Five Things: Colorado

By Chris Lauderback on September 25, 2011 at 2:00p
This team has just one good receiver. And he could eventually be an All-American. (Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Despite a second consecutive game in which the Buckeyes failed to reach double digits in completions, there were still some positive signs to cling to as the Buckeyes ran past an undisciplined Colorado squad 37-17 yesterday in the 'Shoe. 

The Braxton Miller Era began with a victory, Jordan Hall continued his emergence as the most talented overall skill player for the Buckeyes, special teams had some promising moments and the middle of the offensive line again had its way with an opponent. 

With conference play set to begin next weekend as Ohio State welcomes Sparty to town, there's still plenty for Fickell's squad to work on however if they have any designs on making noise in the Leaders division. 

Now let's take a look at five things...

scratching the surface

Making his first career start, Braxton was able to play with a tad less pressure knowing he likely wouldn't be yanked in the Buckeyes didn't score on their opening possession. Fickell has committed to the kid and responded by showing flashes of brilliance, along with stern reminders that he's still just a true freshman albeit an incredibly talented true freshman. 

Running is his obvious strength as his 17 carries for 83 yards on the ground can attest. His ability to switch directions on a dime and an uncanny knack for weaving through heavy traffic is simply something to behold (how about that sick 17 yard drunken dash on 3rd and 9 on of OSU's 4th possession of the game?). The downside is obviously he must keep his head on a swivel as he makes such cuts because there are plenty of safeties and linebackers on backside pursuit that will be poised to deliver big shots. Clearly, as much as OSU will need to run him to offset his inexperience in the passing game coupled with what is currently a very sketchy group of receivers outside of Devin Smith, he must stay healthy for the Buckeyes to have any chance at consistently moving the football. 

Through the air, Braxton surely had his struggles at times but those struggles were further exposed by the aforementioned receiving corps needing guys to step up. Miller's stat line read just 5/13 for 83 yards and 2 TD but a handful of drops didn't help the cause (TY? NTY). And a couple of those drops would've resulted in huge gainers.

On the plus side, he threw a few strikes including the 32 yard post to Smith, on 3rd and 8 no less, putting OSU in front 17-0. After a steady diet of running plays, I tip my hat to Bollman (1st time I've ever typed that) on the play call. The safeties were cheating up in run support and the the roll right, drop back look that Troy Smith made famous was the perfect calll in that situation. The safeties bit hard, Smith had one on one and easily beat his man to the spot for the touchdown. Great stuff. 

Miller's 2nd TD pass to Smith was also an impressive connection as he dropped a fade near the left pylon for a score giving Ohio State a 27-7 lead with 9:04 left in the 3rd quarter. He put the ball were only Smith could get it and the kid high-pointed it with ease for six. Solid throw, great catch. Imagine how good this combo is going to be in a couple years. 

Though he abandoned designed pass plays a little too quick at times, something I can totally live with from a freshman, he also showed some poise standing in a collapsed pocket a few times to deliver the football.  One play in particular that impressed was a 1st and 10 throw to Fragel for 16 yards in which he stood tall in the pocket before being blasted by Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who earned himself a Roughing penalty in the process. 

Braxton was the first one to stay he has things to work on after the game. I like that. Mostly because it comes off about a billion times more genuine that what we used to hear from our last freshman phenom QB. Miller gets it. He's humble and poised. He knows he needs to improve consistency in his throws. He knows he needs to more consistently feel the rush of a collapsing pocket especially from the backside. He knows he needs to find more touch on passes that don't require missile speed. 

He proved exactly what we all thought. Growing pains and all, he still gives this team a much better chance to win that Bauserman. And the bonus is that he's getting playing time in prep for coming seasons in which the Buckeyes figure to be a much bigger factor on the national scene, assuming the NCAA doesn't lower the boom. 

middle men

The stats show the Ohio State rushing attack racked up 226 yards going for 4.8 per carry. No question those are acceptable numbers but looking deeper, much of that success is the result of just four players. 

Three of those players are Brewster and the two guards that flank him on a given play, typically Mewhort and Linsley while Boren continues to be a destructive force as a blocking fullback. 

I haven't had a chance to tally the results on designed run plays just yet but boy does it feel like runs up the gut are proving wildly successful while designed runs to the outside aren't having much success and when they do it's only the result of ball carrier speed, not because the tackles are creating space. 

Miller's 3rd and 9 conversion going for 17 yards referenced earlier started as a run right behind Brewster. Hall saw huge holes on runs up the gut all day. One that jumps out is the direct snap he took on 3rd and 1 of OSU's first possession of the 2nd half in which he reeled off a 21 yard gain. Hyde found a big gap for a 14 yarder off left guard. He rumbled for another six to open OSU's final scoring drive. 

Numerous other less sexy plays saw the backs get past the line of scrimmage before they had to improvise and while not sexy that success is crucial to giving Miller room to operate. If opposing defenses need to account for OSU's ability to run up the middle then that can force the safeties to cheat up in run support like we saw on Smith's 32 yard TD and also give Hall/Miller a little more space when they do escape wide  on runs or broken plays. 

The downside is these last two games have shown just how badly we need Mike Adams. Finding a way to beat Sparty without Adams protecting Miller's blind side and giving the Buckeyes another proven running lane is a big concern. Norwell isn't a bad player - I think he could start at guard right now - but he doesn't have the feet Adams has at this point in his career. And Shugarts is well, Shugarts. He's not terrible but he won't be confused with great right tackles of the past. And that's if he doesn't false start before engaging a blocker. 

Beyond the questionable run blocking from the tackles, Miller felt most of his pressure in the passing game off the edges and I'm quite certain Sparty's d-line brings more to the table than Colorado's. With the future of the program dropping back to pass, I'll be holding my breath on 3rd down and at least medium next week especially knowing Braxton still needs to take a few classes in self-preservation. 

IN coverage

photo: Jay LaPreteHoward Fail but H/T on a great pass

Flat out, I think some of you are very wrong about what we saw from the Bullets in coverage yesterday. It was a mixed bag to be sure but I feel like some guys showed tremendous ability both mentally and physically in defending the Buffalo passing attack yesterday. 

Tyler Hansen did rack up 238 yards through the air yesterday on 22/39 with 2 TD but when the game was yet to be decided, he wasn't as good as that final statline. 

The 1st half saw Hansen through for 91 yards but 67 of that came on the final drive of the half. Up to that point he was just 4/8 for 22 yards and his main target Paul Richardson had just 2 catches for 11 yards.  Preceeding the TD drive, Ohio State forced three 3-and-outs and recovered a fumble the 3rd play of another possession. 

Tyler Moeller even contributed in coverage early on though he got back on the subpar train later on. Christian Bryant however was solid in coverage throughout proving he's one of the best 11 defenders again. Bryant had excellent coverage on Toney Clemons on 3rd and 10 of Colorado's opening drive to force a punt. Later, he showed great coverage on 3rd and 5 of Colorado's empy possession just before their TD drive toward the end of the half. Finally, on receptions by players Bryant wasn't checking he did a nice job of forcing the receiver back to the middle of the defense when he couldn't himself make the tackle.  

Bradley Roby also had a solid day in my view and was one of the Buckeyes responsible for improved defense of screen plays and quick hitters to wideouts. He added a nice tackle of Hansen in space on a 2nd and 6 play to open the 2nd half that led to a 3-and-out. 

Travis Howard had an up and down day to be sure but he did contribute two pass breakups to go with letting some receivers get behind him. Colorado's first TD was the prime example as Toney Clemons got behind Howard in the back of the endzone. Howard just missed tipping what was admittedly a perfectly thrown ball. I continue to think Clarke/Roby deserve every bit as much PT as Howard but even though that play was tough on the eyes, sometimes you have to tip your hat to the QB. He threw on the run and put the throw on a dime. 

For me, the real stinker in coverage yesterday was Andrew Sweat. He consistenly failed to gain depth and Hansen made OSU pay by dropping balls over Sweat's head and in front of the safeties. Sweat was decent on stuff short and wide but anything in the middle or over the top exposed him all day long. One perfect example occurred on 3rd and 6 of Colorado's third possession of the 2nd half. Sweat kinda drifted back with no real intent and Hansen lobbed a ball over his head to Ryan Deehan for a 25 yard gain right in the middle of the field. Painful. 

So again, it was a mixed bag in coverage overall but I saw some good things from Bryant, Roby, Howard and Clarke. If we can just get the LB's to step up...

Fickell's day

It all falls on the head coach. As he found out last week, when you lose there will be tough questions, many valid, from armchair QB's across the fan base. 

He responded to the film, seeing the same thing the fans saw, and correctly inserted Braxton as the permanent staring QB. Because I wrote last Sunday that he should be fired at halftime if he let Bauserman see the field this week, I want to take a second to give Fickell props on having the courage to go with a true freshman, and stick with him, for 3+ quarters yesterday. 

The offense started with an ugly 3-and-out but followed it up with a TD drive, all on the ground, with Braxton at the controls. Props to Fickell for not abandoning the plan. He and Bollman also smartly called a very conservative game but when OSU got some space on the scoreboard I liked that the staff actually chose to work on development by dialing up a good volume of pass plays instead of reverting to a Tresselball tactic that would've even more deliberately guaranteed a win but would've sacrificed Braxton development in the process. And again, to Bollman more than Fickell, that 32 yard post to Smith was a brilliant play call. 

With some positives accounted for there will still some negatives to discuss. Though not many. Seven penalties for 65 yards is a bit ridiculous. That kind of nonsense can be a killer against better competition. I know Fickell's not out there blocking the back and false starting after four years but team discipline is his overall responsibility. 

I'm curious to gain everyone's thoughts on the events that unfolded just before halftime. After Colorado muffed a punt giving OSU the ball at the Buffalo 11 yard line. With precious few seconds remaining, Miller   ran up the middle taking the ball to the 1 yard line. With six seconds on the clock, Fickell opted for a field goal that Basil converted into a 20-7 halftime lead. 

Conceivably, a pass play could've been called after the run and before the field goal. I wouldn't have done it with this curent roster/QB but I guess it's possible. Fickell opted to not run another play and then opted not to go for the TD from the 1 yard line, instead taking the easy 3 points. A chunk of the crowd rained boos. I don't get it. 

I'm not saying I strongly agree or disagree with Fickell's decision to take the three points over the possible six. I say that because I don't think there's a right or wrong answer there. Either choice makes sense and then that choice either makes more sense or is open to huge criticism depending on whether or not the players convert the FG or whatever play gets called in trying for the TD. 

To boo Fickell's choice there is stupid. And I'm not one of those guys that cares about whethe or not coaches/players get booed. I don't necessarily agree with booing and I do believe it can have a somewhat deflating impact on the team but you pay your money, you passionately support the team, you can boo if you want without me getting in an uproar about it. These are big time athletes/coaches so they should be able to take the bad with the good. Still, booing that decision makes no sense. 

Special teams log a strong performance

The legend of Ben Buchanan continues to grow and this week he got support from plenty of his fellow specialists. 

Buchanan was money dropping three punts inside the 20, two in the first half with the game still in doubt, tying his career high for the third straight week. He's become a real weapon and with the state of the offense and the upcoming schedule, his talents in helping OSU win the field position battle will be of huge importance. 

On the FG front, Drew Basil banged home 3/3 including a 47 yarder with the game no longer in doubt. That kick should do wonders for his confidence even if it doesn't do the same for you. Like Buchanan, Basil needs to be effective for the Buckeyes to win what should be a bevy of close games on the horizon where points will be at a premium. 

I still hold out hope for Basil becoming a better than average kicker based on his recent in game performance and what he's always shown in practice which has been better than average ability. The more comfy he gets with playing on the big stage, the more comfy we'll all become. 

On kickoffs, Basil was sharp averaging 60.5 per boot with enough height for the coverage team to make plays. The combo of solid kickoffs and Buchanan's tear drops held Colorado to average starting field position of their own 18 yard line. Ebner and Shazier continue to be lynchpins of the coverage units and Domicone made a heady play spotting the muffed punt and pouncing on it before the half. 

Finally, Hall continues to be a major factor in the return game. His 90 yard kickoff return allowed Hyde to score one play later pushing the Buckeye lead to 34-10 in the 3rd quarter. He also had a 74 yarder to open the game but a penalty forced the Buckeyes to start respectively at their own 40. Dude is lethal. His punt return prowess was his own worst enemy in this game as Colorado opted for a shaky rugby punt approach that while wildy effective for OSU, it allowed Hall just one return for 12 yards. 



Comments Show All Comments

Pfef's picture

You have a pretty ugly typo in your caption, but not as ugly as the Bengals offense.  Go Brownies.

buckeyechad's picture

I was at the game and i noticed that CJ Barnett seems to be one of the leaders of the defense. Almost every time someone made a play on D he was the first there to pat their helmet and every time someone made a mistake he would be there talking to them after the play. 

Also I am now on the Shazier bandwagon, the dude flies to the ball

teakwood's picture

I agree on Shazier, He's gonna be good.  Matter of fact i think our LB's will be great in the coming years.

Jugdish's picture

Nice job! I agreed with Fick going for the field goal before half. How could you not take the points and possibly lose some momentum. Also, we need to keep Basil in the game. The LBs do scare me some. It seems Sweat is doing better than Klein, but neither has the speed and instincts to get to the ball. If the front 4 are doing their jobs, it keeps blockers off the LBs so that they can make plays. It may be that a little improvement is needed from both the Dline and LBs.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

gravey's picture

Booing is counterproductive always.  It doesn't alert anyone to their mistakes or shortcomings.  It never helps win a game.  It certainly doesn't impress recruits.  It's selfish and if fans consider themselves part of the "team", 11th man and all that, they won't boo.  Of course a lot of fans are d-bags.

Irricoir's picture

I agree with both sides and have yet to pick one but you make some strong arguments that are thought invoking. Until, I read comments from yall I had no issue with BOOING. Honestly, had Bauserman started the game and overthrew his first open receiver streaking down the sideline by 20 yards, I don't think I would have resisted that temptation.

I guess this is the best way to curtail that, educate the public. Thoma's comments the other day made me think hard about my stance.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Rooster Buckburn's picture

Couldn't agree more. 

I couldn't care less if they are high profile athletes - they are college kids - and booing college kids is assinine. 

I wouldn't suppose that it would occur to a booing d-bag 'fan' that the kid who screwed up on the field probably hates the fact that he screwed up worse than anyone. 

Booing the coaches for decisions they make is equally stupid, imho, because they are trying to hold on to a very (very) high paying job.  Wouldn't logic tell you that they are doing everything they possibly can do to win and be successful?

klfeck's picture

I don't know, had the booing not occured when Joe B was flailing against Toledo, we may have been stuck with him against Colorado......



Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

Rooster Buckburn's picture

I think it's because Fickell is smart enough to know that we weren't going to win very much with Bauserman at the helm.  Since no qb distanced themselves during the spring or fall practices, he was just giving the senior a fair shot at winning the job - which he obviously was unable to do.

buckeyedude's picture

I agree completely, and 2nd your douche bag comment. And if the booing douche bags don't like being called douche bags, tough shit.

All it says to the recruits and spectators on TV is that we have a spoiled frickin' fan base.



Irricoir's picture

One disappointing thing I saw yesterday was only two attempts for Berry running the ball. Both times he was swallowed behind the line of scrimmage because of opportune blitzing by a linebacker. None of that was his fault. Though, the dropped pass from Braxton certainly was. I could read his mind, "Finally, a chance to run with the ball in the open." Derp, catch it first.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

buckeyedude's picture

Could Jaamal Berry be the "Taurian Washington" of Ohio State running backs? I wonder. Kind of looking that way.



Buckeyejason's picture

Possibly, but he doesn't get too many chances out there. I really think he's transferring after this season.


Irricoir's picture

I really don't think so. 2 running plays is all he was given and both were blown up by the defense. He had no opening to speak of on one run and there was pentration in the backfield on the other. The drop pass. Most certainly the fault lies in him alone. I think one or even two dropped balls is too soon to call him TW2. I think Tyrone Williams fits that moniker better than J.Berry. He even has the same initials. I just hope that kid comes around because he is a physical gift.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

That field goal at the end of the half was a complete gift. You MUST take the points in that situation. What if something bad happens and the clock runs out while trying to be greedy with going for a TD? My guess is there would have been lots more folks booing. Take the sure 3 and head to the locker room feeling good. No question it was the right call.

OSUNeedles's picture

Yeah... That was just uneducated fans being greedy. If we had a timeout or if they had given us the 1st down or measured immediately, we could have run a sneak & then called t.o., but the field goal was the only option in that situation.

Also, I do completely support peoples rights to do what they want, but if it is because of how much you pay for tickets that you think you have a right to boo, then you better be standing & screaming & never leave the stadium before you get to sing Carmen Ohio with the players.

RBuck's picture

...or something like Red Right 88.

Long live the southend.

willshire58's picture

Anyone else notice that Stoneburner refuses to use two hands to try to catch the ball? He's got alot of talent, but it won't matter much if he doesn't start using two hands when the ball is thrown his way.

Jugdish's picture

He seems like he has some attitude problems. I don't know if he is thinking that he is getting over looked because of Smith or some other receivers. There are other TE that would love to have the chance to take his place, but he should know that he is one of our leaders on the field.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

Denny's picture

My frustration with the timeout at the end of the first half followed by a FG was this: the worst-case scenario of giving the other team a shot at points happened. If they would have waited 3 seconds before calling the TO the half would have ended. If they would have taken a quick slant shot at the end zone and then a FG after a missed attempt the half would have ended. Instead, we took the 3 and gave the ball back.

That all being said, I certainly wouldn't have booed the call were I at the game. Frustration is one thing; booing is another.


BoFuquel's picture

All this team is doing is playing for next year.Drew B. needed that kick much more than the O needed to score. The coaching staff got just what they wanted.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Buckeyejason's picture

I wouldn't say that if we lose the next 3 games then yeah I'd say they'll start playing for next year.

Too early to start thinking like that.They may not be favored to win the conference title but they still have to compete, play the games and try to win.


Buckeyejason's picture

Poor Stoney, looked like he was on pace for 40 catches and 10 scores or so..prob end up with half of that now.


Bucksfan's picture

Hey, it was a win.  Keep building.  Sh(t starts getting real this weekend.  Big Ten play is no joke this year...well, it may depend on which conference you compare it to, but within itself it is very competitive.  MSU, Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan all can beat Ohio State. 

Brutus's picture

And I sort of think they all will. The team will get better as the season wears on, but I just don't think the offense will be that good against solid defenses. scUM is by no means a solid defense, but the offense is good and they are due. I think we have the defense and run game to carry as through the B1G season, but those teams are all strong and I think more balanced than we are. I hope i'm wrong.

buckeyedude's picture

Geez. We don't suck that bad. I do worry about Wisconsin and Nebraska, though.



buckeyemondo's picture

the TD howard gave up was unacceptable for a silver bullet.  the qb was on the run, threw it off his back foot to the back of the end zone, and was a jump ball at best.  for a guy who has t-shirts comparing him to revis, that ball has got to be knocked down, at the very least.

and for the fans that decided to boo the end of 1st half coaching decisions, it's because a TD in that situation sends a much stronger msg going into the locker room.  if you want a teaching moment for our newest QB1, it's right there.  you coach em up prior to the play, instruct him to pull a bauserman after his mental stopwatch expires if nothing is open, then you kick the FG.  it's done in the NFL on a weekly basis.

Jugdish's picture

In the NFL with 6 seconds left-of course. Brax is still learning the play book and basics. If he were a senior, you might try something like that. I would have trusted TP if he was still playing.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

buckeyemondo's picture

agreed: miller time is less filling, but doesn't quite taste great yet.

but having never seen what's on those fancy wristbands our wr's wear, you would think there's at least one play in the book that fits that situation.  like i said, that was a coachable moment and a true momentum changer that was squandered. i am at least comforted by the fact that there seems to at least have been a back-and-forth during the timeout on whether or not to run a play there before they trotted basil out there.

buckeyedude's picture

 miller time is less filling, but doesn't quite taste great yet.

LOL. Great comment, and very poignant. But, by next year or Braxton's junior season, he'll be more like a Sam Adam's Oktober Brew, rather than Miller. 



BoFuquel's picture

Com'on man coach wasn't playin' nothin' but to win that game . He could see those guys were not comin' back anymore than we were gonna mount a comeback against Miamiafter those first too scores.a win is a win and it don't matter how much you clobber "The Little Sisters Of The Poor".You ain't playin' for no BCS championship after you loose to Miami.

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Maestro's picture

A good win.  Devin Smith is a stud.  We need Corey Brown and Nathan Williams back from injury for Sparty.

A Moeller sighting was nice and John Simon continues to be a man amongst boys.

Braxton, J. Hall, D. Smith, Stoney, Hyde, Coery Brown, Evan Spencer could be part of an incredibly dynamic 2012.

The offense will stuggle, and the defense isn't quite good enough to shut people down.  5-3 will be a good season in the B1G for this team.  GO BUCKS!!!!!

vacuuming sucks

klfeck's picture

Conceivably, a pass play could've been called after the run and before the field goal. I wouldn't have done it with this curent roster/QB but I guess it's possible. Fickell opted to not run another play and then opted not to go for the TD from the 1 yard line, instead taking the easy 3 points. A chunk of the crowd rained boos. I don't get it.

IMHO the booing was because of the poor clock managment. Everyone around me was calling for a time out earlier in the series which would have left the Bucks with 20ish seconds on the clock instead of 6. Saving time outs seems silly.



Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University

SCBuckeye's picture

I like the adjustments and must give Fickell props as well. But why are we putting Bauserman in for mop up duty instead of developing a decent back up?

James 1:27

Buckeyejason's picture

Good question, beats me. Still think Graham and Guiton transfer from questionable decisions like that. They're too talented to be 3rd and 4th string QB's.


DotThei's picture

Nice write up. The Buckeyes certainly got back on track but let's all keep in mind this was a really, really bad football team we were facing. I'm not sure what to make of the win other than it's a win, Jordan Hall is the far-and-away best player on the team, our defense is young and fun, and we got to see Braxton play the game without looking over his shoulder.

BM looked a lot like TP did in his early outtings, and, of course, you got to like the dynacism he brings to escaping the traps set by our poor offesnive line play. A major concern has to be the quality of his throws--most were painful to watch. Importantly, they're pretty close to their traget, but there's a mechanical issue with his release that's leading to some big-time wobblers. Sound familiar? All in all, Braxton reminds me of a young Jamarcus Russell (LSU) with lots more speed. There's a ton of upside in that comparison (along with a few scary-bad games) but we will see.

I thought Luke managed the game well and helped guide his team to take what the sorry Buffs were offering. The next four will be the real tests, and I suppose we'll learn a lot more about our young coach as he navigates the week-in and week-out of B1G play. I wish him well, I do, but nothing will change my mind that Ohio State needs (freaking desrerves) a proven, experienced head coach as opposed to a learn-on-the-fly, Pat Fitzgerald-style solution. And when I say nothing that includes a B1G championship.

At any rate, the 2011 Buckeyes look the kind of team that needs to hold their opponents under 20 to have a real shot at a win, so I hope the defense keeps improving and lets the offense develop slowly (as it often does under Bollman) without having to play games from behind.

Michigan State, this weekend, will probably be the real test as to whether we'll have an "okay" season or "bad" one. If we can't deal with Sparty at home, surely Wisconsin later in the Shoe and road games against Nebraska, Illinois, and Michigan may just pile on the losses.

Go Bucks!




Buckeyejason's picture

"Braxton reminds me of a young Jamarcus Russell"

Huh? I don't see the comparison at all. Jamarcus is a huge QB that threw from the pocket.

If anything Miller looks and plays like Tyrod Taylor.