Showdown Letdown: OSU Report and Review

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As sequels often do, last Saturday’s showdown between the Miami Hurricanes and the Ohio State Buckeyes failed to live up to the promise of the original—the original, of course, being the two team’s classic 2003 Fiesta Bowl BCS National Championship game. It might have been unreasonable to expect a preseason game to matched one of college football’s greatest title games in intensity, big hits, and twists of fate, but no one expected the snoozer that ended up with a 36-24 Ohio State victory. If it wasn’t for the 2 and the 12 beside their names on the TV scoreboard, it would have been easy to forget that both team are members of college football’s 90th percentile.

By: Hans Hetrick

The majority of the ugliness took place on the offensive side of the ball. Neither offense played with the synchronicity and confidence of a well-polished college football team. Ohio State was tentative, and Miami was sloppy. And occasionally, they switched roles.

Miami’s offense only mustered seven points on their own, although they had plenty of opportunities. But while the missed opportunities hurt the ‘Canes, it was Harris’ four interceptions that transformed the game into a yawner. The interceptions, all of which gave the Buckeyes the ball deep in enemy territory, allowed Ohio State’s coach Jim Tressel to play the game close to his sweater vest and avoid any unnecessary risks. The Buckeyes seized control and never relinquished it.

Neither team completely disgraced themselves—if you don’t count OSU’s kick coverage or Miami’s wide out Travis Benjamin’s two gaffes that led to Buckeye interceptions. The defenses put in a respectable performance. Despite an incredible ten Ohio State drives inside the Miami 25-yard line, Miami’s defense proved stout and held the Buckeyes to three touchdowns and five field goals.

The Buckeye defense showed they can run with anybody. The defensive line put a fair amount of pressure on Hurricane quarterback Jacory Harris, and the secondary got in its share of licks, breaking up a number of fine throws.

In the press room after the game, the head coaches couldn’t completely disguise their frustration. Both Tressel and University of Miami head coach Randy Shannon stressed the important learning experience the game provided. They’re good coaches, and they’re dead on. You can’t learn from pretty. You have to learn from ugly.

Both squads have a long hard road to meet the expectations thrust on them in the preseason. The Hurricanes continue a brutal early season schedule against Pitt today. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, start a four game stretch of powder puffs (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the Illinois or Indiana game ends with a narrower margin than expected). Tressel and the boys have plenty of kinks to work out before they head to Madison for a big time throwdown against the Wisconsin Badgers. Let’s hope that one generates a little more drama.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Buckeye’s good and bad takeaways from Saturday’s ugly win:

THE BAD

Kick Coverage

Putrid, rancid, undisciplined, embarrassing, disgraceful, unbelieveable. How can a team full of the nation’s best athletes give up two kick returns for touchdowns in a single game? And this isn’t a new problem. It was a problem in the Marshall game, in last year’s Rose Bowl, in last year’s Iowa game. This has to get fixed now. I hope Tressel has them running kick coverage drills in their dormitory lobby’s right now.

Terrelle Pryor’s Passing Mechanics

Terrelle looked like Otto Graham against Marshall. But facing a solid defense for the first time this year, he immediately reverted to his old ways: locking eyes with one receiver, happy feet in the pocket, and rushing throws. The Buckeye offensive is on the verge of becoming explosive, but it won’t happen until Pryor irons these issues out.

The Secondary

Chimdi Chekwa received the National Defensive Player of the Week award for his two interceptions and six tackles, but I saw Miami’s Leonard Hankerson turn Chekwa over like an over-easy egg on an inside-out flag route to the corner of the end zone. Luckily, Jacory Harris overthrew him. Harris completed 22 or 39 for 232 yards. Take away the four interceptions, and Jacory Harris is standing on the other side of an exceptional day. The Buckeye secondary needs to step up and clamp down.

THE GOOD

Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall

After the two excruciating Miami kick returns for touchdowns and a Jacory Harris touchdown pass, Berry and Hall put some salve on the sting with three kickoff returns over 40 yards. On the last one, Berry was seemingly swallowed by Hurricanes, but kept his motor running and squirted into the open field for another 20 yards. If we can’t cover the kicks, at least we can run them back.

Terrelle Pryor’s Running Game

No surprise here. The big man raced for 113 yards on the ground. The surprise lies in Pryor’s newfound power running game. Pryor isn’t running out of bounds in 2010. He’s taking on defensive lineman and knocking them back for a couple of extra yards. Beautiful.

The Secondary

Yeah, they looked a little lost in the midst of Miami’s pro-style passing attack, but they are making positive strides. Devon Torrence broke up a couple of pass plays, and C. J. Barnett was flying around the field and sticking receivers with impeccable timing. In a horrible twist, it looks like Barnett is out for the season with a knee injury. His replacement, Orhian Johnson, was locked in a close preseason battle with Barnett for the starting role, so maybe he can pick up where Barnett left off.

More Fullback

Buckeye fullback Zach Boren knocked the helmet off a Hurricane with a brutal iso block, springing Boom Herron for a ten yard game. The helmet flew at least seven yards in the air. Yet Boren is relegated to very limited role in a predominately single back offense. Put the kid in and let him run people over.

Something to Put Your Efforts To Until the Wisconsin Game

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