A lot of fans seemed to have this attitude after the Purdue win:
"The Bucks won and I am very happy about that, but..."
We all probably did it. We should just be happy, excuse me, thrilled, that the Bucks are 11-0 right now. But there is always a "but" in the sentence, isn't there?
Well, don't feel bad. Even the co-hero of the Purdue win, Mike Jenkins, seems to have the same attitude as all of us.
Yes, the Bucks won. Yes, he is thrilled about that. But he knows the offense must play better. He knows it must start taking more shots downfield. Jenkins even went as far as to call the offensive play-calling "nitpicking" against the Boilers.
"We were struggling out there a little bit," Jenkins said. "Defense played terrific; they were keeping us in there. We kept nitpicking and just couldn't really get anything going offensively. No rhythm. But we made big plays when we needed to."
What can the Bucks do to make some of those big plays earlier in the game in Jenkins' opinion?
"We're just going to have to prepare a lot harder and in practice be a little more focused.
As for the Krenzel-Jenkins game-saver against Purdue, it will always be one for the memory banks. For Buckeye fans and for Jenkins himself.
"Oh, that's the highlight of my football career so far. It was a great feeling. It was really the first deep ball that we threw and connected on the whole game, so it was a great feeling, especially in that situation. You can't really say it won the game, but to help us win the game... It was just a great feeling," Jenkins said.
Was Jenkins surprised that after all the "nitpicking" the Bucks decided to go for it all?
"I wasn't really surprised. I saw the safety way down by the linebackers and was alone on the outside, so I just had to beat my guy. I knew if I could get open that Craig would get the ball to me."
Jenkins knows the Bucks are on the doorstep of something special, but doesn't think the team will be looking past the Illini this week.
"It would be nice making history as a 12-0 team. But 13-0 is a big goal and we have to focus in on being 12-0 first," Jenkins said.
The Buckeye wideout has a lot of respect for the Illini.
"We've got a very tough opponent coming up in
Offensive play-calling is definitely the biggest gripe in the Buckeye Nation right now, but concerns about the offensive line have also popped up again. Can they pass block anyone? Can the Bucks run the ball without Maurice Clarett?
"We have to get better up front, we know that," center Alex Stepanovich said. "But I have a lot of confidence in this line. I think we've got the job done so far this year and hopefully we can really put it together this week at
My gut feeling is that the line is going to close out the regular season with two solid games. They've had to battle through some injuries (like every O-Line), but are just now getting healthy. These next two weeks, I look for them to excel in the running game and "hold their own" (but don't hold) in pass protection. I just think Jim Bollman will have them playing their best ball these final two games.
Safety Donnie Nickey isn't big on stats. He doesn't care how many yards the Buckeye defense gives up, his only business is keeping points off the board.
"We all know that our job is to keep them out of the end zone, keep points off the board regardless of what the offense does," Nickey said. "I mean, that's the way we look at it. Our focus is keeping points off the board. I think it's a universal attitude and I think it works."
Nickey is expecting to see some spread formations from the
"We played so many (spread) teams earlier in the season and we kind of got away from it. We just had to look at ourselves and remember what we were doing earlier this year and play assignment football because that's probably what they are going to try and do against us. We're going to get their best game. We got Purdue's best game, we're going to get everybody's best game. I don't care what
Linebacker Matt Wilhelm echoed many of Nickey's comments.
"That's the philosophy against so many great offensive teams has been:
The Butkus Award semi-finalist knows the Illini will probably throw the ball more than usual against the Buckeyes and says limiting "YAC" will be a big factor.
"That's the key. Against a spread offense, they'll throw the short pass and expect their skill players to make a move and get into the open field. We really try to limit the yards after catch.
Wilhelm likes the depth of the Buckeye defense.
"That's big, especially for the up front guys who go hard every play. Most of the Purdue game we were in a three-man front, so those three men we going against five and six blockers. So, coach Heacock and coach Dantonio upstairs are like, 'Keep them fresh; keep them rolling through,' and that allows those guys to stay aggressive, which is the key for our defense. Those guys up front make it all go for us and it's a luxury to keep them fresh," Wilhelm said.
There have been several close games on the road this year, but Wilhelm doesn't care if the Bucks look pretty. He just wants to keep collecting W's.
"We're just plugging along. We may not play our best game on the road, but we find a way to win. We're undefeated. We don't plan on losing a game. We'll keep working the way we have all the way through the season. Good things are happening for us. It's a lovely feeling to be 11-0, but we need to finish up strong," Wilhelm said.