10 Things We Learned from Braxton’s First Start
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Buckeyes had not lost back-to-back games since the 2004 season, so Saturday’s 37-17 win over Colorado should not have come as much of a surprise.
Ohio State Head Coach Luke Fickell decided to turn the offense over to freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, and his team seemed to respond in convincing fashion.
The Buckeyes ran all over the Buffaloes and controlled the tempo of the game on both sides of the ball. It was just what the program needed heading into Big Ten play, and it was just what was needed for a spicier 10 Things We Learned piece.
Photo by Jim Davidson
1. Braxton is the real deal. It wasn’t exactly a fair situation for the youngster, but after last week’s debacle in Miami there had to be some doubters. Miller showed flashes of his athleticism, but it was all but blotted out by his inability to hold on to the football. Fans were anxious to see how he would respond to being named the team’s starter, and he didn’t disappoint. That passing numbers weren’t gaudy, but he threw two beautiful balls to Devin Smith. Couple that with the way he ran the ball Saturday, it’s hard not to think it was the start of something special.
Photo by Jim Davidson
2. Ditto for Devin Smith. It could also be the start of something special for Devin Smith, who seems to be Braxton’s favorite downfield target. With DeVier Posey and Philly Brown missing, the Buckeyes desperately need someone to take that next leap, and Smith isn’t waiting around for Verlon Reed or Chris Fields to do it.
3. Braxton worked on his ball security. Miller’s rushing numbers were solid and his passing will come along, but maybe the best statistic from Saturday’s game was a zero—as in zero turnovers. After his shaky showing against Miami, it was obvious Miller worked on his ball security in practice. He was carrying the rock close to his chest this week and not leaving it out there to be poked away the way he did last week. That says two things. First off, he is committed to getting better, and secondly he is receptive to coaching.
Photo by Jim Davidson
4. Jordan Hall is the most important player on the field. Braxton is going to get most of the publicity for this victory because, well, he’s the quarterback, and he’s not Joe Bauserman. But the real star of the show was tailback Jordan Hall. Every time this guy touches the ball he seems to make something good happen. It’s remarkable how he has made the jump from being a decent backup running back last season to the best player on the field. The light seems to have gone on for him the way it did for Boom Herron in the second half of the year as a junior last season.
5. John Simon is an animal. Speaking of the light going on, how could you watch Saturday’s game and not notice John Simon on the defense? With Nathan Williams sidelined by a knee injury, Simon has quickly become the most unstoppable force on Ohio State’s defense. Despite playing a new position (Leo), Simon has been all over the field making plays. Officially, he had only three tackles against Colorado, but that proves how meaningless statistics can be without facts to support them. Simon was constantly in the backfield Saturday. Whenever he wasn’t, it was usually because he was being held. The guy is a beast and it’s time somebody took notice.
Photo by Jim Davidson
6. Fickell isn’t afraid to shake things up. Where are all the Fickell haters now? I’m sure they are still out there, but give Fickell a lot of credit for shaking things up on both sides of the ball this week. Ohio State’s coaching staff has not been know to make a lot of drastic changes from week to week, but Fickell took this one by the horns. He handed his future over to a freshman quarterback, shuffled the rotations on offense and even made some changes to the defense. All of it was exactly what Ohio State needed after last week.
7. The defense needed some tweaking. The biggest change to the defense Saturday was sophomore Christian Bryant replacing redshirt junior Orhian Johnson at safety. Bryant has been one of the best 11 all season, and he needed to be on the field. He responded by leading the team in tackles, but the Buckeyes also made some changes to their scheme. Because teams are spreading them out, they added a new dime look where Bryant slides down to the star position and Johnson comes back on as a safety. They also replace Adam Bellamy and Garrett Goebel with two guys who can get after the quarterback in Michael Bennett and J.T. Moore.
8. It’s all about field position. Colorado's average starting possession against the Buckeyes was at its own 18-yard line while Ohio State’s was at Colorado’s 47-yard line. That right there could have been the entire game story. Ohio State’s is a little deceiving because they started one drive at the 10-yard line after Jordan Hall’s 90-yard punt return, but that kind of discrepancy is never going to lead to a close game. The Buckeyes did a better job creating turnovers this week, and punter Ben Buchanan had another solid showing. He averaged 39.2 yards per punt this week despite pinning Colorado inside their 20 three times. One of them led to a muffed return and an OSU field goal.
9. The Buckeyes are a better team than they showed at Miami. We don’t know exactly how many tackles Ohio State missed against Colorado, but it’s safe to say it won’t be anywhere close to the 27 they missed last week. It’s quite possible that showing last week in Miami will be the worst this team looks all season long, especially now that Miller is leading the offense. The defense also looked rejuvenated Saturday and there were a lot more silver helmets flying to the football. Like after most of their losses, Ohio State showed they are a better team than what we saw against the Hurricanes.
10. Things are only going to get tougher. The Buckeyes might be better than they showed against Miami, but this Colorado team wasn’t on the same level as that team either. Based on what we saw Saturday, their talent level is probably closer to what we saw from Toledo with a little bit of Akron sprinkled in. It was the perfect kind of game for Ohio State coming off a big loss, but things take a dramatic step up next week as they start conference play. The next four games are against Michigan State, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin. Ohio State might not be favored in any of them.
Bonus. ‘War Daddies’ stepping up. While we’re talking about special teams and tackling, let’s not forget to mention some guys who shined bright Saturday. Senior Nate Ebner and freshman Ryan Shazier were all over the field making plays on kick coverage. Shazier in particular had an impressive game, but Zach Domicone and Jamie Wood also deserve mention for some nice special teams play. Domicone recovered the fumble on Colorado’s botched punt return, and Drew Basil had another nice game going three for three with a 47-yarder.
Two Minute Drill
Donate by Check :
1380 King Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43212
Help us bring you more Buckeye coverage. Donate to the-Ozone.
Click here to email this the-Ozone feature to a friend...or even a foe.
(c) 2010 The O-Zone, O-Zone Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, rebroadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.