One word describes what I saw on the television today… WOW! Before I pass out the grades, I want to give credit to both OSU and Washington State. These two teams played very hard, and they played clean. There were no cheap shots or late hits, and it was a joy to behold. The Cougars acquitted themselves well, but they fell short of winning. Now for the weekly gradecard.
Offensive Line – The OSU offensive line is the tale of two halves. In the first half, OSU did not come out ready for the very athletic Washington State front four. The Buckeyes were outplayed up front, and the scoreboard showed it. Krenzel had little time to throw, and when he did have time he was inaccurate from being run all over the field. In the second half however, Ohio State's offensive line came out in a foul mood. It showed. They bullied Washington State to the tune of some 200 yards on the ground. As the announcers said (Gary Danielson I believe), this was not just bloodying the nose of Washington State's defense…this was in the words of the immortal Woody Hayes, "grinding meat." Great line play in the second half. The holes were not always where they were supposed to be, but they were there.
Grade – B (A+ in second half and C- in first half)
Quarterback – It had to happen. Krenzel had to have a game upcoming where he was hurried. My question going into the game was what would happen when that occurred. Today we saw, and it was not entirely pretty. In fact, it was borderline ugly. Do not think for even a nanosecond that every head coach among Ohio State's opponents did not see it as well. Krenzel looked poor and was alternately behind or in front of his wide receivers. He was sacked repeatedly in the first half. However, we need to recognize a very important aspect of QB play that Craig proved today. He will not help Buckeye opponents beat his own team. He threw no interceptions, he did not fumble, and he did not make any truly poor decisions with the football with prayer passes. This is huge. Quarterbacks like that can and will win you conference titles if given the right supporting cast. He missed an easy TD to Vance (easy when you are sitting in the recliner but not easy at game speed), but he did hit Jenkins with a long pass to set the tone for Ohio State early. We will need Craig to play better down the road, but again – it cannot be overemphasized just how critical it is that Krenzel did not beat the Buckeyes with poor decisions.
Grade – B
Tight End – I did not see a lot of open tight ends playing today. That is just fine by me considering the situation. Without their blocking, Krenzel would not have had the time to throw at all, and Clarett would have been stopped in the backfield. We will see more receptions from the tight ends as the year progresses. Today, give credit to the Washington State defensive line for forcing Ohio State to max protect Krenzel. I am going to give the tight ends a fairly high grade because they showed that there is more than one way to make a huge impact upon the football field. Catching passes is all about glory, but it takes guts to stymie an angry defensive linemen bent on making a grease spot out of your quarterback or running back.
Grade – B+
Running back – Before I get to "you know who" I would like to throw out a huge thanks to the lead blocker who gets little credit. The fullbacks hit their blocks today, and that opens up holes. Open holes for Mr. Clarett means yards. Yards mean you keep the football and score touchdowns. Score enough touchdowns and you will win every time. Mr. Maurice Clarett owes his fullbacks a nice steak dinner if he can afford it. If he cannot, then a shout out to them in his next interview will be more than enough for his blockers to chew on until Cincinnati. Ok. I guess it has come time to talk about today's star, and the star of the young season thus far. "Ree-see, " "Mr. Clarett," "Maurice the Beast," or whatever you want to call this kid – he is scary good. I do not ever remember a running back at Ohio State with as much talent as I see in him. Robert Smith was impressive, but what Clarett has done thus far is mind boggling. I literally am at the point now where I hold my breath every time he touches the football. I believe he can take it all the way on any given play. If he stays healthy and keeps a level head on his shoulders, I do not know what can stop him. Truly. Today he blocked, ran, and bulled his way to 200+ yards and two touchdowns. Oh yeah, that black cloud hanging over his head all week should be dissipated because today he hung onto the football. The only negative I saw was his taunting the Washington State defenders near the end of the game. That is not needed, and it should have garnered OSU a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. You can bet that when the coaches see the film, Maurice will be reminded that this is not what Buckeyes do.
Grade – A (It was an A+ until the taunting)
Wide Receivers – This group was disappointing to me personally. I felt like they would catch the balls thrown their way, but instead they dropped a couple of important passes early on that could have opened a comfortable lead for Ohio State by halftime. They played better in the second half, but that first half really hurt Ohio State. Dropped passes kill drives and allow defenses to pin their ears back and come after a quarterback. The receivers to their credit did not tip the balls up in the air or fumble, and Jenkins had a HUGE catch to open the day. I also saw wide receivers blocking – which opens up holes for running backs to gain big yardage.
Grade – C+
Defensive line – This unit did a very solid job against a strong, experienced, and very large offensive line. Smith was his usual self; he disrupted plays, had tackles for loss, and was even effective when dropped back into a pseudo linebacker role. Scott's hit on Gesser was painful to watch. You can bet Jason is going to see Darrion coming in his dreams tonight. The running game of Washington State was nonexistent with the exception of a couple of early plays. They forced Gesser to beat them passing the football by dominating the line of scrimmage. By the end of the game, Gesser was routinely scrambling and ducking linemen. Thompson even was able to tip away a critical pass in the middle of the field. Though they did not end up with 10 sacks on the day, the key question here is: "Did they dominate the offensive line of Washington State?" The answer to that is, "Yes. Most definitely."
Grade – A- (The first half was a bit shaky, but
the dominant second half makes up for it)
Linebackers – I have mixed feelings about this unit. On the one hand, they played well. You do not beat a team like Washington State 25-7 unless your linebackers handled most all of their assignments. Wilhelm's interception was one of the most athletic plays I have seen this season at any position for Ohio State. They played solid run support and were effective at applying some pressure when blitzing. Cie Grant is a difference maker, and he showed that again today. Still, I am concerned about a couple of plays that might give Ohio State trouble later. On multiple occasions wide receivers were open in the middle. Granted, you cannot expect a linebacker to match up with a wide receiver, but opposing coaches will watch this game tape and try to use it when they play the Buckeyes. We need Robert Reynolds to step his play up a bit. He seems to have the talent, but he looks tentative. If he can think a little less and react a little bit more, then this unit will be one of the best (if not the best) in the conference. On the other hand, it may be that Reynolds is being asked to be the insurance guy and not attack (like Andy Katzenmoyer during his junior season). No matter what the situation, I saw some solid play out there today from this group.
Grade – B+
Defensive Backs – Well, I have seen the future. Their names are Underwood, Fox, and Everett. Doss and Nickey (the present) played solid today, and their saavy really showed up on the scoreboard. Their familiarity with the spread offense and improved pass coverage skills were critical factors in this win. Nickey's play down the sidelines looked to be interference to me, but I have to give him full marks for playing aggressively and doing his job in pass support. It was a solid play, and after all the abuse he has taken in the course of his career he deserves some credit for a great game. After an early touchdown, the safeties helped shut Gesser down. Superb job. Meanwhile, Tyler Everett's interception all but sealed the game (considering the way the offensive line was playing). For a moment, that wide receiver was open for not only a first down but for a touchdown, but the ball hung for a second too long and Everett took it away. Underwood replaced McNutt early on, and I cannot help but believe that he may have been the difference in the game. His coverage skills are obviously progressing rapidly, and I expect him to be the next great corner at Ohio State if he works diligently and listens to the coaching staff. McNutt played his heart out once again for this unit. I for one am proud of him because he continues to lay it all out on the field despite having a bum ankle. He should rest easy tonight knowing that he gave it his all, and the Buckeyes came out with a victory. Dustin Fox? What can you say? This guy continues to impress. If he keeps this kind of play up, then the coaches might just leave him at cornerback even after Nickey and Doss leave.
Grade – A (who ‘da thunk it?)
Kickers – Nugent is just spectacular this season. My wife asked me again today, "Hey, did you get a new kicker?" This is the second time this season she has asked me that question. Great job Mr. Nugent. Let us not forget Andy Groom as well. Where would the Buckeyes have been the past two seasons without him? I no longer worry when the kicking team goes for a field goal or elects to punt. I cannot tell you the last time that happened. Kudos gentlemen. Also, a short but important shout out to the longsnapper for Ohio State. After watching the longsnapper for Washington State have a miserable day, I want to praise our man in the middle.
Grade – A+
Coaching – There is a reason why you win four national titles in division I football. You might make the playoffs every season with talent, but you will not win 4 national titles with just talented players. Your coaching staff also has to be led by a brilliant field commander. Though Jim Tressel and Bollman will get the lion's share of credit for this victory, the entire coaching staff should take a bow. In previous seasons if Ohio State was not up big by halftime, I expected us to either lose or be in a dogfight the rest of the way. Today, I had predicted (believe it or not) that OSU would trail at the half but would adjust and dominate in the second half with Clarrett. My faith was well placed as the coaching staff made adjustments, settled the players, and proceeded to take control of this game after the half. When was the last time we saw this kind of performance by an Ohio State team after the coaches made their adjustments?
Grade – A (solid A)
The Freshmen – We have already talked about them, but just to recognize them once again…they played great. Everett's interception was huge, and Underwood was not abused by the wide receivers of Washington State. Clarrett dominated, and the freshmen on special teams did not allow any long run backs. Solid – and maybe even special – game for the group.
Grade - A
This was a huge win for Ohio State. Not only did they emerge with the victory, but they once again did it without penalties. It is obvious to me that these coaches are teaching their players how to play the game of football both mentally and athletically. That makes players who might be All-Conference selections into All-Americans. Further, coaches in the NFL love players who play smart. A stupid penalty that loses the game for your team will cut a career short at the next level, but an athletic, heady player will have a long career in professional football. Encouraged does not begin to describe my feelings watching this game.
now looks to have fairly smooth sailing until the Wisconsin game (though
Cincinnati and their other opponents do have the ability to upset OSU if they
are not ready to play). With the
loss by Michigan, and their dominant performance, do not be shocked if Ohio
State ends up in the top five for the first time in 2 years.
I am not ready to start talking about a possible national title yet, but
I am encouraged by what I am seeing on the football field.
It bodes well for the future of the program.
A few additional thoughts on today's Big Ten performances
- Michigan State should fire Williams. I am not and have not ever been impressed with this guy. His teams play undisciplined and are not mentally prepared for their games. Michigan State should have smoked Cal today. Right now MSU has incredible talent on offense, and they can only manage 22 points against Cal? I do not care how many times you turn the ball over, this is inexcusable playing in EAST LANSING! Maybe Michigan State can fire Williams and bring in Tedford?
- Lloyd Carr and Michigan. One word sums up their performance. Putrid. Notre Dame should never have won this game. Not in a million years. Carr and his staff better get it together because their loss hurts the Big Ten. Yeah, some Ohio State fans are rejoicing right now, but I am not. We needed Michigan to lay the whammy on Notre Dame for the sake of the conference. They did not. How embarrassing not only for the Big Ten but for the Michigan program. Victors Valiant? Not today. Here is hoping that they don't lose again until we play them in November.
- Wisconsin, Northwestern, Minnesota, etc., etc., etc. The conference is obviously down. I am not so sure that the Big Ten has not fallen to the level of the ACC or even Big East. Penn State and Iowa really need to win to help the conference salvage some pride.