Building confidence

A little big of everything went wrong last week. Special teams had several miscues, the offensive line did a poor job of blocking, the running game never got on track and the quarterbacks turned the ball over a plethora of times. All of those miscues handed Cincinnati the game on a silver platter.

"We didn't run the ball well, we didn't throw the ball, or make plays in the passing game efficiently, and we turned it over," coach Mike Riley said.  "I'm disappointed, because as you look at the tape and it did not have to be like that."

Year in and year out, Riley preaches balance on the offensive side of the ball and that is one thing lacking in Ohio. Currently the team is averaging 201.5 yards per game through the air and 138.5 on the ground, both good for eighth in the conference.  The numbers are a little deceiving though as OSU managed just 36 yards on the ground and 274 via the pass last week.

"More than anything, right now, from where we just came from, we've got to get a balanced offense going." Riley said.  "We've got to block guys at the line of scrimmage and allow our back to run. We've got to throw the ball much more effectively. That's our goal this week, time is ticking, we've got to get better.''

The good news coming out of Corvallis is that the team has stayed positive despite their disappointing performance on the road and have used last year's experiences as a learning tool to help them turn in another successful year.

"Everyone pretty much took this as a learning experience, because it was a rough game for us and that's going to happen," tight end Howard Croom said.  "We looked at this as now the only way we can go is up. No one is getting down on anybody."

Part of getting better on the offensive side of the ball is blocking better for the running game.  Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh told his players not to talk to the media this week and instead let their play on the field do the talking.

"We look for major improvements in some areas of our game and continue to improve in all areas," Riley said.  "We have got to get better in almost all faces offensively."

One thing that may help the offense is the increased role of the tight ends in the passing game.  Last week Howard Croom caught a career high three passes for 43 yards and feels that the young tight ends aren't a burden to the offense anymore.

"I want to be a good asset, instead of a liability; I feel that's how we were looked at before a tight end," Croom said.  "Just being able to make plays is just a great feeling, to know that the quarterback and the coach are trusting us so they don't have to work around us."

The improved play of the tight ends may help open up the passing game which will in turn help open up the running game.  Throw in an improving Sammie Stroughter, the fact that Riley is a perfect 13-0 against non-conference opponents in Reser Stadium and that the team had some added time to rest and refocus - things are looking up heading into Pac-10 play.

"The beautiful thing about it (the extra time off) is that we can look at the film and have some concrete things for our kids to work on and they can gain confidence through seeing that and have a renewed opportunity, renewed spirit for the next game," Riley said. "We have a good defense, we have speed on special teams, we've got a good offensive line, although we didn't play like it last week, and we have a good runner."

"We've got to help the quarterback catch up with other parts of the team. Everybody on our team realizes that's where we are at. The beautiful thing is the encouragement those guys are getting, and the coaching they are getting and their attitude is awesome. We will continue to grow."


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