Buckeyes Sticking With Bauserman?
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State coach Luke Fickell went into Saturday’s game against Toledo with the plan of playing two quarterbacks, just like he did in week one against Akron.
They ended up playing one.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Freshman Braxton Miller spent the day holding his helmet on the sidelines, while senior Joe Bauserman took every snap with the offense during OSU’s 27-22 victory over the Rockets.
“We've got a plan going into the game just like we had a plan defensively going into the game, and we had to adjust things defensively. Offensively we had to do the same thing,” Fickell said after his second victory as the head coach.
“Those guys are good with it. They understood the situation. We know it's about us. It's about this whole team. Sometimes your plan adjusts and changes on the run, and that's what happened today.”
The Buckeyes planned to use Miller in the second quarter, much like the did in the opener, but Ben Buchanan had a punt blocked on Ohio State’s second possession of the game and all of a sudden the scripted game plan went out the window.
“It's just one of those gut decisions you've got to make out there…things just weren't going the way we had them planned,” Fickell said of their decision to stick with Bauserman.
“We thought for momentum reasons and some different things, we just want to stick with where we were, and those are questions that, us as a staff, we'll make sure we sit down and evaluate and look back over to see if there's anyway if we had to do it over again, if we'd do it different.”
Photo by Jim Davidson
If it were up to the fans, they would have. Despite how well Bauserman played in the 42-0 win over Akron, he was booed early and often Saturday by an Ohio Stadium crowd that was aching to see the young freshman get an opportunity to run the offense.
“They'll do what they do. I don't really worry about that,” Bauserman said after making his second start.
“I'm going to throw the ball away, and if that's what they want to do, that's up to them.”
Bauserman picked up right where left off last week on the first drive of the game. He completed all three of his passes, including a 26-yard touchdown over the middle to tight end Jake Stoneburner, who hauled it in with one hand.
“I think he did pretty well. He made no mistakes—he still hasn't thrown an pick, knock on wood—he threw the ball away when it was appropriate, even though we got booed for that,” said Stoneburner, who has now caught four touchdown passes from Bauserman in two games.
“It's better to throw the ball away than throw a pick. I thought he was smart out there, made plays we needed, and that's what we need out of our quarterback.”
What maybe went unnoticed by the fans was the fact Bauserman avoided the big negative plays Saturday against Toledo. His numbers weren’t spectacular—he was 16-of-30 for 189 yards and a touchdown—but he did not turn the ball over and avoided taking a sack against a very aggressive Toledo defense.
But the OSU offense also struggled after that opening drive, converting just three of their 12 attempts on 3rd downs. It wasn’t Bauserman’s fault they couldn’t run the ball, but he didn’t do a whole lot to open things up for the running backs.
“They played a lot of soft corners and we wanted to take advantage of that,” Bauserman said.
“They tried to pack the box, so we tried to take a couple of shots down the field. We missed a few, but in the end we got the job done.”
Bauserman had freshman Evan Spencer running wide open down the field on a play that would have been a sure touchdown if hadn’t overthrow his receiver by eight yards. He also missed on deep balls to Verlon Reed and Devin Smith, but there was also a few balls on the money that got broken up by Toledo defensive backs.
“We know we've got to take some shots and we did. But you know what, I think he understands what we're asking him to do, and we all left some plays out there no matter whether it's the quarterback, a defensive lineman, a linebacker, we all left some on the field,” Fickell said.
“That's how we get better. We evaluate, we're critical of ourselves and we find a way to try not to leave as many of those out there.”
If the coaches are evaluating themselves, they might want to figure out a way to get Miller into the flow of the game. He has proven he can be a factor at this level, and his athleticism could help the Buckeyes offset the fact they have lost so many of their playmakers to suspension or injury.
Despite Saturday’s rotation, or lack there of, Fickell still has plans to use both quarterbacks next week at Miami.
“I feel we have two quarterbacks,” he said.
“I feel like we have two Will linebackers. I know everybody wants to talk about the quarterback more, but they know we have confidence in them.”
They didn’t show much of that confidence in Miller Saturday, even when things weren’t going right for Bauserman and the offense. That’s something Fickell will have to work on.
“They know we need them both,” he said.
“And it's our job to make sure we can handle it the right way.”
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