10 Things We Learned from a Senior Day Loss
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the first time since 2007, the Ohio State seniors will end their careers with a loss in their final home game at Ohio Stadium.
After falling behind 10-0 for the third-straight week, the Buckeyes could not rally in the second half of their 20-14 loss to Penn State. It is just their third loss in November since the end of the 2004 season, but their second in as many weeks.
We take a look at the 10 things we learned during Ohio State’s Senior Day Loss.
1. November really is for contenders. Remember that old slogan? Turns out it is exactly right. The Buckeyes have proven that over the last decade with eight Big Ten championships in the last 10 years, but they couldn’t fake it this year. After winning three straight games against Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, Ohio State was close to controlling its own destiny in the final month of the season. Turns out, they actually did. It was never this team’s destiny to compete for a Big Ten title. They just aren’t good enough. There are a million different excuses, but the reality is, November separated the contenders from the pretenders, and we all know where Ohio State stands now.
2. Time is running out on this coaching staff. Regardless of who you want to coach Ohio State next season, the reality is that no one in their right mind can be OK with what they have seen this season, especially from the offense. Whether it’s Gordon Gee, Gene Smith or the Board of Trustees, whoever is making the final decision has to be terrified at the idea of bringing back this offense for next season, let alone the future. The Buckeyes are going to finish the 2011 season as the worst passing team in the Big Ten and one of the worst in the entire country.
They will have decent rushing numbers, but nowhere near what teams like Navy, Georgia Tech or even Wisconsin do on the ground. Ohio State’s total offense and scoring offense will also be among the worst in the country, but it all works out because at least they don’t turn the ball over. They also don’t score points, which means this 1950’s coaching philosophy is no longer going to cut it in Columbus. Whatever happens, a chance is coming. Even if Fickell were somehow retained as head coach, which seems highly unlikely at this point, there is no way he could bring back this offensive staff and expect to win football games.
3. Seniors set the tone. It is hard to lump everyone in this senior class together. You have guys who were suspended, other guys who were suspended twice and guys who had to pay the price for their classmates’ transgressions. The fact of the matter is that seniors always set the tone for the team. Jim Tressel knew that and made it about the seniors. This season became about the youth, and that’s never a winning formula. Luke Fickell and the staff can say what they want about guys like DeVier Posey and Boom Herron, but they are the guys who put Ohio State in this position to begin with. It’s not a surprise that their teammates didn’t leave their blood and guts out on the field for this senior class.
4. False starts are no longer joking matter. OK, they weren’t really a joking matter before, but Ohio State fans made themselves feel better about J.B. Shugarts and his obligatory false start every game by adding humor to the mix. There was nothing funny about Shugarts’ false start late in the fourth quarter. He has had so many in his career, but none that ever cost the Buckeyes quite like this one. Instead of a 4th-and-5, the Buckeyes had to go 10 yards to get a first down. Miller went nine. He couldn’t reach the marker with his dive and Penn State got the ball back. How Shugarts can false start in that situation is impossible to understand. Then again, it’s pretty hard to fathom how he can manage to have (at least) one every single game. Someone needs to add up all the negative yardage. On second thought, don’t. OSU fans are already having a rough night.
5. DeVier Posey can make a difference. We knew Posey was the best receiver on this team, but we didn’t know exactly what type of impact he would make in his first game back. He had not played in a game since January, and the Buckeyes weren’t going to throw the ball around against Penn State’s defense. Miller did throw it 17 times Saturday. He had seven completions and four of those went to Posey. That included a big 39-yarder on a broken play, which is exactly where I thought Posey could make the biggest difference. Corey Brown was the only other wide receiver who caught pass, which is why the Buckeyes probably wish they had called more passes in Posey’s direction.
6. It takes hands to catch. One reason Posey is such a difference-maker for the Buckeyes is the fact he can actually catch the football. Novel idea, right? It’s more than Ohio State’s other receivers have done this season. Evan Spencer almost had a big catch on OSU’s final drive that would have given them one shot at a Hail Mary into the end zone. Almost being the key word there. And then there is Corey Brown. How can you not feel for this kid? He is one of the fastest players on the team and he has gutted it out through an ankle injury this season.
How he got three steps behind Penn State’s defense with that bad wheel is beyond me, but it doesn’t matter how open you are if you can’t catch the football. Brown has a history of this, but his drop Saturday was devastating. It wasn’t a perfectly thrown ball—Brown had to wait on it—but it was thrown over the defenders and well enough to hit Brown in the hands. The fact that it came on 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter says everything about how important that play was.
7. Centers should not wear gloves. LeCharles Bentley Tweeted that after the game, but we didn’t need an All-American and All-Pro center to let us know. Watching Michael Brewster struggle to get the ball back to Braxton Miller was enough to let us know that centers have no business wearing a glove on their snapping hand. Especially Brewster. He has had issues all throughout the year with his snaps and continually blames it on his gloves. If that’s the case, why would he even bother with them? And more importantly, why wouldn’t one of the coaches step in and ask him to take it off? They have to know, or at least ask, what is causing all of these bad snaps from their “All-American” center. There is no question that Brewster had one of his worst games at Ohio State Saturday and his bad snaps really hurt the offense, especially in the second half.
8. Shazier is going to be a star. If you were watching closely, you noticed that Ryan Shazier was out of position quite often Saturday against Penn State. That was especially true in the first half, where Shazier got creased on a couple of the Nittany Lions long runs up the middle. He also settled in and played some pretty good football in the second half. He wasn’t always right where he was supposed to be, but what freshman is? This was the first start of his career and he led the team with 15 tackles. Nobody on this team has had 15 tackles in a game all year. Shazier was flying around out there making plays and the youngster out of Florida has “star” written all over him.
9. Carlos Hyde should stay off Twitter for a while. Those who follow me on Twitter, or read my reports here on the-Ozone know how much I like Carlos Hyde. He has power, he has speed and he’s starting to develop some good vision now that he is getting more playing time. I’ve been clamoring for him to see more carries since Boom Herron returned, but they continue to use him in the strangest of ways. First it was on kick return and Saturday it was in the wildcat. I’m not sure either of those are his strengths, but none of that matters after Hyde put the ball on the Turf in the third quarter. The Buckeyes had just captured momentum with their huge goal line stand, and they were driving down the field for the go-ahead touchdown. Hyde looked good running the ball and then it popped out at the worst time. It killed Ohio State’s momentum and it proved why freshmen and sophomores should keep their mouths shut until they have a resume of doing all the right things for an extended period of time.
10. The Buckeyes are in trouble. With this being Ohio State’s fifth loss of the season, many people are acting like the year is over. For all intents and purposes, it is. There is really nothing to play for next week except pride and of course the glory of the Ohio State-Michigan game. That’s right, the Buckeyes have to travel to Ann Arbor next weekend to play a Wolverines squad that hammered Nebraska 45-17 Saturday. They are now 9-2 on the season and 5-2 in the Big Ten. They aren’t going to the Big Ten title game, but they’ve been waiting eight long years to knock off the Buckeyes. They are going to be hungry and excited and they are capable of putting a lot of points on the board. If the Buckeyes don’t show up to play next weekend, they could be on the wrong end of a blowout. That’s not an exaggeration. This defense has had all kinds of issues tackling this season, and that’s not a good thing when facing Denard Robinson.
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