Edge of Despair

By Ramzy Nasrallah on September 12, 2011 at 2:00p
Taking the Eddie George comparisons just a little too far(Pictured left to right) Rod Smith, unsecured football. Again.

It took six of the longest months ever recorded to finally reach this place.

You barged in as soon as you could, but Mike Adams hasn't arrived yet. Neither have Boom Herron or DeVier Posey. They need more time.

Unexpectedly, Jordan Hall hasn't gotten here either, and there's no Pittsburgh Brown or Travis Howard. And Terrelle Pryor still isn't coming back, ever.

All summer, the Buckeyes needed a game more than any other school in the country. You didn't really think that once September finally began we would witness one of those fairy tale stories of redemption featuring a wounded scarlet and gray animal ruthlessly tearing apart everything in its path, did you? Oh, you did?

We know the team did. The SILENCE THE DOUBTERS campaign, the circle-the-wagons clichés, the us-against-the-world mentality bomb that every locker room in America is equipped with - just break the glass, take it out and you're inside of 85 angry helmets. Or in Ohio State's case on Saturday: Only about 60.

Two Saturdays ago the Buckeyes very neatly unzipped Akron, pulled out its vital organs, devoured only the ones they wanted and tossed out the carcass in a very dignified, orderly and cathartic manner. Everyone knew Akron was lousy, but we were starving for satisfaction and a ritual killing by any other name is still dinner.

Last Saturday Toledo took Akron's place. Everyone knew Toledo was significantly better than Akron, and two very predictable things happened: 1) Ohio State's roster was once again exiguous by way of sanctions forcing the Buckeyes to operate at far less than full-strength, and 2) Toledo, unlike Akron, actually fought back.

The Rockets' valiant attempt to get both the MAC as well as the rest of Ohio on the board with an unprecedented kill in Columbus fell only about 15 yards short.

It was harrowing until the final seconds. The in-state streak and Ohio State's season were both in jeopardy, and despite the outcome the same stadium that had showered itself in jubilant promise just seven days earlier was now wrapping itself in creeping uncertainty.

And everyone - you, your television, your radio and your Internet - kept talking about Toledo. It was the Rockets that had sounded the alarm on the season, but that's okay Buckeye fans - just think about what Ohio State could have done had they played the game with a fully-loaded roster. Predictable narrative guy is predictable.

Unfortunately, the uncertainty that permeates through your fragile football psyche runs much deeper than what almost happened against Toledo: The trials of the offseason that refused to end are continuing to hang around and infect both this team as well as your well-being, even as the schedule advances into its third week.

BOOM: SHAZIER'DOSU's third-string returner, aided by a true freshman blocker.

That uneasiness did not suddenly begin when Toledo took a 15-7 lead in the first half and moved the ball effectively against the Buckeye defense. It didn't even start when the Rockets scored their first touchdown and then brazenly went for two to go up 8-7.

No, the catalyst was late Friday afternoon when news broke that Hall, Howard and Brown would not be available once again for week two, stemming from their involvement in what had incorrectly been reported to be the acceptance of just a gift bag at a charity event earlier in the year.

It accelerated when it was abruptly announced during pregame warmups that Nathan Williams would not be available. And then Luke Fickell didn't even look at Braxton Miller during the course of a game that saw Joe Bauserman repeatedly - and often times, correctly - throwing the ball away, unable to create opportunities with his legs.

Sure, Toledo kept the game very interesting until the final seconds, but there was something on Saturday making your skin crawl and it sure as hell wasn't the Toledo Rockets, an admirably well-coached team that was grossly out-athleted almost across the board, earning just a fraction of the holding penalties it deserved but absolutely needed to continue committing to stay competitive.

You might not consciously be thinking it, but it's lingering in the back of your head: Something is going on with Ohio State, and not in a manufactured George Dohrmann or SportsByBrooks kind of way.

If Williams really had an injury that was serious enough to keep him out of pads on Saturday, it definitely didn't surface during the week of practices following Akron.

Miller very easily could have come into the game, just to force Toledo into a different defensive set - whether Bauserman was overthrowing wide-open receivers by 20 yards or not. But not putting Miller into the game at all electromagnetically causes tinfoil to start folding itself into the shape of a hat.

Gene Smith, who has way too much experience with NCAA compliance tendencies to be stupefied by anything at this point in his career was suddenly surprised that Hall, Howard and Brown weren't cleared for the Toledo game. And there's a possibility that they won't be cleared for the Miami game either, though if the $200 story is true and all-encompassing, then there's no reason they should not be allowed to play.

And that leads us back into the trials of the offseason that continue to hang around and infect this team: We just can't be sure of what is true and all-encompassing anymore. Not after Tressel's cover-up. Not after Dohrmann's fables. Not after SportsByBrooks' desperate report of endorsed checks by Pryor and not after the amount of redactions, omissions and cryptic messages coming from Ohio State communications.

Obviously some of what has been reported has turned out to be true, while a lot of the noise has also been manufactured. Those three players not being cleared in relatively ordinary fashion along with Williams' sudden deactivation and Miller's unexpected absence from the game as a co-starting quarterback do not serve as hard evidence of some deeper conspiracy.

What they do is stoke the anxieties of a fan base that is already way too anxious. And that's what sent you to the brink of panic on Saturday: Suspended players, suddenly suspended players, suddenly inactive players and suddenly benched players all materializing during an unnecessarily competitive game with a MAC frontrunner.

You've seen this Toledo game several times before, and not all that long ago. Back then it was called the Navy game, or the Ohio game, or the Cincinnati game, or the previous Akron game. Saturday shouldn't have been any more jarring than those unnecessarily close shaves, but it was, and it wasn't all because of Toledo.

That uneasy, creeping feeling might subside a little bit should Hall, Howard and Brown be cleared for Miami. It should weaken significantly once the captives of Tatgate rejoin the sideline in October, and your fragile psyche will feel as though it has been paroled once the NCAA's judgment finally comes down late next month.

And it will all be fool's gold for your emotions, because Ohio State has always had, and will always continue to attract grown men who inexplicably find personal validation in giving things to Ohio State football players that they should not give them. You just never know when the next well-intentioned citizen is going to document it in an email to a head coach that would prefer not to know about it.

The edge of despair is never too far away, and that's why you shouldn't get all vexed up in obsessing about how the off-the-field drama might eventually contribute to - deathly gasp - a lost football game. Ohio State will win and lose with or without the help of the NCAA's Black Hand, no matter how much you worry about it.

People in Seattle aren't afraid of rain. The boogeyman in your closet and the invisible monster behind you on the stairs up from the basement have never gotten you either. Denard Robinson throws beautiful, underthrown floating passes into coverage without trepidation. FDR was right: Fear sucks.

Throughout this week and on Saturday when the media proselytizes over some non-descript and nonexistent past era when Ohio State and Miami-like scandals didn't happen, you can either allow yourself to get upset or you can relish in the charitable fantasy of Jacory Harris dropping back to pass against the Buckeyes. (I already know what I'm going to do).

It took six of the longest months ever recorded to finally reach this place. You might as well enjoy every second of it, because very soon you'll have nine more to start waiting and worrying all over again.


Comments Show All Comments

Matt's picture

I hadn't even considered that Williams' injury might be phantom and that he could be mixed up in the mess.  Your column directing me not to worry has made me more worried.

O-H Kee Pa's picture

Now we're just getting into conspiracy theory territory. The team wasn't prepared. Sitting Williams for a game against Toledo (with Miami looming) probably seemed like a wholly logical move by the coaching staff. Constantly theorizing about the reasons a player might be missing time is a one way ticket to paranoia and sucking the fun out of football Saturdays. Not that I'm able to take my own advice...

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

I can't see how Williams would be allowed on the sidelines if he was involved in any NCAA mess. Thanks for scaring the shit out of me, but logic prevails on this one...right?

The Ohio State University Class of 2001

BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

NW Buckeye's picture

Ramzy, you are awesome. Nice write!!!!

AcrossTheField11's picture

Consider me officially spooked.

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

DowntheSideline12's picture

It's all ok!

Greg Jennings "I put my team on my back"

BucksfanXC's picture

Williams injury didn't happen earlier in the week in practice?

What about the news Johnny just gave us the other day:



“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

Matt's picture

That's exactly what Johnny wants you to believe...

AcrossTheField11's picture

Johnny... little help here.

Time and change will surely show how firm they friendship... O-HI-O.

Johnny Ginter's picture

i was just confirming that i had heard the same thing about nate's bone bruise from the tv guys, and to be honest i think that's a legit injury, not some subterfuge on OSUs part

Leanenaud's picture

Is anyone of the belief that Braxton was kept out in order to save the goods for Miami? I understand why Bauserman wasn't pulled; he wasn't turning over the ball. As much as I hated watching him at times, it could have been much worse. In fact my blood pressure dropped considerably until Rod Smith fumbled the ball again!

I have tickets for the Miami game and I couldn't be more excited. I think the Toledo game served as a severe reality check and think it could serve the team well for this weekend's game. I'm just going to remain positive and hope for the best.

SouthPlainfieldNut's picture

Eh, that thought crossed my mind, but I think the idea of not showing Braxton packages so that Miami wouldn't have it in the film bank is overnanalysis. I just think Fick and the gang were reluctant to put him in there, fearing a critical mistake, such as a turnover, as opposed to the Baus throwing the ball away. But we'll need Braxton this weekend if it means even having a prayer to win this game. The idea of the Baus throwing into the Miami defense scares me. A lot.

DallasTheologian's picture

Ooooooh.... conspiracy. Really?

Just remember Ockham's razor everyone... all things being equal the simplest explanation is to be preferred.

Simplest Explanation vs. Non-sequitors :

1. Williams injury (vetted by Johnny) which seemed to the coaching staff to warrant sitting against an outmatched Toledo offensive line.


1. Williams is involved in some major NCAA trouble that even though the compliance department has self-reported everything to this point they somehow failed to do before the Akron game thus effectively forfeiting our Akron victory.

2. Smith really doesn't know what to expect from an inconceivably fickle regulative body which is under completely different leadership than those who were there during his tenure. He is frustrated due to the fact that he thought he could expect to get two starters back for this game, and now he vents some of that frustration in the form of a not-so-veiled shot at the indecisiveness of the NCAA when addressing the issue saying things like "I don't know what to expect" and "They [NCAA] can do whatever they want". This all stems from the fact that the NCAA wants to take it slow in addressing this situation so close on the heels of a major investigation.


2. Smith is sitting on a major atomic bomb which he knows will destroy the university and doesn't want anyone, including his President and his head football coach to know about it.


This article doesn't really describe my angst. My angst stems from the fact that we have a new coach, a so-far horrid kicking game and half our roster missing.



baddogmaine's picture

I have watched close scares in the past, and I have screamed as loudly as anyone about the weaknesses of our offense, or defense, our play calling. We are celebrating a half decade of an elite program not knowing how to coach or play special teams; we have not had a running back capable of scaring opponents since MC (Pittman got most of his yards in garbage time and against weak foes, rarely did he get the tough yards when most needed), and the next time we design an offensive game plan desigmned to fool the other guys will be the first. When the perfect storm hit we needed to hold off Navy or Cinn or OU till the bitter end. But we generally knew that what we saw was a fluke, and though Tres was far from perfect (whether or not we expected TP to be around this year you do not go through a season of blow-outs and not give your back-up QB some game experience, that was on Tres) he was going to get good athletes to play like warriors. Having been spoiled I was one of those who said that though we were shorthanded against Toledo if we could not beat them easily anyway we were going to struggle in tough games even at full strength. It is possible that Toledo will prove to be better than anyone could have guessed (as Cinn was a couple of years ago), though unless they do it to BSU we will never know. More likely, they are a good team that exposed that we are not well matched against good teams. In my opinion Luke can spin his QB management as much as he likes, there is no coaching reason for not giving Miller a try - he needs the experience, and we needed to try something new. Of our available RBs Smith had a known problem with dropsy - since a turnover in the 4th quarter was the only thing that could kill us why was the ball handed to him? And the scouting report on Toledo was one brilliant receiver, one good but not elite receiver, a couple of QBS who, on paper, were not good enough to play for OSU, and no running game to speak of - so why were we so unprepared to cover Page? why did we not have a spy for him, as we would for Denard, so that a bubble screen can't turn into a 66 yard TD? If the O-line without Adams can't block an undersized Toledo how will an o-line even with him manage MSU or NE or even IL? Or, Miami, we're going to learn about that one pretty quickly. Close scares bring out the doom scenarios in most of us, but behind most close scares is something we did well. Other than Fields second-chance return there was scant little we can take away from Saturday to carry forward. Few of us really believe that Luke can game-plan us to success; few believe that Bollman can creatively hide flaws on offense; and few believe that our offensive skill players can win on brute strength alone. And on the other side while we may be able to handle the run most of us have to feel that if Harris does not hand the game to us we are going to wave at receivers running past us on route to the first of what may be too many losses; and those losses may or may not stop when our suspended heroes return. 


It wasn't just the scare, it was how completely unprepared we appeared.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

we have not had a running back capable of scaring opponents since MC (Pittman got most of his yards in garbage time and against weak foes, rarely did he get the tough yards when most needed

Beanie Wells?

baddogmaine's picture

Not on a consistent basis, no. I'd take Beanie over Pittmann, but neither was as good as TOSU should be getting. Though with Beanie I'm willing to consider that his struggles were o-line induced.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Beanie Fing Wells?  Pretty sure that scurred most.


Is it Saturday Yet's picture

go to 3:09 in that video...Wisconsin was scared

740 BUCKEYE's picture


baddogmaine's picture

OK, I take it back, Beanie's numbers were a lot better than I remembered, and he owned scUM. My memory is that too often he disappeared in big games other than TSFUN, but that could be wrong. I'll grant Beanie, but one great back since 2001 is not much to tell the grandkids.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Him getting hurt tarnished his history here for some.  I loved the way he ran.  He ran like the grass stole his candy. If he would have stayed in for the bowl game against Texas...ugh.....

tampa buckeye's picture

He will have a break out year in the NFL this year.  Off to a good start now that he's finally getting some touches.  90 yards with a 5 yards per carry avg yesterday and a Touchdown.

Matt's picture

And a muffed pitch for a fumble





tampa buckeye's picture

Kolb said it was a bad pitch.  Why do we always have to take a turn to negative town?

Matt's picture

lolz that guy said "muff"

builderofcoalitions's picture

Man, it takes a lot more than a few more suspensions and a close call with a MAC team to get me rattled. That Cincinnati game you mentioned was in 2002 and we all know how that season ended. As far as I'm concerned, whatever the Buckeyes get this season is a bonus. The sky hasn't fallen. They're still ranked and have a reasonable chance to beat Miami next week. And if they don't? We'll all live. There's still a conference to win. And if they don't win the conference? There's always next year when Miller will see the field no matter what.

Because we couldn't go for three.

NW Buckeye's picture

Wow, I thought I missed something from Ramzy, so I went back and re-read the post, and I came away with the same feeling as my first read.  To me his over all message was "sit back, relax, and enjoy some football."  It really appears to me that he was kind of making fun of all the doom and gloom worry warts out there.  Instead, he seems to have inspired them to jump on some sort of "worry ship" and further dissect / dis the program with all kinds of theories, any one of which could be right, could be wrong.  He seems to be pointing out that there really is no conspiracy, just events that have unfolded and given concerned fans a reason to lose sleep.  It has happened to some degree before (references to Navy, OU, Akron, and Cinn),  and, yet somehow, they have bounded back before for reasonably good seasons.  This season is unique because of all the off the field shenanigans, but tOSU will survive regardless of the outcome of this season.  And, along the way we should see some interesting football, albeit positive or negative results.  Correct me if I am wrong, Ramzy, but that is where I thought you were headed. 

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

Woah, wait a second. You read that twice?  I didn't even read it once.

Yeah - basically, it's raining shit outside, so the solution is simple: Stop looking outside.

NW Buckeye's picture

My wife and I really liked your comment about Seattle rain (as we live in the Seattle area).  And, your comment above about raining shit had us LOL.  Thanks for your wit.  

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Ramzy: "Denard Robinson throws beautiful, underthrown floating passes into coverage Notre Dame's defensive backfield without trepidation." Fixed it.

Against the Buckeyes last year, DR rarely put his lack of trepidation to the test, dumping off 8 of 18 passes for 87 yards.

But, I admit, when under no trepidation, DR's rainbows are things of beauty.

Rooster Buckburn's picture

Boogeymen? Phantom injuries?  Conspiracy?  Time to hire these guys:

Denny's picture

'Silence the Doubters' is a supremely stupid slogan and if losing a couple of games is what it takes to get rid of it I might be OK with that.


Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Shame you're not a doubter. I kid, I kid.

gravey's picture

Jesus!  Enough already.  Will you guys knock it off?  Get some freakin' perspective.  WE HAVE DONE THIS THING EVERY YEAR ON THE FIELD SINCE 2002.  We always have games closer than they should be, but unlike virtually every other program, we don't lose games we shouldn't to lesser schools.  Nor do we t blow also-rans out every-single-time.  Geesh.  These histronics make me think you all need some kind of hormone therapy.  We don't know how good Toledo is.  We don't know how good we are yet either.  It's getting depressing to visit 11W and that sucks.

740 BUCKEYE's picture

We will see how good Toledo is coming up against Boise...


SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Toledo beating Boise would make my week. 

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Jdadams01's picture

I'm honestly not worried about the team. We've spent too many years using the first three or four games to figure out our offensive identity for me to worry about one game against Toledo.

RBuck's picture

I thought I was the only kid who had a monster chasing me up the basement stairs. Our's lived behind the furness.

Long live the southend.