(Game)-Planning For Success

Immediately after Ohio State dropped its showdown with visiting USC, the criticism of head coach Jim Tressel's offensive game plan began. Now having had some time to break down the film and study the situation, the head coach offered his thoughts on the performance and what it means for the Buckeyes going forward.

The honeymoon might be over for Jim Tressel, but the Ohio State head coach is not concerned with growing dissatisfaction concerning his team's offense.

Following an 18-15 loss at the hands of USC that dealt the Buckeyes their sixth straight loss to a top-five team, plenty of critics came out to criticize the way Tressel chose to attack the Trojan defense. Utilizing a game plan that put a premium on trying to control the tempo with running the football and winning the battle for field position, the Buckeyes managed to leave plenty of points on the field and put the visitors in position to escape with the victory.

Against the Trojans, the Buckeyes had two drives break down inside the red zone that resulted in field goals. They had five drives go three-and-out and were unsuccessful at their go-to power running play at a few key moments.

Looking back, Tressel said the coaches did not put their players in position to win because of the fact that the Buckeyes did not win.

"It was 18-15, (so) obviously we didn't," he said. "That's what you start with. They left themselves a little vulnerable to some things and a couple times we nailed it, a couple times we had it and we didn't nail it.

"But did we put them in enough situations to be successful? No. If we did, they would have tried to be successful and perhaps we would have."

The basic components that go into "Tresselball" will not be leaving the campus of Ohio State anytime soon.

The OSU locker room is one of the more well-insulated places this side of the Pentagon, with most players taking great pains to keep their focus solely on what takes place inside its walls and on the practice field. Junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher said he was unaware of criticism of Tressel's offensive game plan until reporters presented him with the thought. The same went for junior offensive lineman Bryant Browning.

According to Browning and Sanzenbacher, the problems with the OSU offense lie with the players and not the coaches.

"The plays are all designed to work," Sanzenbacher said. "I think it comes down to the players executing. As far as the coaching staff goes, that's their job and I couldn't say anything – I'm in no position to tell them what to do better. "It's designed to work, and a lot of times it is a field position battle whether the scoreboard reflects it or not," Sanzenbacher said. "We had our chances, field-position wise. From the scheme of things, we were in a position to win a few times and as an offense … we just didn't get it done."

One column on Yahoo! Sports has gained particular traction among the OSU faithful, but Sanzenbacher said some of the points brought up criticizing the game plan are untrue. For example, a diagram on the site showed an uncovered Buckeye wide receiver and wondered why the ball was not immediately delivered to him.

According to Sanzenbacher, there was a good reason.

"We know that's how they play their defense; they leave a spot open a lot of the time," he said. "A lot of the time what you see pre-snap isn't what you're going to see always. Even if they line up and there's not somebody over there you change (the play) and suddenly they roll coverage there. It's really technical, but what you see isn't always what you get."

Tressel has shown an ability to guide his offense to big-time performances in past years. In a season that featured a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Troy Smith, Tressel and the Buckeyes rolled through the regular season and put up 42 points in the regular-season finale against No. 2 Michigan.

That has been the last high-profile victory for the Buckeyes. In their subsequent games against top-five opponents – all losses – they have averaged 13.6 points and have scored no more than 24 points in a given game.

Those hoping for Tressel to simply give up calling the plays would have better odds hoping for the head coach to show up on gameday wearing jeans and a T-shirt. On Tuesday, Tressel reiterated his desire to hold onto the play calling responsibilities for the Buckeyes.

That does not mean that Tressel is not open to changing things up, however – provided those changes come within the framework of the things he believes in from an offensive standpoint. The coach said they are "constantly questioning (the game plan), no question."

Now it just remains to be seen how they will move forward.


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