OSU/IU Grade Card

Offensive line – Everything starts up front.  I am going to cut the line some slack from the outset this week given their injuries.  That does not mean I do not expect excellence, it just means I understand lines are a work in progress that take time.  As far as their run blocking, the OSU line shows great skill.  They have been doing so all season and appear to be improving a bit each game (they will need to in order to win the Big Ten).  They were able to get the yards and the push off of the line of scrimmage whenever they so chose.  As usual, I was a bit disappointed in their pass protection of Krenzel.  He is too often rushed and forced to scramble.  When he has a wide receiver open up late in a play, his chances of hitting him are greatly diminished if Craig is forced to scramble for his life.  They looked better this week than last, but I wonder if that is simply because of the talent differential (Cincinnati is a better team than Indiana at this point).

Grade – B 

Quarterback – Like last week, Ohio State came out throwing the football and trying to establish a passing attack.  Like last week, they were not very successful.  I do not know if this is a timing issue where WRs are not running crisp routes or if Craig takes a while to warm up.  Either way, this is a serious problem for the Ohio State offense.  It causes them to sputter and the other team starts to believe they can hang with the Buckeyes.  Once Craig settled down, he looked solid today.  He seems to throw very well over the middle of the defense, and I think Buckeye fans need to appreciate his ability to progress through his reads to hit the running backs.  Craig showed great touch on the fade to Jenkins for the touchdown, and the timing pass over the middle to Michael for 27 yards was just what Ohio State needed.  Throw in his ability to scramble, and Craig more than made up for his lackluster passing in the first quarter.  What about Scott McMullen?  Three passes to the TE and 6 for 6 for 66 yards and a touchdown to lead the Buckeyes down for their final touchdown.  He showed a very nice release and made solid decisions.  Rather than going for the huge play, he displayed patience and the willingness to let all of his weapons fire into the IU defense.

Grade – B+

Running Backs – Great blocking by the fullbacks as usual.  I am going to throw out a huge thanks to these guys and some serious praise.  They hammer the defense, take on charging linebackers, and even go against defensive linemen to allow the tailbacks to gain some serious glory.  This is a team game, and without our fullbacks hitting their blocks, Clarett, Ross, Riley, and Hall go down in the backfield (not to mention Craig and Scott as well).  Clarett had his usual superb performance.  Playing only 3 quarters, he accumulated 100+ yards and three touchdowns.  He showed great presence to reach the ball across the goal line, and his refusal to be tackled by the first defender is just unreal.  I wonder how many tackles he has broken this season?  Ross and Hall showed some nice skills with their runs as well.  Ross established himself as the second back last week, but I still really like what Hall brings to this offense as well.  He hits his holes and squirts through very quickly, and that is bound to catch some defenses by surprise late in the 4th quarter in a close game this year.  Riley had a couple of carries late in the game which lead me to question if he could not be starting somewhere else in the Big Ten this year.  Truly, OSU is LOADED at tailback. 

Grade - A

Wide Receiver  Two things that should be pointed out for this unit today…  1.  Yards after the catch.  Vance in particular showed serious ability to spin back against the pursuit after the catch and gain some serious yards.  2.  Blocking.  The Ohio State wide receivers are asked to develop in all facets of the game (which helps with professional aspirations).  Beyond those two statistics, the wide receivers did not display the dropsies and Jenkins and Gamble continue to impress. 

Grade - A

Tight End – This group put up their best numbers thus far against Indiana.  I expect we will see more receptions as the season progresses and defenses try and take away Jenkins/Gamble and Clarett.  Look for the coaches to continue to use them not only to support the running game but also to keep the linebackers honest.  Excellent job by the tight ends in both blocking and receiving; add another weapon to the Ohio State offensive machine…

Grade – A

Defensive Line – I was a bit disappointed in the guys up front, but again – I am going to cut them some slack with the injury of Anderson and Peterson being nicked up a bit.  Scott had his sack a game (and maybe more – the box score is not out yet).  Fraser really showed his ability to get pressure on the quarterback today with pressures, batted passes, and a forced fumble.  Peterson and Smith also hassled the Indiana passing game with sacks.  Though they allowed some pretty large holes to be opened for IU running backs in the first series, give credit to the defensive line for shutting those down as the game progressed.  It was not a dominant performance perhaps, but they did get the job done.

Grade – B

Linebackers – Matt Wilhelm is just clutch.  As much as I like Doss, the players the defensive unit will miss the most next season are Matt Wilhelm and Cie Grant.  Wilhelm did a great job in sniffing out the QB keeper deep in Ohio State territory.  Pursuit of the football from sideline to sideline was excellent.  Reynolds stepped up his play a bit this week with several tackles, and the freshmen A. J. Hawk just looks like a keeper to me.

Grade – A-

Secondary – Let's break this unit down player by player.  Donnie Nickey had a workmanlike performance.  He had a very nice contain tackle to keep Indiana from breaking a long play.  Michael Doss had both good and bad in his performance.  He continues to show a bit of a weakness with his pass defense, but he made an absolutely great tackle in the open field on the IU running back.  I expect Doss to shine as Ohio State begins Big Ten play against teams who are more inclined to run the football.  EJ Underwood showed some great tackling and discipline when he wrapped the wide receiver that Doss and Carpenter did not.  He also made a poor decision when he allowed the IU wide receiver to get behind him for a possible touchdown had not the pass been dropped.  Dustin Fox played the best game of our defensive backs again today.  He is going to make it very difficult for the coaching staff to move him from that position.    I also saw Jacobs, McNutt, Salley, Allen, and Everett – who although they did not excel, received valuable playing time.  After saying all of that nice stuff about this group, I must confess that I am a bit disappointed at how easily teams continue to move the ball against them.  Indiana is not exactly Florida or Miami, and yet they had success through the air.  This needs to be addressed and corrected.  I am of the opinion that as of right now, the secondary needs a talent infusion to face teams with multiple wide receiver sets.  I am hoping that can be addressed in this upcoming recruiting class with a couple of blue-chippers who want to see immediate playing time.

Grade – B

Special Teams – Another great day for Kyle Andrews, and another absolutely fabulous day for Mike Nugent.  Last year's ‘whipping boy', Nugent is now 9 for 9 with field goal attempts on the season.  Today, he hit a 51-yard kick, and it would have been good probably from 55+.  Though it most often goes unnoticed by the fans, I also want to commend the blockers in front of Nugent.  I have yet to see someone even get pressure on him during an extra point attempt or field goal try.  That speaks to the mental focus and their discipline to take out their assigned man.  Great job gentlemen.  Special teams coverage on kickoffs and punts continues to impress.  Today, a huge hole opened in the middle of the coverage, but Underwood was standing right there to plug it.  Kudos to E.J. for staying in his lane and forcing the IU returner into the waiting arms of other Ohio State tacklers.  His discipline may very well have saved a touchdown.  The punt block by Fox was a better play than most realize in my most humble of opinions.  The reason I say this is that even if Dustin misses, he took an approach angle that would not have gotten him flagged for roughing the punter.  Though the only great return we saw today was by Nickey on a fake punt (a great call), this was an overall great performance.

Grade – A+ 

Coaching – Last week I awarded these men a giant raspberry.  This week, I must say that I was impressed.  Defensively, the coaches made adjustments that kept Indiana out of the endzone for most of the second half.  IU did score a late touchdown, but I want to extend a thumbs up to the coaching staff on that one as well.  What?  Yep, I want to praise the Ohio State coaches because they are allowing the reserves to play in pressure situations.  It would be all too easy to pull the freshmen and backups when the other team threatened to score, but instead we are seeing the coaching staff leave the young players in the game to give them coachable moments.  This will pay off in a big, big way for the Buckeyes not only in the coming seasons, but it might even pay off this season if a starter is hobbled with an injury.  Offensively, I did not like our coming out passing again today after what we saw last week.  I really think Craig needs to be given a while to settle into a game before he is asked to throw deep passes.  What made this sinking feeling go away today was that the coaches recognized this problem rather quickly and began hammering the football into a soft IU defensive front.  With the occasional pass mixed in to keep the defense honest, the offense began churning out yardage.  The best call of the game was the reverse to Gamble, and again – I think it was better than what most realize.  This is the kind of call that a coaching staff has to set up with a progression of calls and a clear strategy.  After a steady dose of Clarett, the Hoosier players were ripe for this little deception because of their overpursuit.  Great call. 

Grade - A

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