Cus Words: Things Ain't Like They Used To Be

This week northeastern Ohio's Black Keys offer inspiration for a look at the game that was and the one that's ahead for the Ohio State football team. The Buckeyes bashed Marshall with an evolved offensive attack a year or so in the making. Will they keep it up when Miami comes to town?

What we learned last week: An old dog can learn new tricks. Or maybe more accurately, the Ohio State coaching staff can re-learn sorta old-fashioned tricks.

Jim Tressel is 58 and in his 25th year as a head coach, and he's essentially worked with the same group of offensive coaches for six years, but the Buckeyes' offense has been reinvented in the past 12 months or so, and the results were quite impressive in week one.

Instead of a mishmash of 3- and 4-receiver sets with I-formation running plays thrown in, the Ohio State offense against Marshall consisted of a coherent grouping of styles that complemented each other.

There was greater variety in the running plays (The infamous "Dave" power play was used only sparingly, though it did produce Brandon Saine's 45-yard touchdown run in the second quarter) and more sophistication in the passing attack, a tribute both to the work of the staff and the maturation of the personnel.

Yes, Terrelle Pryor looked comfortable and in control, smooth in most of his deliveries and quick to figure out where to go with the ball, but that had as much to do with his being a junior as it did with the staff putting together a package that gave him more easy throws and reads. A lot of play-action stuff that had been set up with a variety of running looks helped, too.

He was better, but his job was easier.

(The offensive line was excellent both mentally and physically as well. That's probably got more to do with age than the plan, but it's safe to say the scheme helped some by preventing the defense from playing "downhill" as much as some previous ones have been able to do.)

The end result - a melding of pro-style and spread principles into a multifaceted and dangerous attack - was always the goal, but there was probably more trial-and-error than the coaches expected (surely more than the fans wanted).

The staff lost its way a few times since many of the stars of the 2006 offense left town, but that seems to be in the past now, and not a moment too soon.


What we can expect to learn this week: Can they do that against a team that's motivated and has some sense of what it wants to do and how to do it?

Marshall certainly did not fit that description.

The Thundering Herd looked more like bumbling turds from the time one of the guys in green pants fumbled the opening kickoff until the final gun sounded.

Credit Ohio State for executing and taking advantage of its opportunities, but the opponent was far from impressive (I got the same impression watching Michigan pick on a disheveled, bewildered Connecticut squad that did little to disprove the idea the Big East is not big boy football).

The Hurricanes come in with the confidence born of their own opening night blowout and chips on their shoulders from an offseason of disrespect after an embarrassing bowl performance against another Big Ten team that wears a shade of red on game days.

The program is not back to juggernaut status yet, but the players would like nothing more than to make that discussion a serious one by picking off a high-profile pelt like that of the Buckeyes.

There is certainly enough talent on the roster to do some major damage to any team in the country.

Aside from what Miami brings to the Horseshoe, it will bear watching how Ohio State chooses to attack.

Will the Buckeyes stick with what worked or outsmart themselves with a different formula, as was the case last season when a relatively balanced attack against Navy gave way to a grab-bag disaster when USC came to town?

Let's see if Tressel learned from those mistakes.

It stands to reason he did, and at the same time, he's dealing with a far more mature group that should be able to handle adversity better and get more rope from the head coach if something goes wrong early, a la the near-pick-6 Pryor threw out of the gate against the Trojans.

All-Buckeye Beaters Team nominees: Generally this would be the part of the column where I highlight the players who performed the best against the Buckeyes on the previous weekend, but this time around I'm not inclined to do so. That's how unimpressive Marshall's performance was.

With a new coaching staff installing new philosophies, it stands to reason this team could take some major steps forward by the end of the season, but there is a long way to go.

Were I forced to pick a top performer or two from the game last Thursday night, I would probably lean toward defensive lineman Vinny Curry. He turned in two sacks and showed up on a handful of running plays, but his over-exuberant celebration that drew a 15-yard penalty for his team tends to turn me off.


DVR Direction: Warm up for the Buckeyes and Hurricanes (3:40, ESPN) with a noon game between Wisconsin and San Jose State (ESPN). There are three other Big Ten games (South Dakota at Minnesota, Illinois State at Northwestern and Western Illinois at Purdue, all on BTN) at that time, but the Badgers play the best opponent and figure to be the biggest threat in the conference race. They also have an entertaining offense with a lot of good skill players. While the Buckeyes are in action, be sure to record Michigan's trip to Notre Dame (3:30, NBC) to see if the Wolverines are for real (they probably aren't), and in the evening when Alabama-Penn Stage (7 p.m., ESPN) gets out of hand, feel free to check how Illinois fares against visiting Southern Illinois (7:30, BTN).


Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll (Preseason ranking)

1. (same) Ohio State
2. (same) Wisconsin
3. (same) Iowa
4. (5) Michigan State
5. (4) Northwestern
6. (same) Penn State
7. (same) Indiana
8. (9) Michigan
9. (8) Purdue
10. (11) Illinois
11. (10) Minnesota

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for BuckeyeSports.com and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman[at]buckeyesports[dot]com

For more from him, read his blog about Ohio State football and whatever else crosses his mind .


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