Badgers Were Executioners, Buckeyes Weren't
By John Porentas
Within the circle of sports writers there are a few quotes that are deemed classics. One such quote was uttered by the late former USC and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Head Coach John McKay. Following a Tampa Bay loss, McKay was asked what he thought of his team's execution. Without hesitating or blinking an eye McKay responded "I'm in favor of it."
OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel wasn't nearly as hard on his team following a 31-18 loss to Wisconsin last Saturday, but like McKay, execution was on his mind, not strategy or trickery.
"They (Wisconsin) executed very well," said Tressel.
"They did some things off of their speed sweep that looked like they hit us but if I had to bet (I would bet that) it wasn't anything earth shaking. It was just excellent execution.
"There may have been something that we flat out haven't seen, but sometimes those things aren't executed as well as the ones that people do day after day after day. I'm fairly certain this was probably a lot of their base package."
In Tressel's mind, it was Badger execution that killed the Buckeyes, as well as a dose of non-execution by his own team. Talk all you want about strategy and specific play calls, but for Tressel, it kept coming back the E-word.
In the first half OSU failed to score a touchdown and settled for a field goal after moving to a first down inside the Wisconsin five-yard line. Tressel said the play calling may have been a factor, but in the end, execution had its role.
"We shouldn't have called them (the plays) because they didn't work, and obviously they didn't work because we didn't execute them," he said rather circuitously.
It's another way of saying that a play call is as only as good as the players who will run the play, a point Tressel made after the game in Madison.
"Football is a real game of execution," he said.
"It's one thing to talk about football and draw things up on the board.
"The real question is can they execute it.
"Most things are engineered for success, most defenses are and most offenses," Tressel said.
The disparity in execution between the two teams was glaring at times, and from the very start. Kick coverage is a matter of execution, as is kick returning. Wisconsin's return of the opening kickoff for a score was a great example and a preview of things to come. When the chips were down, the Badgers executed better than the Buckeyes time after time. As the game went on it also seemingly led to a small lack of confidence for Tressel. With his team trailing in the fourth quarter, Tressel elected to punt the ball away rather than go for a fourth and 10. The reason? What he was seeing in his team's execution.
"If it was fourth and three we may have done something different," he began.
"We had two plays on that drive that had we executed a little bit better, the second down and third down play, we just didn't quite get it done, so we weren't actually on a roll if you know what I mean, so we decided to punt."
The Badgers meanwhile, were executing, to the point that it emboldened Brent Bielma to abandon his vaunted running game in the fourth quarter and gamble that his quarterback and team could execute in the passing game that the Buckeye defense was daring them to use.
"They're a smart football team. They knew that the series before that we loaded up the box and they didn't try to pound a square peg into a round hole," said Tressel.
"They decided to see if they could execute some of those passes, and they did.
"Late in the first half they saw that was the deal and they threw an interception, but we didn't cash in.
"That's just one of those things that whoever executes more often in a game like this is going to win the game."
The Badgers did execute the passing game on the drive, completing four-straight passes to get the Buckeye defense to back away from the line of scrimmage. Then they went back to the running game to score and put themselves back up by 10 points.
It was just one more example of it. The Badgers executed. The Buckeyes didn't. It really is that simple. At least that's what Tressel says.
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