When I first saw my ticket to the UC/OSU game on Saturday, my
immediate reaction was laughter. Apparently
I had purchased a ticket to see "The Battle of Ohio" instead of the Ohio
State/Cincinnati game. This was
funny on several levels:
Ohio State playing Cincinnati in football is hardly the
Battle of Ohio.
Cincinnati isn't really in Ohio.
Just as the Alamo (Alamo Rental Car), Little Bighorn
(Chrysler) and Yorktown (Propecia) were famous battles that had landed lucrative
corporate sponsorships; the Battle of Ohio was being financed by United Dairy
Even when you remove the "battle" metaphor from the event
and consider that this is merely a football game, it still involves a city –
Cincinnati – that has taken football futility to new depths.
Consider that Ohio State has beaten Michigan THREE TIMES since the
Bengals have had a .500 season.
Add to that the sea of Ohio State fans dominating the
tailgating landscape, Cincinnati's prior reputation of football misery, and
the Buckeyes' top ten ranking, and Saturday's "Battle of Ohio" had all
of the makings of an ambush.
Then the game started, and the Battle of Ohio began.
And Ohio State looked more like the challenger than the undisputed
champion. Cincinnati (a city whose
football games I usually try to avoid watching) played better in every facet of
the game – and lost. I've heard so many people bemoaning how poorly Ohio State
played and how they were lucky to win the game, yet nobody has really explained why
they won. Here are the most two
most popular wrong answers:
Cincinnati receivers dropped two touchdown passes on the last
drive. Cincinnati should have won.
Yeah, unfortunately Cincinnati benefited – throughout the
game – from Buckeye defenders who were unable to catch potential interceptions
that were thrown right to them. I
don't know how many gimme interceptions they blew, and I refuse to watch the
videotape of that awful game, but it was at least three.
So if before you say that Cincinnati would have won if their receivers
could have held on at the end, you need to consider that they might not have
even had the ball if Buckeye defenders had fingers to go with those hands.
Cincinnati got screwed on a bad fumble call. Cincinnati
should have won.
The defensive holding flag thrown on OSU during Gamble's TD
return – which was thrown about 25 yards behind where he was during the
runback – was questionable at best. Bad
officiating is part of the game. Cincinnati
didn't get screwed.
The fact is that Ohio State played an awful game.
The pass defense was terrible to the tune of the best performance being
turned in by a wide receiver. The
offense moved at a sluggish pace, was sloppy, made stupid mistakes – and the
offensive play calling gave Ohio State no further advantage in the game.
So let's look at both halves of the half-full/half-empty
Ohio State played in a close road game and won (if you think
that it was basically a home game for Ohio State, then you obviously weren't
at the game – or you don't realize what crappy field conditions do to a
physically superior team when playing a mid-major school).
Craig Krenzel led his team, which played poorly, to a
come-from-behind, end of the game victory.
In 1999 and in 2002, Cincinnati has played Ohio State.
In both games, they had more first downs, more passing yards, more sacks,
more total yards and forced three Buckeye turnovers.
The results: Ohio State did not bring their A game (or B, or even C) to
play the Bearcats twice and won both times.
In terms of wakeup calls, they don't get any better than
this, especially with three teams coming up on the schedule that are so bad that
they probably won't qualify to even watch bowl games this season.
And on the empty side…
Our two vaunted senior safeties, Donnie Nickey and Mike Doss,
are liabilities when defending the pass. Doss's
meal ticket is big hits and his run support, while Nickey has been adequate
playing centerfield. People say
that is the free safety's role – playing centerfield – and they're
right. Unfortunately, with the
defensive backfield the way it is this year, Nickey ends up needing to cover
receivers – often – one on one, and he needs to get better at it, now.
And Doss needs to get a lot better.
Big hits are nice, but the current blueprint for "How to Beat Ohio
State" is throw, throw, throw, throw.
The coaching staff found versus Texas Tech, Kent State and
Washington State that the Buckeyes could wear down their opponents with ball
control. It was evident that this
was the case with Cincinnati as well, with Lydell Ross carrying the ball.
Yet play after play, Ohio State went to pocket passing, a lot of the time
only sending two receivers out, giving Krenzel little opportunity to make plays.
The offense was so telegraphed that often plays were over before they
Maurice Hall – as Chris Gamble showed, it's unfortunately
clear that there are openings for physically talented players on the defensive
side of the ball. Considering you
were de-cleated head-on by a linebacker and dropped the ball, it might be in
your best interest to think about your future (we haven't yet mentioned the
giant hole to your right on that play that you did not run through). If you
cannot take a hit head-on from a Conference USA linebacker without being KO'd,
you should consider pass defense, because the linebackers in the Big Ten are
much better across the board.
This game was marked "potential let-down" back in the
mid-nineties when it was scheduled, yet the team came out completely unprepared
for a team playing the biggest game in its history in front of the biggest crowd
in its city's history. They were
unprepared for the offensive scheme, the no-huddle, UC's defensive strategy or
their relentless play – as if they were going to just roll over and die.
They played like absolute crap and won with heart and natural
talent. Like beating your little
brother in basketball while playing on your knees.
Disheartening and uninspiring as it was, the Buckeyes are undefeated and
have three consecutive games here where an A+ showing isn't going to be
necessary for a win, again.
But who am I to overlook the Battles of Indiana, Evanston and
San Jose (sponsors undetermined; however the opponents certainly will be).
Going through Oktoberfest/bratwurst withdrawal at