Ohio State vs. UAB Game Thoughts
Things I Think I Saw/ Things I Thought I’d See
By Ken Pryor
Well, I missed watching the game again Saturday due to son No. 1, who had another home game. I’m proud to say young Jonathan Pryor had a 60+ yard catch and run, along with a 65-yard interception return. He’s having a fine senior campaign for his Episcopal High School squad, which is now 2-0 on the season. Go High School!
Ok…enough about that. Let’s get down to what you really came to this column to read about. I missed the Ohio State game live, but the Buckeye way-back machine was in full effect late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Judging by the sound of the crowd (or lack thereof), I wasn’t the only one to miss the game.
Like much of the Ohio State fan base, the team itself looked completely disinterested in playing this University of Alabama-Birmingham team. The team affect/body language and their play (especially early on) seemed to beg the question, ‘Do we really have to be here and do we really have to play them?’
The Buckeyes were playing that game like a 10-year old boy whose mom has asked him to kiss his little sister for the Christmas photo. The very thought of this game seemed to repulse them.
The Buckeyes eventually gathered themselves and got their collective act together enough to put UAB away, albeit in uninspiring fashion.
Here are some of the things I think I saw, along with some things I didn’t see that I thought I would.
OHIO STATE OFFENSE
That’s it. That’s all. Nothing more to add here.
Well, not really, but almost.
When Braxton Miller first announced he would become a Buckeye, I was excited to see him play in Columbus and thought he would be a great addition. I thought Miller would be good…better than good. I thought he would be awesome, but admittedly, I was also a Terrelle Pryor fan.
I didn’t think Braxton would be as good as Terrelle. A piece of me maybe didn’t want him to be better. Now I am thinking this kid could surpass not only Pryor, but Craig Krenzel, Art Schlichter, Troy Smith and (gulp) Rex ‘freaking’ Kern in the hearts and minds of Buckeye fans the world over.
The kid has moves. He runs the ball better than some running backs with his quick feet, cutting ability and vision. Once he masters reading the defenses he will be totally devastating.
It does appear Urban Meyer is making a concerted effort to lower his rushing attempts. Against UAB, Miller had 11 carries for 64 yards, which is meager by his standards, but he did amass more than 200 yards total and he scored two touchdowns.
Miller’s first TD run made me truly appreciate Krenzel’s winning touchdown vs. Cincinnati back in 2002. One is a superior athlete the other is not. Craig had to really reach deep within to pull that score out of his hat.
I can’t hate on Jordan Hall either. I still don’t see him as a true running back, but 17 carries for more than 100 yards is a nice day’s work for any back. There are a ton of “true” running backs who never average 6.2 yards per carry in a game. He is more than getting it done in the absence of Carlos Hyde. As he gets more reps, I imagine he’s only going to get better.
Is it me or does the Ohio State offensive line disappoint you in a number of ways? I expected more dominance upfront, but there are times when this group seems to get handled fairly well even by lesser foes. As previously mentioned Hall and Miller are certainly putting up numbers, but there have been a number of breakdowns up front as well. This ain’t the week to be having breakdowns. This much is certain.
OHIO STATE DEFENSE
Remember when we all got so excited about Mike Thomas due to his spring game performance? Now I see why that enthusiasm was so rapidly tempered. Doing big things against this defense ain’t really doing a whole helluva lot.
The pass defense is so-so and the tackling remains pathetic all too often. I don’t understand the angles of pursuit being taken by these linebackers and DBs. It amazes me how a team so well-coached and driven so hard by the head coach can continue to do so poorly in this category.
Many will put this on the coaches, but I simply cannot. I know good and doggone well this staff is not sitting idly by while these tackling exhibitions persists. They are drilling, they are teaching, they are yelling, they are challenging player’s manhood; they are playing all the psyche games they can muster. But it just doesn’t seem to be taking root.
As a coach myself, I’ve been in this situation. I know what it is to reach into your bag of coaching tools and techniques and see lackluster results. Luke Fickell, Everett Withers, Mike Vrabel and everybody else are probably at their wits end, but they won’t quit.
Speaking of Vrabel, I understand he has his philosophy and I understand Luke has a special relationship with him, but they really need to come up with some sort of plan for rotating more D-linemen. They just have to. The plays Nathan Williams is missing certainly seem to warrant more time for a guy like Noah Spence in my mind. I know Goebel, Simon and Hankins are “the dudes,” but I can’t imagine a couple plays mixed in here and there for Steve Miller and Tommy Schutt are going to hurt the team that much.
They might say Miller and Schutt don’t know what they’re doing yet or they haven’t mastered the scheme. The problem is, you have players out there who have mastered the scheme and they are still being taken for bad in too many instances. I’m not sure what’s worse…not knowing what you’re doing and missing tackles or knowing what you’re doing and missing tackles.
This just in…John Hankins is a MAN in the trenches. Against UAB, he garnered 9 tackles in 3 quarters. Last week he had 10 tackles and a sack vs. California. That young man is playing his tail off.
If you want to see some excellent defensive tackle technique and determination rewind your Buckeye way-back machine to the 12:12 mark of the 3rd qtr and watch John Hankins and John Simon. I think from now on I will think of them as a single entity hereby known as John-John.
When John-John is on its game, it is a real force.
Christian Bryant got two personal fouls. Not one…two. The first one was quite ticky-tack in my opinion. Bryant barely nudged the UAB player when the ref flagged him. He got the second one for barking at the opposing player. Christian would do himself a world of good if he just shuts his mouth and plays hard. I appreciate a little jaw-jacking with an opponent, but you have to know when to simply shut your mouth and walk away.
Travis Howard has a penchant for the interception now and again, but he could be among the worst tacklers on the team. Antoine Winfield he certainly is not. How do these guys acquire these inflated egos to the point where they think they’re NFL ready yet they lack so much in the fundamentals department?
Ryan Shazier is being beaten up out there. I hope he can last the entire season. Sheesh.
All in all, the defense really wasn’t as bad this week compared to the last couple weeks. The unit only allowed a measly 9 points and UAB didn’t reach the Ohio State 30 yard line until the 4th quarter. If they could solve the tackling issue, they would be lights out.
They are giving up yards, but I’ve seen what teams are doing to the Ohio States defense. They are passing the ball quickly with screens, misdirection screens, short hitches and out routes. Play calls have kept the defense off-balance as well. When you are Ohio State and you’re playing Miami, Ohio, UAB, or even Cal, you’re facing teams with nothing to lose. They’re going to do things they wouldn’t normally do, call plays they wouldn’t normally call, and take chances they wouldn’t normally take. Not to mention they are bad enough teams to make your good team look bad right along with them.
O.J. Simpson once said it was easier to run against good defenses vs. bad defenses, simply because the good defenses were disciplined. The defenders would be where they were supposed to be so he was able to base his cuts and shifts on this knowledge. A bad defense, on the other hand, would have guys running out of position thus he never could get a feel for where to make his cuts.
I still think the Buckeyes will get this thing turned around. Ironically, playing better teams might be what aids the process. MSU and Nebraska won’t take the same chances UAB or Cal took.
OHIO STATE SPECIAL TEAMS
Blocked punt….ugh. Clearly, that was a communication breakdown. UAB didn’t even come close to blocking another punt after that first jailbreak.
I cannot finish this column without a shout out to long snapper Bryce Haynes. Not only did he get off a great snap, but watching him sprint his behind off to get downfield, locate the ball and down the ball inside the 5 yard line was a thing of beauty. I rewound that play 6 times on the way back machine. Way to go, Bryce.
Extra Points to Ponder
1. Did the refs literally wait to throw the off-sides flag until AFTER Howard intercepted the ball? The Buckeyes did indeed jump the snap, but it appeared to me they were going to let the play go…at least until they say the Buckeyes came away with the ball. Were they throwing a bone to UAB on this one?
2. The Michigan State game could be one of those beautifully ugly games or it could be just an ugly game. This thing could be a defensive struggle for conference supremacy or we could see two defenses get shredded due to poor fundamentals. Which will it be?
3. The Ohio State crowd is terrible. This could be the most fickle fair-weather crowd I’ve ever seen. When the team is struggling to find its collective juice, a shot in the arm from the crowd could be just what they need. The fans seem to wait on the shot in the arm from the team before they get loud and excited. Those who attend the games have got to make more noise and get some home field advantage going.
4. Devin Smith is a Biletnikoff Award-caliber receiver if he ever becomes consistent with all the catches. It appears to be nothing more than a concentration matter with him and his easy drops. If he can get that squared away, the sky is the limit for him.