The Team We All Were Waiting For

By Alex on October 25, 2010 at 4:00p

Before anyone jumps down my throat, yes I know it was only Purdue. The same Purdue that lost to Toledo three weeks ago, was in the bottom 20 in the nation in passing, had lost their three best players to injury for the season, and was starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback. This was also a Purdue team that was coming into Ohio Stadium with a little bit of momentum, winning their first two conference games including an upset of Northwestern and having that same redshirt freshman quarterback amass 399 yards and 4 scores in those two victories. 

It was a team catching their opponent at the right time, extremely vulnerable after a deflating 31-18 loss at Wisconsin and damaged both mentally and physically by beat down that the toll of the first seven games had taken on them. Ohio State fans, coaches, and players alike were not sure what to expect after the "Massacre in Madison" and in what direction the rest of the season would hold for a team that had so much promise entering the 2010 campaign, not to mention National Championship aspirations.

After a 49-0 win, we still don't know what the rest of the year holds for the Buckeyes, but one thing we can all agree on is that Saturday proved to be the performance we were all waiting for. Ohio State played as complete of a game as they had all season, doing it all on offense, defense, and special teams (to the best of their ability). The offensive line was moving defenders at will, the defensive line was getting pressure through the middle, the receivers were running precise routes to get open in space, and the secondary was making game-changing plays. This was the offensive juggernaut we all knew was hiding behind semi-stale play calling, and the standard Silver Bullet defense we have grown to expect over the years in Columbus. The question is, where was this team the first seven games and why did it take them so long to emerge?

For some reason or another it seems that Jim Tressel's teams the last three years have been slow starters. In 2008, the Buckeyes got slaughtered at USC without Beanie Wells and had to learn on the fly with freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor behind freshman center Mike Brewster the rest of the season. Those Bucks tripped up again at home against #3 Penn State before winning a share of the Big Ten title and falling for the third time against Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2009, the team once again was too youthful to pull out a hard-fought game against the Trojans and was upset by this same Purdue team before rebounding to claim their fifth straight conference title and finally getting over the hump in a Rose Bowl win over Oregon.

2010 started and things looked good with wins against Marshall, Miami, Ohio, and Eastern Michigan to start the year, but something just didn't seem right. Why were kicks getting blocked? Why were our special teams allowing multiple returns for scores in a single game? Why was our defense giving up 21 points to EMU? Buckeye fans didn't want to admit it at the time, but adjustments needed to be made for this team to live its dream and go undefeated, an extremely hard feat in college football. 

Illinois proved that, as an underrated but definitely under-matched Ron Zook team hung with the Bucks until the end in a 24-13 loss. The Bucks looked back on track the next week, beating what we know is now an awful Indiana team 38-10, and headed into Wisconsin as the #1 team at 6-0 after Alabama was upset. Things seemed all good and dandy until David Gilreath took the opening kick back 97 yards and the rest is history. Columbus was burning and all of a sudden the sky was falling on Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes.

That is until the perfect formula of wanting to bounce back from that daunting loss and the desire for revenge of "Purdue Harbor" kicked in. That was all this Buckeye team, plagued by injuries on both sides of the ball, needed to turn their season around. It's like the loss in Madison awoke a sleeping giant in this Ohio State team and the slow start of 2010, like in years past, started to become a run to a sixth straight conference title. The Bucks saw what they needed to do to get back on track in a season that potentially can end in yet another conference crown and potentially with the team right back in the thick of the national championship race (check out the remaining schedules of the teams ahead of us). 

The Bucks ran the ball right down the throats of the Boilermakers to start things off and never looked back. It's like they realized "Hey, we're Ohio State, you're Purdue, we shouldn't even be on the field together", and that's how they played on Saturday afternoon. On offense, Mike Adams and Justin Boren lead the way for Boom Herron all afternoon. Terrelle Pryor, sans two throws, showed great presence both inside and out of the pocket, making solid throws and showing his continued evolution as a passer. DeVier Posey seemed to get his head back on straight, while Dane Sanzenbacher continues to be the most underrated player in college football, and Corey "Philly" Brown broke out as the next future stud receiver to hit Columbus. Finally, Andrew Norwell, filling in for the banged up JB Shugarts, continued to make his case to get a start at right tackle. The team sure misses Marcus Hall this season, but the true freshman is showing the coaches and fans he can step in when needed and might even be the team's best option at right tackle while Shugarts nurses his chronic foot injury (and possible even after it's healed).

On defense Cameron Heyward played with the motor of a Hemi engine and the rest of the line was relentless in keeping Rob Henry on the move and out of a comfort zone all day. At linebacker, Andrew Sweat filled in more than admirably for Ross Homan, his second solid showing in a row and showing all the doubters that giving him the SAM spot over Sabino may have indeed been the right choice. In the secondary, Devon Torrence had one of his best games as a Buckeye, Jermale Hines looked at home at the STAR position, Ohrian Johnson finally was in the right place ALL the time and did have his best game in Scarlet and Gray, and Aaron Gant, who seems to be in his 10th year at OSU, had a tremendous game when we needed it most. The Silver Bullets were out to prove a point and did so with their first shut out since New Mexico State last season.

Once again, this was just Purdue, but Saturday showed me a lot of things to be pleased with. This is the team we have been waiting to see all season long and the team we all expected to win the National Championship this season. Both the Big Ten and national races are going to be tough the rest of the way, but both are in reach for the Buckeyes to grab with a little help. If Ohio State plays every week with the same passion and determination that they showed against the Boilermakers on Saturday, I'm confident 11-1 will happen and when you take care of the things that you can control, everything else tends to fall into place.


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ToledoBuckeye's picture

I want to buy into this team, I really do.  However, they just seem like they lack the intensity to be a dominate team.  I think they play a little too much like their coach.  Too conservative and safe.  I want guys flying around the football and people that are fired up.  I have seen it at times this year but for the most part our stars have been disappointing against good teams.  Heyward has been a major disappointment and what happened to "Nasty" Justin Boren?  I am not saying I want them to be like the "U" and say they invented swagger but I would like them to stop being afraid to dominate a team.  We should have shut out every MAC team on our schedule.  Also, I understand that Prior wants to be a complete passer but I would rather have him use his awesome running ability more instead of taking coverage sacks.

"Anything easy ain't worth a damn." - Woody Hayes

btalbert25's picture

I feel like this team is much more dominant than they have been in a while.  There have been years where, sure they may have beaten Purdue or Indiana by a lot, but it wasn't easy to get there.  This year, they beat Indiana and Purdue in the first quarter and didn't have to play the 2nd half.  This is the most dominant Buckeye team in a long time, in my opinion.

DarthSweaterVest's picture

I think that Pryor has used his running ability a lot this year, even against Wisky, but it is obvious he is not healthy right now and is not the same runner that he normally is.

btalbert25's picture

It seems that in the last few years, not many people are too pleased with our victories, and any time the team loses there is a monumental over reaction followed by weeks of, we'll get beat, our coach sucks, our QB is no good, and whatever other kind of doom and gloom/negativity can be put out there.  Honestly, I think things have come too easy for this team this year.  The loss shocked them back to earth a bit I think, and wouldn't be surprised if they finish the year in dominating fashion. 

Bama got beat badly by a team that wasn't that great.  A team that lost to Kentucky for that matter, and I didn't see where many of their fans were calling for Saban's head, or carrying on about the team being over rated.  Bama will still get a say about what happens to them in the end, but people who regularly comment here seem to think Bama is still a great team and would have no problem beating the Buckeyes in a bowl game. I guess I just don't know where this logic comes from.  Ohio State played a bad game against a pretty good team, that needed to win, on the road.  Pretty much the same thing that happened to Bama.  Sure they scored more points, but they got beat by 2 TD's to an always average South Carolina team. 

From watching games every week, I'm not so sure that there is a team out there better than this Buckeye team, when firing on all cylinders.  Everyone has question marks.  Auburn and Oregon don't play defense.  Oklahoma and Nebraska have shown several chinks in the armor as the season has progressed. LSU is probably the most over rated team in America.  Outside of Boise State, every team in contention has several question marks going forward.  Boise doesn't because there is virtually no one on their schedule that has a prayer of beating them. 

I have this feeling that one loss has some how ruined the season for many people, and I just hate to see it.  To me, this team has been a real pleasure to watch.  They aren't just beating teams, they have obliterated teams this year.  Sure there was one bad loss, but almost everyone will point to a bad loss or 2 at the end of the season.  They let their guard down and lost one tough game.   It happens, but it doesn't mean the entire season is a waste.

BuckeyeSki's picture


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Alex's picture

All I can say is I can see how some are skeptical as it almost seems this team crushes the weaker opponents and plays timid against the stronger ones...but the team that showed up against Oregon is the team i think this really is....they need to get more consistent no doubt....we will see what team we really have on November 20 in Kinnick Stadium!

Reens's picture

That's exactly the point. I can't even tell you how much it annoyed me to come on here and see the huge list of comments in the "venting thread" about people placing blame and calling for heads. It's a single game. It was disgusting that Wisky beat OSU by the exact game plan we knew was coming, but they did.

Having said that, I love seeing Evil Tressel sometimes (alright, always) because I think this team is turning the corner on consistency. It scares me to see the gameplan adjust so much for certain teams. This team was rolling before Illinois and then the gameplan (offensively) adjusted specifically for them...and we struggled. That's my only gripe to this point because this team is incredibly talented and I love watching every play.

Poe McKnoe's picture

The one that showed up against Oregon only put up 26 points.  I thought Ohio State was good in the Rose Bowl, the offense was okay and the defense was spectactular.  The offense was okay on 3rd down and Pryor was accurate on short routes, they still only managed 3 yards per carry.

I think the offense is good enough, and as good as they have ever been, but not head and shoulders above.  It's a ball control offense, so it's not supposed to be Oregon.  It just has to do what it's supposed to do: hold the ball for long sustained drives.

Bucksfan's picture

This team has surely obliterated teams.  Those teams were some of the worst in the country, too.  The halftime scores of the games against Marshall, Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Indiana was an average of HALFTIME!  At this point in the year, Marshall and Eastern Mich have a combined 2 wins with one a piece.  Now you can lump a god-awful Purdue in with that.

It is rare that a Buckeye team is so dominant against anyone...they usually struggle to the level of their competition in previous Tressel incarnations.  But this team is not elite against good competition, which is something that IS similar to previous Tressel incarnations.  They were unable to step on Miami's throat in the redzone, they struggled like hell against Illinois, and Wisconsin handled them like they were made of paper.

I refuse to read anything into the Purdue game.  It's no different than reading anything into the way they crushed Marshall or Eastern Michigan (coincidentally, Wisconsin beat an Eastern Mich-like team that same day 70-3).  You find out who you are against teams that push you.  The Big Ten Championship may have been on the line in Madison, and one team played like it.

TLB's picture

Spot on. 

I think we were all waiting to see "the evolution of Pryor" against the Badgers and what did we get?  Same old same old.  As long as we have an O-Line that is unable to sustain a block and a QB that has shown so little improvement in the passing game in almost 3 years as a starter, they will struggle against good competition.

The love for Pryor is amazing to me.  He is not a QB.  Unfortunately, there is nobody behind him ready to lead.  It would be in his best interest to make him a WR, TE or DE next year because that is where he will be on the next level....if he is tough enough.

btalbert25's picture

I think the idea that he hasn't evolved as a passer in 3 years is crazy.  The receivers weren't getting open very often on Wisconsin and I remember several balls that while maybe they weren't Peyton Manning accurate, should have been caught.  He has definitely evolved into a pretty good passer.  What I didn't understand against Wisconsin, is why they didn't do more design runs for Pryor.  Every time he took off it seemed like he was getting chunks of yards.  He wasn't getting a lot of time and when he did there wasn't anyone to throw to, they should've went Cam Newton with him and just turned him loose.

RBuck's picture

It seems to me that TP is obviously still hurting. We haven't seen but a few designed runs since he hurt his thigh and we won't see any this week either. The bye week is going to do this team wonders for basically all positions. And, I guarantee you that Tress will have them working some on Iowa that week, both on the field and in the film room. 

Long live the southend.

NW Buckeye's picture

This was the same Purdue team that the week before ambushed NW on the road.  And basically the same team that ambushed us last year.  True, not too much should be read into that.  However, your post reeks of a "glass half empty" attitude. 

For me, it has been fun to watch this team this year, win or lose.  Like it or not, this is the OSU team this year.  I would have loved to see them beat Wisc, but they did not perform well in that game.  Name one other team that has accomplished your "dominant team" ideal this year.  The closest are Oregon and Boise, yet both have struggled at times.  Boise beat a mediocre ACC team in the final minute that lost worse to James Madison the following week.  Oregon's defense has question marks. 

The gist of earlier posts is that many bloggers critisize the team for not being what they want them to be - perfect.  The reality is that there really is parity out there, and most games are about match ups.  OSU defense plays well against grass basketball teams.  They do not match up as favorably with power teams.  Just take a look at the personel.  What is amazing about the Buckeyes is that the defense has been able to adapt to playing a variety of offenses.  The OSU offense can not really be labeled as any one particular type, and that may be both their strength and true weakness.   Against Purdue, it was a strength. 

I still get the feeling that most negative posters have never played or coached at a high level.  Once you do, you understand that most victories or loses are really much closer than the final score.  As one of the commentators said this weekend, most games are lost, not won.  What that really means is that most losing teams could easily have won a game given a few breaks / outstanding plays.  Where you have to draw the line on an HC, is when those lost opportunities happen frequently - witness Minnesota and Tim Brewster.  Those clamoring for a change at OSU are crazy.  I, for one, will take JT over any other coach in the country. 

And, no, I do not sip the scarlet and gray cool aid.  I hated the Cooper years, yet I did not post anything negative about him as I am a Buckeye fan first, win or lose.  However, I also did not post positive comments either.  His record and program spoke for itself, and it did merit a change at the end.  The powers that be took care of that.  I am not in love with the total system that JT has, but it is better than anything I have witnessed in the last 5 years.  Every head coach struggles in certain areas at times - Stoops, Meyer, Carrol, Spurrier, RichRod, Brown, etc.   JT does have his problems, but all in all, I am pleased that he is the HC at OSU. 

Poe McKnoe's picture

it was only Purdue. The same Purdue that lost to Toledo three weeks ago, was in the bottom 20 in the nation in passing, had lost their three best players to injury for the season, and was starting a redshirt freshman at quarterback.


iball's picture

I just don't share the same sense of optimism. I don't think we are better than Bama with both teams firing on all cylinders. There is no better backfield tandem in the country than Ingram and Richardson. And we were smashed by Clay and White. But, I still feel we are CAPABLE of beating anyone.

I am happy with the thought of a second straight trip to pasadena however. A game we will win, no matter who the Pac10 opponenet may be.

We beat Oregon. But, the special teams were borderline awful. The offense was very average at best, relying on a big time grab by our tight end of all people. The Blount fumble was a huge turning point in the game, a play that only happened due to a miscue between Blount and masoli. If that was our true team then good. So be it. But that wasn't a domination, thats just the truth of the matter.

This team is an EXCELLENT football team, and I underrstand the need for optimism. But I do tire of pointing out obvious flaws being dismissed as "whining". I do feel we could beat Wisky 9 out of 10 times. At the same time, I feel we could experience deja vu in Iowa City.

This team lacks consistent intensity in big games. That is the conservative nature of its coach rubbing off on the players. One reason I have no problem with what Pryor said after the Purdue game. That statement just proves that TP and the rest of the team ALSO read NOTHING into that win. Thats the attitude of a champion.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

BucksfanXC's picture

If we make the Rose Bowl, we will play against Boise or TCU. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that, those teams would give us fits offensively, but I'd think we could score on them at will. Of course, I say all this, having seen 15 total minutes of any of their games.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

tomcollins's picture

If you think Wisconsin or anyone beats us 9 times out of 10, you have a very poor understanding of how much luck is involved in a football game.  I would bet +500 on Ohio State @ Wisconsin all day long, let alone +800.

dr green's picture

Uhh, I think maybe you misread IBall's comment.

nickma71's picture

I think the reason people, like myself, are upset with victories is how they come about. There is entirely too many close games by the vest. He wins, but he wins close games that should have been 49-0. I love the guy, and he can be the coach for life as far as I am concerned. One other thing, what a difference a running back that charges hard makes. And finally, I look forward to the offense being let by Braxton Miller, Duron Carter, and Jamal Berry. There, I said it.  And God bless Terrell Pryor for fabricating a lot of offense in an inept system the last few seasons.

btalbert25's picture

I don't dismiss negative criticism about the team and program as whining.  I do, however, think it's absurd for people to constantly complain about Tressel and Pryor.  Just about every program in America would take either of them in a heartbeat.  It's not to say they are without flaws.  In about 5 years when Tressel is gone, and we hit a couple of down years, people will be looking back and saying man, we just didn't have these with Tressel.  I think 1 loss has shown how spoiled we have become.  We're like the kid with the Xbox and PS3 complaing because their parents won't get them a Wii. 

Typically, teams do struggle when they play good competition.  Especially on the road.  Illinois is a pretty damn good team this year.  Wisconin is very good.  I'm encouraged because in years past we've seen the Marshall's and Ohio Universities of the world hang in there til the 4th quarter.  I wasn't disappointed about the Miami game.  Sure you'd like to see a couple of more TD's than FG, but if special teams holds up, none of us are complaing about it right now.  I really think we just don't realize how good we have it right now as fans. 

BuckeyeSki's picture

Ive got a PS3...AND a Wii!!!!!

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

DotThei's picture

No doubt we're a very good team. We've destroyed most and looked more than capable against a talented, game Hurricane squad.

But I'm withholding all the fist pumping until after the Iowa game. Look, the only "real" test of the season was an absolute failure. Sure Wisconsin had played some shabby football but pre-season they were darkhorse whispers about them being in the mix for the national championship. How could we, especially after rolling up to #1, lay such an absolute egg in that game? Frankly it reminded me all-too-much of the Florida debacle, and for that I think Tressel and his staff are missing some key ingredient. Hunger or intensity or focus. Something.

The closest we got to it was the Oregon game, but we need to bring it every week or, at the least, to the big games. Personally, I don't think we have a shot at leaping to the Rose unless we throttle Iowa (and, of course, get the expected Michigan State loss). But my feeling is that one way or another Wisconsin will be going to the Rose--and they deserve it. We're going to play an SEC team this season, BCS or otheriwse.

And that will be a golden opportunity to get that 0-for-whatever off our back.