Offensive Line – This is where it all starts. The big hogmollies have to block up front. They have to be able to keep the defensive players off of the quarterback and running backs. Today, Purdue defensive linemen and linebackers spent more time in the Buckeye backfield than Maurice Clarett. Either the blocking scheme is woefully in adequate or the blocking was. I tend to think it might have been a little of both. When he was playing, Clarett had nowhere to go on 3rd and 2. Krenzel was repeatedly pressured and sacked when it came time to pass the football. Even on quick hits, Krenzel was taking too much pressure. Fortunately for OSU, one of the few times that Craig had the time to throw was the 4th and 1 bomb to Jenkins. This alone raises the grade of the line because they did get it done and pick up the blitz when it counted the most.
Grade – D
Quarterbacks – Craig had a decent game today. He won it for OSU late, but he also fumbled the football, and made some regrettable decisions. His decision to scramble on the next to last play of the first half very nearly cost OSU three points. With no timeouts, the thing a defense would love to see the most is the quarterback running toward them instead of throwing the ball away. Though I could be off base here, I do not think the interception with the ball thrown toward Bam Childress was his fault. That is a timing throw, and Childress absolutely must be in that spot when the ball arrives or it will result in a big play by the defense. Still, I give Craig full marks for leading OSU to yet another come from behind victory. Folks, if you have not come to this conclusion yet – then you would do well to consider it. When Craig is done with his eligibility, OSU is going to miss him very, very much. All I heard from OU fans in 2000 was how much better their QB play was going to be in 2001 and 2002 because of their hotshot young recruits. Texas thought that Simms would be twice the quarterback that Applewhite ever hoped to be in college. Wrong on both counts. I am going to give Craig a grade that is increased because of his leading OSU to victory. That should count for something since the goal is to win.
Grade – B
Wide Receivers – The receivers did fairly well today. They caught what was thrown to them when Craig had the time. Gamble and Jenkins did a find job coming back around for some footballs thrown downfield. Jenkins in particular deserves high praise. Want to know the difference a year will make? On January 1, 2002, Jenkins was held and interfered with by South Carolina defensive players. Instead of running out the pattern he quit and looked to the officials who had apparently been struck blind and called nothing. Meanwhile, the South Carolina defensive backs intercepted the football and ran it back which led to a late field goal and an OSU loss. Today, Jenkins was being held the entire way down the field. The Purdue player literally has a fistful of jersey. Instead of stopping to complain, Jenkins ran out his route and made a CLUTCH catch to win the football game. Huge. How many times have you seen a receiver drop a perfectly thrown pass in that very situation with the game on the line. The big negative is that when OSU did go to three WR sets, we were ineffective. I still have questions about the pass to Childress which resulted in an interception. Whose responsibility was that? Craig's? Bam's?
Grade – B
Running Backs. What looked like a serious strength only weeks ago now looks to be a flaw in this team. Behind Maurice Clarett, neither Ross nor Hall are getting the job done. In successive games when they have been forced to carry the load, they are fumbling the football and gaining minimal yardage. This is inexcusable in an offense that relies heavily on the running game to set up the passing game. The statistics are ugly. Just putrid. Ohio State had 94 yards rushing total. 52 of those were gained by Maurice Clarett in 14 carries before he left the game in serious pain. That means that the other 24 rushes averaged 1.75 yards per attempt. That is beyond the pale. Someone is going to have to step up besides Clarett if this team is to win out. I do not know who it will be. Perhaps OSU will even have to explore the option of a 2 FB set where one FB blocks while the other totes the pigskin. Something has to be done.
Grade – D
Tight Ends. They worked hard. They maintained their blocks and provided protection for Craig today. Hartsock had a couple nice catches. I expect that if the line ever develops (which it will if OSU can land some blue-chippers in the recruiting class), we could see some serious pass catching by our tight ends. Right now, they are taking one for the team. In 2003, look out. Craig is no dummy and will find the open man be he TE, RB, or WR.
Grade – B+
Defensive line. This unit gave a workmanlike performance against the Boilermakers. They contained the running game, but what I did not see were serious big plays. Darrion Scott was the only player for Ohio State's defense to have a sack. Thompson seemed to be playing some good football as well. Granted, part of that is dictated by the defensive scheme to shut down the spread, but only 1 sack? I expected more. Yeah, yeah – I know. Go out on the field myself and do better – right? Well, I would agree there that I would get broken like a twig over somebody's knee. However, Scott, Anderson, Peterson, Thompson, Smith, etc. are not going to get broken over anybody's knee. This unit needs to come up with some more big plays in our last two games. Our defense will dictate whether or not OSU wins out.
Grade – B (3 ½ games allowing only 1 touchdown is pretty incredible)
Linebackers. They played solid today. Wilhelm was spectacular as usual with yet another interception. Yet the three linebackers did not have a great deal of tackles between the three of them. Some of this was the extensive use of defensive backs, and some of it was the nature of the spread itself. Did they do their job? You bet.
Grade – B+
Defensive Backs. What can you say about Fox and Gamble that has not already been written? With the exception of the one mistake that allowed Purdue to set up their second field goal, the cornerbacks played lights out. Purdue could drive, but they could not score. Fox and Gamble both had critical interceptions that made a real difference in the game's outcome. Doss did a fine job on run support. He led the team in tackles. Still, both Doss and Nickey needed to have stepped up a bit more in pass defense. Doss was caught napping which allowed Purdue a nice chunk of yardage, but I will give him credit that he was also the one who caught up with the play from behind – possibly saving a touchdown. Nickey looked out of position and beat on the deep ball that Gamble picked off to seal the victory for the Bucks. I think Nickey might have challenged the Purdue receiver by trying to take away his arms, but other than that? Donnie was toast if the WR comes down on his feet. The 285 yards Purdue managed does not overly concern me as the scheme itself mandated that the Buckeyes allowed the Boilermakers to catch the ball and then make the tackle. After saying all of that, I would not trade Doss and Nickey for any other safety tandem in the Big Ten. We will miss them when they are gone.
Grade – A-
Special Teams. Great job by the Special Teams to get off a field goal to end the half. Nugent is still perfect on the year and looking to challenge for the Lou Groza award if he keeps it up. Groom did a fine job, though it was fairly obvious that the wind threw off his accuracy. When your punter has a 42 yard average on 5 punts in his "off day", you are fortunate indeed. The coverage for both Purdue and the Bucks did not allow any long returns. The blocked punt by Jenkins could have been a lot more important had OSU not squandered incredibly good field position. Kudos to Doss for shifting around and distracting the blockers and opening up the lane for Jenkins. Doss as a kick blocker puts genuine fear into punters and their blockers and rightfully so.
Grade – A
Coaching. Here is where I am stuck in this game. Was it player execution that was the issue? Was it the excellent Purdue defense? What is going on here? I will say that I was disappointed with the Clarett calls to run on 3rd and 2. Everybody and their brother knew that was coming. I mean, if I (the local village idiot) can call it sitting on the couch at home, you can bet that the Purdue defense knew it was coming. The passing game was mundane at best. Offensive continuity was just not there – at all. Ross obviously was not gaining any yards, so why not move more toward a short passing game? Of course, I will give the coaches credit because they made such a call with Bam and ended up with an interception that cost the Bucks 3 points. I can grasp that screen passes are not a great idea with this bunch of offensive linemen, but what about some misdirection or a shovel pass to slow down the rush? Defensively, this was another fine effort by the coaching staff. Though the Bucks were outgained in yardage by Purdue, the defense held in the red zone – just as it is designed.
Grade – C+ (offense C and Defense A-)
Overall, OSU came out with what is most critical in November. They won the game. It was ugly, but OSU won nonetheless. OU would love to have such an ugly win right now. Virginia Tech would gladly trade their 42 points for 10 points if they were awarded a win instead of a loss. Defensively, OSU held when they had to, but I am concerned with all the missed tackles. Offensively, OSU must find a way to move the football without Clarett. Face it, this guy looks to be largely done for the season. He had 14 carries today after not playing at all last week. This means Clarett has 18 touches in the last 3 contests. The offense needs to be opened up or at least tweaked a bit for the Illinois game. I am not calling for a spread attack; I just think that based on our current personnel something has to be changed.
Best of luck for the Bucks with the final two games of the season. If they win out, they will have accomplished something special. Here is hoping that the players do not get fat heads and blow this golden opportunity to play for a national title.