more than just the starters to play.  It not only allows you the freedom of seasoned players stepping in if the starters are injured, it also is great for team morale AND attracting top recruits.  If you can show recruits film of the coaching staff rotating multiple players into the game, then they see that you are serious about letting them get early playing time.  Finally, this keeps your players fresh not only in the game being played but also keeps them fresh over the course of an extended season.  A championship caliber team can lose a part and continue to throw players at the opposition without losing a beat.  I like what I see for the future of Buckeye football.

The Texas Tech Coaching Staff.  These guys are not quite big time yet, and they need to learn how to take a good ole fashion whuppin  Why do I say this?  Well, I say it not because I am being ugly but because I have heard every excuse in the book so far from them.  Among the excuses offered thus far?  "We did not give ourselves a chance to win because we played tight, the scout team did not properly simulate the speed and power of Ohio State (go figure!), we gave up big plays, the game was closer than the score indicated (don't laugh – Leach was actually quoted saying this), we started the game too slowly, Kingsbury was a bit off on that day, we didn't properly cover out gaps defensively, we did not tackle as well as we needed, we did not play to our potential, our pass protection was inconsistent…"  No joke, I could provide specific quotations from the coaching staff on each of these shortened versions.  Note to Texas Tech coaches --  your team was whipped in every facet of the game Saturday except kickoff returns.  Learn to take it like men and just admit your squad is not as good as Ohio State at this point in the season.  Go back to the drawing board, learn from the mistakes, correct them, and have yourselves a great season.

Texas Tech Fans.  Overall, this batch of Texans was very complimentary of Ohio State.  Almost anyone who made the trip up from deep in Dixieland commented on the aura of the stadium and game day (they should see it when the students are on campus – no?).  I would like to pass along a word of thanks to you ladies and gents; graciousness is a quality not everyone possesses.  Everything is bigger in Texas they say – and apparently you native Texans are bigger people than your coaches.  May Buckeye fans be so kind and complimentary of another program the next time we suffer a loss.  Here is hoping that Kliff has a banner year and Texas Tech wrecks the season for a couple teams in the Big Twelve.  Texas Tech fans deserve as much after their conduct before, during, and following the game.

We learned virtually nothing about...

Maurice Clarrett.  Stick with me on this one for a moment please.  Clarrett had a fantastic debut.  We did learn that all of the reports about his incredible talent are accurate.  My question is… what will he do from week to week?  I was more than a little gratified to see him taking a more mature outlook than many might after the game.  His comments about being great one week and lousy the next and running the risk of being labeled a "bust" if he does not produce consistently are all too accurate.  How will Maurice now handle the spotlight shining on him?  From here on out – EVERYBODY will know who he is.  That means not only on the football field (look for defenses to try and key on him) but also off of it at Ohio State.  I am rooting for him to grow into the kind of representative that we are so proud of in Eddie George and Archie Griffin.  I think he has the potential (talent, heart, work-ethic, intelligence, etc.) so long as he handles this new-found fame well and listens to Jim Tressel and Tim Spencer.  On the other hand, he could become cocky if he reads and believes all of his press clippings.  Time will tell.  If I am Jim Tressel, I keep all the media types, agents, and hangers-on as far away from him as possible…

Texas Tech, the Team.  Was this team over-rated?  Are the Buckeyes just that good?  We just don't know yet.  I am guessing that we will not have a real answer to those questions until late September at the earliest.  If they turn out to be like West Virginia in 1998 (vastly over-hyped), then Ohio State may not be near as good as many think at this moment.  If Tech goes on to have a solid season, then that victory will look better and better as the season rolls onward.  We are unfortunately going to have to be patient here.  I think in all likelihood that neither team is as good (OSU) or as poor (TTU) as what Saturday indicated.

Ohio State Wide Receivers.  Unfortunately, we did not learn a great deal about this unit.  Yes, we know we have talent here, but will that talent translate to on-field success?  Tressel showed a real willingness to throw the ball and allowed Krenzel to chuck it deep several times.  The problem was that the balls were a bit under-thrown, and the wide receivers did not come back to the football very well.  They did not use their bodies to position themselves to out-jump and out-muscle the defenders.  Aside from Jenkins – nobody stood out.  We will need more than just Jenkins when the tougher opponents (like Washington State) roll around. 

Ohio State Defense.  Just how good is our defense?  Nobody really knows right now, but it sure looked good last Saturday.  The problem is that Texas Tech did not really present Ohio State with a balanced attack.  A spread offense is actually not all that difficult to shut down if you have a good defensive line, decent cornerbacks, and the knowledge to call the right defensive sets.  I.e., it is pretty hard to find even one open wide receiver when the defense drops 8 men into coverage.  (Believe it or not, Oklahoma's offense struggled mightily last year to move the football consistently and is trying to figure out how to avoid this pitfall for 2002).  So the question remains, "What will the Ohio State defense look like against a team that can both run and pass the ball with proficiency?"  I have a feeling we will find out sooner rather than later on this one with Washington State only 3 weeks away.

Special Teams.  Can we cover a kickoff without allowing a guy to gain nearly 40 yards?  Texas Tech was taking the kickoff 7-9 yards deep in the endzone and returning it to the 30+ yard marker.  This is unacceptable.  A good team will take the Buckeyes apart if given this kind of field position.  So, what was the problem?  Was the ball traveling so fast that the kickoff team received it before you want them to in an ideal coaching world?  Were the Buckeyes not shedding their blocks properly?  Was Texas Tech just phenomenal at this aspect of their game?  Who knows, but I for one would like to find out rather quickly.

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