The Decider

By Ramzy Nasrallah on September 26, 2011 at 1:50p
We've known Luke for 20 years. So...who is this guy?  (Photo: Fong/Plain Dealer)

Ten years ago nobody had to wait to figure out what Tresselball was.

We were told when the championship coach was hired from Youngstown State exactly what we would be getting, and it didn't take long for the field demonstration to validate everything we had been told to expect:

1) You'll hate the offense.

2) You'll love the winning.

Jim Tressel's entire philosophy was predicated on the notion that if you play most of the game on the opponent's side of the field while holding the ball longer than they do, you'll probably win.

The particulars of getting actual points would then take care of themselves due to the favorable proximity of having the ball close enough to the goal posts to score.

On some glorious occasions, the ball crossing the goal line would even come into play. But it was quite clear early on that Tresselball was comprised of field goals, field position, defense and championships. It was as conservative as it was principled.

He had 15 years to hone that philosophy as a head coach in what's now known as the Football Championship Subdivision before he took his talents to one of college football's most visible stages.

Tressel knew how to be a head coach when he took his dream job. At that point, he had also been an athletic director for seven years. He didn't need lessons in how to be a figurehead. He already was one.

The cabinet of advisors and coordinators that he had built for himself as the emperor of Ohio State football was uniquely constructed to suit his own needs and philosophy, which is why any coach - Luke Fickell, Urban Meyer or anyone else - sliding onto Tressel's throne would have a very difficult time succeeding with all of the pieces staying the same.

However, there are some elements of this temporary situation that Fickell could be controlling and making his own. Thus far, in a number of cases, he has deliberately decided to be indecisive. It's not the optimal way to strengthen a threatened program culture and it's definitely no way to win in a job interview.

Heading into the season's fourth game, Ohio State's depth chart still had co-starters listed both at quarterback as well as at running back, which defeats the purpose of having the month of August available to sort these kinds of hierarchical details out.

In addition to waffling on the depth chart, Fickell curiously decided to go with temporary captains each week, which is a practice generally reserved for the Kiwanis youth soccer leagues where the roles of captains are granted to the kids whose mothers brought oranges and water to that particular game.

It is a move that alienates the true leaders of a senior class that are vital to shaping the culture of the team and keep what could be a delicate and fragile locker room intact, coming off of nine straight months of turbulence and turmoil.

It also needlessly transforms the designation of captain from a functional role to one that is merely symbolic. If you have 20 designated "leaders" then you have no leaders, and this team has leaders. Michael Brewster was a destined to be a captain of the 2011 team years ago. He required an explanation as to why that didn't happen.

There is no explanation. Whatever he was told, it couldn't have made any sense. The temporary captainship and numerous co-starters on the depth chart are the symptoms of classic over-thinking from leadership incapable of being decisive for fear of getting it wrong.

That fear has even crept into the in-game decision making. One week after ending the Miami game with all three timeouts left, Ohio State punted to Colorado with 24 seconds left in the half. Westerville native Rodney Stewart fumbled the punt, which the Buckeyes recovered on the Buffaloes 11-yard line.

Braxton Miller then rushed for ten yards to get to the Colorado one-yard line. There were six seconds left on the clock and Ohio State had a timeout to spare. The Buckeyes were ahead 17-7, playing at home, dominant in the trenches and had time for one more play from one yard out with the ability to still stop the clock if the attempt was unsuccessful. Ed: Never trusting ESPN's play-by-play log again

Fickell was presented with a classic step-on-their-throats opportunity and chose to kick a field goal, to a chorus of boos. The chorus was correct: One more shot at a touchdown was the right call. The rookie head coach was caught over-thinking yet again, while covering for the position he's trying to earn permanently.

If the snap was botched - and the only time you ever coach for the botched-snap scenario is when the game is about to end and you're kicking for the win - it wouldn't have mattered. Ohio State didn't need those three points. It was evident very early on that Colorado was overmatched.

Fickell has yet to demonstrably take charge of the program.

This was a blown opportunity to instill a little malevolence in an offense that desperately needs an edge coming off of that impossibly bad Saturday evening in South Florida. Sometimes the situation is greater than it appears to be. Fickell merely saw an opportunity for three points.

Unfortunately, it was much bigger than that, and the audibly disagreeable portion of the stadium seemed to realize that better than he did. (Personally, I would have run two plays into the end zone - field goals be damned when you're favored to win by 16.5 points and pushing them around).

Fickell has never been in charge before. He may have a vision for the kind of leader he wants to be, but he hasn't had a chance to learn that about himself yet. He's figuring out what kind of head coach he is while at Ohio State, and we're all watching him discover the kind of leader he is right along with him.

It's not the kind of observational exercise we're interested in seeing: The head coach of the Buckeyes is supposed to be an established program steward who already knows who he is and what he stands for. In Fickell's defense, he has not been given what any other full-season coach normally receives: The ability to build his own cabinet.

Fickell finds himself running Tressel's customized crew, which ranges from competent up-and-comers to established, well-respected teachers to cronies who should find themselves exposed without their old boss there to protect them when this season ends.

This crew was selected and hired not only for Tresselball specifically, but for the allowances that Tressel afforded himself, like meticulous involvement in his quarterbacks. This staff does not make any sense at all for Fickell. It was built for Tressel, by Tressel.

Without him there to mentor and coach his quarterbacks, the Buckeyes are left with Nick Siciliano, whose entire resume prior to Ohio State is Bob Stoops' VCR operator, one year at Urbana and coaching at a place called North Carolina A&T, which may or may not really exist. Imagine that resume for the same job at any other BCS title candidate.

With Joe Daniels shadow-coaching while Tressel was more intimately involved, having a patsy like Siciliano as "QB coach" was almost passable. Tressel used to say that the most important person in the state of Ohio is the quarterback of the Buckeyes, which is why he was so hands-on with them.

The most important person in Ohio requires an elite position coach, not a convenient accessory who happens to be from Youngstown. Unlike Tressel, who was a college quarterback himself with extensive experience coaching the position, Fickell is, at kindest, ill-equipped to manage personnel in the same manner. The org chart left behind by Tressel does not play to his strength or his core knowledge base.

Since Tressel's departure happened right in the middle of the offseason, this is the hand that Fickell is forced to play, which makes it very difficult to grade him on his work. Any other head coach gets a honeymoon season or a grace period to reimagine the palette.

That makes this an unfair tryout and a sham of a job interview, especially if Fickell is truly being afforded the chance to win the position permanently. At the same time, Fickell needs to figure out what he's going to do with this opportunity. He couldn't control the hand he was dealt. He can control how he plays it.

This staff shouldn't have precluded him from being decisive with the depth chart, the in-game decision making or the team captaincy. Fickell has inherited the rare coaching seat in college football history that was already hot before he had even coached a single game. Comparatively, took Rich Rodriguez an entire season of gross negligence to jeopardize his job during what had been scheduled to be a honeymoon season.

Fickell could ingratiate himself to public opinion by throwing a proverbial brick through the window and reinventing the position as more than just a Tressel-ish placeholder for the next guy, which it has been thus far. He still has time to give us - and his hiring managers at Ohio State - a glimpse.

Thus far that glimpse has been decidedly inconclusive. We still don't know who he is. Ohio State might be 4-1 next Monday with the Tatgate suspendees returning, and we probably still won't know what Fickellball is. He cannot afford to be indecisive just because the conditions aren't ideal.

We will know before November if Fickell will still be coaching the Buckeyes next year, regardless of whether we're explicitly told or not: The October schedule is daunting and the month should be capped with the NCAA's final verdict on Tatgate. We may not know exactly who will be running things, but we should know plenty about the 2012 Buckeyes before Halloween.

As Ohio's greatest heavyweight wrestler, Fickell was dominant with quick decision making and instincts. That's how championship wrestlers perform. They cannot experiment or afford to make slow decisions. That's how wrestlers end up on their backs.

When he was winning multiple state titles and going undefeated for years, it was Fickell who did all of the pinning. As early as his sophomore year, he knew what kind of a wrestler he was, and he acted on it. Unfortunately, in his current position he may not be afforded the luxury of a sophomore year. He's got to be a senior, right now.

We may never find out what Fickellball really is. One-third of the way through his job interview, it seems likely that Fickell himself still doesn't know either.



Irricoir's picture

You know you could probably write an article tomorrow professing how Coach Fickell is the greatest coach Ohio State has ever had and actualy make me believe it. The mark of a dangerous man is one that can sway the thoughts and minds of others through nothing more than their words. This is why ESPN will snatch you up. Anyhow, a lot of what you wrote is correct and runs in accordance with what I have been thinking for too long now. My only fear is that our recruiting is going to greatly suffer while waiting for stability.

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

Menexenus's picture

I agree that Ramzy is a fantastic writer.  It was one of his articles that brought me to this website in the first place.  I also agree that it's just a matter of time before he gets snapped up by an organization that can afford to pay him a lot more than 11W can.  So I will enjoy his work here while I have the chance.

I agree with almost every one of his individual points.  Yes, Fickell is learning on the job.  Yes, he is saddled with Tressel's leftover coaches whether he wants them or not.  Yes, the depth chart "OR"s are pretty silly, as are the weekly captains.  I disagree that the field goal was obviously the wrong call.  Although I personally wanted him to go for it, we all know that Tressel would have done the same (and we all would have belly-ached about his choice, too). 

In the end, though, I'm not sure it amounts to much.  Fickell will learn from this season.  At the end of it the administration will look at 2 things: a) did he win enough games this season under the circumstances, and b) can he give them a clear enough vision of how he wants to lead in the future?  If he can do these two things, he will (and should be) re-hired.  If he can't, he won't.  So evaluating him after 4 games is irrelevant.  The real evaluation will take place after 12 games.  And who knows where he will be by then?  Let's all wait and see.

Real fans stay for Carmen.

Nappy's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought we were out of timeouts after Braxton's 10 yard run at the end of the first half. With 6 seconds left and no timeouts the FG is the only choice.  The points were a gift, take what you can.

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

Ohio State used two timeouts in the first half and no timeouts in the second.

They had a timeout to spare with six seconds left on the one-yard line.

RoweTrain's picture

Not according to's play by play of the game.  It shows Ohio State as using all three time outs in the 2nd quarter.  The first was used four lines down at the beginning of the 2nd quarter.  The next was used four lines down from the 2:44 mark with the Buckeyes facing 2nd and 6 at the Colorado 44.  The last timeout was then used after the first down run by Brax to the Colorado 1 after the punt recovery. 

It actually shows them using them all on that ESPN link you provided as well. (EDIT: They do not show us as using the one at the Colorado 1 yard line) This is not me saying that we should've definitely kicked the field goal (I still would've tried for a quick score but do not condemn the choice Fickell made), just trying to help out.

As always, still a great read Ramzy.

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

Noted. "Wait, ESPN was wrong about something?!"

It does not change the impetus to shape the attitude of an offense that had a week to hear about how much it sucked. The in-game risk is a little higher with no third timeout available, but the long-term opportunity to redefine the psyche of that unit is still there.

Those three points were not worth the squandered opportunity for getting Colorado's scalp as time expired.

RoweTrain's picture

I agree whole-heartedly and I guess you could say that'd we'd be pretty aggressive play callers if we had the opportunity. 

"Just bow up and go out and play." ~ D. Lee

acBuckeye's picture

I specifically remember that point in the game: We had just used our last timeout, and i was STILL calling for Fick to throw a fade to the corner before kicking the FG. Stoney on the outside?? (Dare i say) even TY Williams on a fade? At worst, he drops it (likely) but that play shouldn't take longer than 5 seconds. Where is the imagination/creativity to allow for mismatches?

Tressel was weird in that sort of thinking..... the only times he would utilize a mismatch is if he TOTALLY trusted the player who created the mismatch. Even if there was a glaring mismatch that could be exploited, if he had his doubts about his guy executing it, he wouldn't even touch it. I disliked that about Tress, but he knew his team better than any of us, obviously.

LM Buckeye's picture

Your whole post was based on the fact that there was one timeout left, and there wasn't.  All 3 were used after the run to the 1 yard line.  Kicking the field goal is the right move.  If Brax tries to throw something to the back of the endzone, and time runs out without a field goal, both QB and coach are second guessed and CU dodges a bullet after a brain fart on the punt.  I love your work Ramzy and always think you have a unique view on our beloved Buckeyes, but this spews of hate for Luke, even when he made the correct call.

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

"My whole post."


"Spews of hate."


I can't respond to this without restating what's in the article, and that's unnecessary. Having no timeouts left only removes one criterion for going for six.

btalbert25's picture

Right call according to you.  If it were Tressel coaching the team, a ton of people would be bitching about the play call because that's what people did with Tressel's decisions.  He wouuld've taken the 3 and there would be bellyaching about Tressel always taking the 3 instead of going for a TD with his far superior team. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

And Tressel won, won, won while some fans whined, whined, whined. As you write below, the bellyaching is unavoidable, but only a select few coaches can win consistently at the highest levels of cfb. The verdict is still out on Fickell - and I certainly have my doubts - but the very last thing I'm worried about is him kicking a FG in that situation.  

btalbert25's picture

I'm not really saying he should've or shouldn't have, I'm just saying that when Tressel did one instead of the other he was often criticized by many, not just a few whiny fans. 

I guess to me the problem is there seem to be many who think, well Tressel did this, it worked for him, they said he was in over his head at first too.  So clearly, Fickell, a guy who has never been a head coach before, does the same thing, and people say he's in over his head.  Clearly, we know based off of this FICKELL=Tressel. 

No one has come out and said it directly but there have been plenty of implications.  People, pryor to Ramsey's write up today, don't ever acknowledge that Jim Tressel was a very successful head coach for a long time before coming to the Buckeyes.  Sure, it was at a different level, but the man knew how to be a head coach.



LM Buckeye's picture

If there was a timeout left, it changes the situation completly.  If we had kicked the field goal with a time out in our pocket, then I agree that is way to conservative of a decision.  In this case, without the time out, there is little upside to taking the risk of getting 6, and losing the easy 3.  In regards to Tressel, the bellyaching would have been far worse if he continually went for 6 and missed then taking the easy 3.  Our offensive lines have not warrented that kind of trust for many years.

baddogmaine's picture

After Miller's run to the one Fickell correctly called wat was our last time out. There werre six seconds and no time  outs left. The article was not really based on having a time-out left since you can have three timeouts left but if there are only six seconds left you can not run a rushing play and have any certainty that there will be any time in which to call a TO if the play doesn't score - six seconds run before the pile unpiles. However, you can try a pass play into the end zone or on the sideline whether or not you have a time out because the play will probably take less than six seconds and if it doesn't score the clock will almost certainly stop before it hits zeroes. So Fickell's choice was pass or kick.


What made his decision was probably the Navy game when Tressel turned down an easy FG for a fourth down run that failed, and those lost points really haunted us in that game. Fickell learned that you don't turn down points. Unfortunately turning down points in the fourth quarter of a grind is a lot different from turning down points in the second quarter of a cruise. Fickell learned the lesson only in part. Which has really been the problem since after the Akron game.

If we needed the points at the end of the first half v. CO we kick. If we want to demonstrate confidence in our pass protection, our QB, our receivers we go for it and then kick if we need to. We use the coaching time available during that called TO to remind all involved that it has to be a QUICK decision, not multiple check-downs, we shift players before the snap to see if a receiver gets uncovered, and we run the play, spiking if necessary if nothing is open. And kick with one or two seconds left. But that is only if the coach wants to show confidence in his offense. If not you kick immediately.

Maestro's picture

I agree that Ohio State is not really a place that someone should be learning how to be a head coach. That being said, I think the situation is so unique that Fickell has to be given some benefit of the doubt.

He has a pretty long leash in my book for now. October will decide for me if the leash should remain long, disappear entirely, or be jerked back violently. Of course, what I think means bupkus, but I am reserving my judgement for now.

vacuuming sucks

Keith's picture

The late timeout request on Colorado's 4th down prayer of a TD was another example of indecision.  It looked like Luke was considering it for a few moments before missing the window.

Also, North Carolina A&T probably wishes they didn't exist.  This is the institution that admitted and later awarded a degree to KSM.   Great alumni there.

Bruce's picture

Had Fickell went for it with 6 seconds and old murphy's law kicked in and Les Miles time management madness ensued (without Les's luck) and time expired because of it, with no points to show, how would that be seen?

Would everyone be calm and "oh, it was the right call, it was just one of those things", or would it be ever louder screams of "LF is in waaaaay over his head. He shoulda took the sure thing".

I personally think it was a damned if he did damned if he didn't type situation. (I also personally would have gave it a shot FWIW)

Good stuff Ramzy.


From the 2007 HBO special ---->

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

On the road against a good opponent: Field goal. Easy decision.

At home going into the north end zone against a double-digit underdog: Kick their f'n teeth in.

Northbrook's picture

I'm not going to complain about the call to go for three. I've seen us stuffed too many times in short yardage situations over the past few years to complain about the call. Maybe Luke had no confidence that Bolls would make a good play call.

JT's picture

I'm in favor of going for the sure points.

What we may be missing is that Luke went for 3 b/c he's preparing for scUM.  Not showing Brady something to prepare for might make a difference for us on Nov 26.

Then again, it is possible we all have waaaaaaaaaay too much free time on our hands and we're over-thinking this...

Irricoir's picture

Bruce is right. He is going to face that double edged sword in every game he coaches in this year.

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

BrotherCavil's picture

Let's not rush to judgement.  I remember "Munch' on 610 during early 2002 talking about how Tressel was never going to be able to be a great Div I coach.  Give the man some time to put it together.

Denny's picture

Citing people saying dumb shit on talk radio is like pointing out a fat person at a buffet. Fish, barrels, etc.


BrotherCavil's picture

What? My point is that most people are writing off Fickell already. I think he can do this. People need to relax and let this thing develop.

AltaBuck's picture

I believe it is already 'decided'. Urban will coach the Buckeyes contingent upon Gene Smith leaving. Regarding Coach Fickell, he is trying out for the DC job since Heacock will resign after this year.

I am Groot - Groot

btalbert25's picture

This is a good write up.  Everyone talks about how Fickell hasn't been given a fair opportunity but I think he's been given a golden opportunity.  Tagged so or not, he's an interim coach, and interim coaches have to do something that stands out.  They have to make the administration say wow this guy could be the real deal. 

The indecision and in my opinion failure to make this team his team, is what I was affraid of coming into this season.  I said from the get go, record wasn't really the only thing that mattered to me.  It was, does this guy walk the walk and talk the talk.  To this point I Just haven't seen it.  He has 8 weeks left.  Losses will certainly come, and that's fine, I just hope he takes a little bit more ownership of the program.  Go all in, make this your program for the final 8 weeks.  Although we're only approaching week 5, in my opinion it's 4th down on his coaching interview.  Does he go for broke and fail/succeed going for it, or does he punt, effectively sealing his fate before the season is half over?

I don't think he ultimately ends up with the job, and honestly think there is only so much support from the fans because the guy played for the Buckeyes.  If he were an assitant with no ties to the program other than being an assistant here, everyone who is outraged by people questioning his coaching ability, wouldn't be so outraged.  That seems to be what most defenses boil down to, well he has such deep Buckeye roots. It doesn't make much sense to me, but I guess that's a valid defense.

AltaBuck's picture

It is a golden opportunuity for him to prove himself as a possible HC elsewhere but not at tOSU.

Place yourself in his shoes back in May, if the upcoming season were really a tryout for your dream job, would you keep weak support around you (IE- Bollman & Siciliano)? I can understand his commitment to his fellow coaches but being a HC is always about making those types of tough decisions. Fickell, better than anyone, knew what Tressel's loss meant from just a coaching standpoint. Why did he not do anything about it?

I just feel he has been told to 'hold the fort' until a new HC is brought in. Get the team to a Bowl and continue to recruit for next year. 


I am Groot - Groot

btalbert25's picture

Quite honestly, I agree with you.  I don't think when he was appointed in May, he was ever truly going to be considered for the job.  Which, in my opinion, means you have nothing to lose, and forget about holding down the fort.  Go all in and make them at least consider you for the job.  If you fail, you probably weren't going to get the job anyway. 

If the self sanctions hold up and no much other damage is done to the program, this job, beside being a huge program already, is going to be tough for any coach to turn down.  The NCAA mess will be basically gone at that point, with self sanctions and maybe they miss a bowl this year.  The new coach is going to walk into a team that is loaded with talent, that will be more than just raw an inexperienced.  They'll have a year under their belts.  So, whoever the coach may be next year.  He and his staff will have a lot of success right from the get go.  If it's not Fickell, cool, if it is that's cool to.  

AltaBuck's picture

I just have the feeling that things have already been set in motion. I really like the guy and hope when the dust settles, there will be a place for him on the new coaching staff (as the DC) or he becomes a HC at a different school.

I am Groot - Groot

btalbert25's picture

I can actually kind of agree with this too.  There were a lot who shared this opinion early on, when Tressel first got canned, retired whatever.  Plus, at the time, what coach would've wanted to walk into the situation this program was facing.  Things will be very clear once the NCAA rules and everyone knows what the penalties are.  Also, the level of talent the new staff would be taking over would have the team primed to win immediately. 

RBuck's picture

IMO it was pretty damn impossible to make any changes to the coaching staff after spring practice. Gotta roll with what we got this year and take our lumps.

Long live the southend.

Doc's picture

I thought Luke would have more of Cooper in him than he does.  Cooper had a take no prisoners attitude towards the weak.  Luke needs to get that killer instinct he had while a wrestler.  He should have gone for the td at the end of the half.


Nice read Ramzy

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

btalbert25's picture

I've never been a big fan of Urban Meyer, but I will say listenning to him do broadcasts I'm starting to like the guy a lot.  I like his attitude about coaching.  4-1 would you go for it or take the FG?  No question go for it, this guy has been hot, this team has been moving the ball well, that team has way more talent than the other so they should definitely be doing this instead.  I loved Tressel and what he did with this team, but how many times did we come on here on Mondays after the game or during the game screaming about not going for 4th and 1 or 4th and goal from the 1 etc? 

I saw above where people said he's damned if he does damned if he doesn't.  Well, you are absolutely right.  So was Tressel, so was Cooper.  So was any other coach at any other program ever.  Hell Tressel won over 80 percent of his games and there was a section of the fan base who wanted him fired so bad a website was created.  EVERY COACH IS DAMNED IF THEY DO DAMNED IF THEY DON'T.  You can't let that thought dictate how you do your job or call a game though.  Make the decision and own it.  If you fail/succeed so be it.

Doc's picture

You're right BT.  We are all coaches from the stands or our couches.  Win, lose, or draw we think we know better.  Fickell needs to put his stamp on the job and show the higher ups he has the intestinal fortiitude to be a winner, not a game manager.

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

btalbert25's picture

At this point, we may be seeing what his stamp is because he's never been a head coach before.  Hell he's never even been a coordinator on his own before.  So the indecision may be because he just doesn't know what to do.

Jdadams01's picture

This. And what a lot of others have said. What I keep hoping to see from Fickell is decisiveness. And we haven't yet. One thing about Tressel, whether you hated his methods or loved them, was that he was very rarely if ever indecisive. Same thing for Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, Chris Petersen, etc. Successful coaches are confident and never visibly indecisive.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Ramzy: as usual, a well written, thought-provoking piece.

I agree with Chris Lauderback, though: to suggest that there was clear-cut correct option in this case - such that the "wrong" choice is considered a boo-able offense - is silly.

Personally, I would have kicked the FG:

  • Braxton is coming along, but could they rely on him to manage those six seconds? Heck, some veteran college QBs screw up those situations. If there had been eight seconds left, that would have been different. 
  • The kicker needs the work.
  • Simply kicking the FG there, after the Buffs made a boneheaded play, was already another shot to Colorado's psyche.
Buckeye Black's picture

If it were me, I run a pass play.  We have Stoneburner, use him.

Riggins's picture

Yea, I think the decision to kick the FG wasn't the "wrong" decision, but it might have been an unpopular one even if it meant coming away with 0 points with no timeouts remaining.  That muffed punt was a gift.  Colorado was clearly outmatched, so going for 3 or going for 6 wouldn't make much of a difference by the end of the game.  The decision would have been much harder if this was against Wisconsin.  

The rest of the article is spot on.  Coach Fickell isn't coaching his team.  He is coaching Tressel's team.  If Fickell does retain the job, I expect him to make big changes and put his stamp on the staff. 

Kyle's picture

More than should he have kicked the fieldgoal or shouldn't he this article speaks to the tough position Fickell finds himself in with a staff he inherited (and may not want - at least on offense), a football identity he didn't cultivate (Tresselball) and may not subscribe to, massive personnel challenges (Tat5, no Pryor) and the expectation of the fanbase that winning the B1G is the benchmark for success.


I like Luke and I think he has the potential to be a very good head coach someday but I also think barring some miraculous season, we likely lose another 1-3 games and Luke's tenure as head coach becomes a great trivia question for the future Jack Parks of the world. 


Chris Lauderback's picture

As I wrote in Five Things, I don't think there's a right or wrong answer as to whether or not you go for it or kick a FG with just :06 and no timeouts. It's a matter of taste, imho.

In the end, I get that with a freshman QB you might not want to put the ball in the air on a fade or risk one of Brewster's too-often-occurring bad snaps from the 'gun.

I default to Ramzy's writing ability 20-fold but whether to go for the TD is just a football opinion and I agree with Fickell's decision to kick a FG there. Playing conservative won his mentor a boatload of games so it's easy to understand why Luke chose to kick.

LM Buckeye's picture

I find it hard to pass any judgement on Luke Fickel "The Head Coach" until he has a handful of B1G games under his hat.  I know we all wish he had HC experience at another University (Although Brady Hoke has that, and would you want him as HC?).  The two HC's that Luke has to draw experience from are Cooper and JT.  I was in the "Shoe" for the 98 MSU game and can tell you, JT does not lose a game like that, ever.  Closest thing JT had to that was 07 Illini, but JT was playing the Illini and the refs in that one.  If Luke draws his coaching style from JT over Coop, in my opinion he will be just fine.


Colby3333's picture

Nothing like a little "Monday Morning Quarterbacking!"  All of this stuff has been said before regarding Tressel, Cooper, Bruce, Hayes...and now Fickell.  Face it, you can not and will not please everyone.  If Fickell wins out and is hired, we will all talk about how great it is and expectations will be so high going into next season.  But then, that first bump in the road or a few L's......we will get more write-ups like this one.  Gotta love it...

buckeye20's picture

Here are my two complaints:

Start Braxton Miller in games 1 and 2 and give him most of the reps.  He is the future...start fresh now.  It would have given them a chance to beat Miami.

Fickell doesn't look like a head coach.  He looks confused and puzzled all of the time.  Not that he is, but he is interviewing for the head coaching job.  Hopefully he begins to play the part soon.  This is his team and he at least needs to look like he knows what he is doing.  Somebody needs to coach him up on this.  He just doesn't look right on the sideline.  Like he is reacting to everything his assistants are doing.  (I guess he did play for Cooper)

Beyond these two things, we are 3-1 heading into Big Ten play.  We beat Sparty on Sat and we go into Nebraska with a shot to win. 

LM Buckeye's picture

Hey wait a second, if Luke does not start Bauserman against Akron, then Ramzy does not get to write his "Return of Good Throw Joe" blog.  (Sorry Ramzy, had to say it)

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

The three was the right call.  The team was winning every aspect of the game, as your aritcle clearly states.  There was little question that OSU would win this game, so why waste the chance to put a sure 3 on the board and leave Colorado feeling even worse about themselves?  If they go for 6 and Miller fumbles or throws a pick (which freshman do), suddenly Colorado feels a bit better and OSU a bit worse.  It was the correct call for the scoreboard and for the mental side of the game).  It's 20-7 at half, and folks are bitching.  I find that tough to stomach.  This is one of the few times coach was decisive, and he's getting slammed for it.  The only things he should be second guessed on is not naming Miller the starter at the start of fall camp (as he knew what Joe had to offer) and not having Brewster be the captain this team needs.  They win this weekend to start 4-1 with their best players on the bench (not to mention a MVP qb leaving early) and I say he's doing one hell of a job.  But I'm no coach...

buckeyemondo's picture

decisive?  hardly. there was a definite conversation about whether to run a play there; otherwise, basil gets sent out there immediately following timeout being called.

to be sure, we would have chastised tress for not even entertaining the thought of getting 6 in that spot, but we knew what the vest brought to the table.  at the quarter turn, fick has yet to show the fiery side that, by all accounts, is what made him such a player favorite.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

He has yet to show his 'fiery' side on the field. We have zero idea what he is showing behind the scences. I would rather him be calm in front of cameras than be anything like beet face in South Bend.

buckeyemondo's picture

i'm not partial to anything fick says or how he conducts himself in interviews.  i'm referrring to the pacific nature that he is handling this team right now -- throwing in the towel at miami with about 5 minutes to play, non-committal to a starting qb until he was forced to, rotating captains, etc.

to fick's defense (pun intended), he is obviously handling matters of the non-offensive nature... which may explain why this year's team, although talented, has just now established the beginnings of something to hang their hats on (run, braxton, run).

Denny's picture

Maybe his indecision is what led him to put on that Affliction t-shirt :/


Roger's picture

Love your writing and usually agree with you, but not on this one. I think you've understated the effect of not getting points there. Any number of mistakes (botched snap, d-line penetration, inaccurate throw, dropped pass) could have resulted in the team, and fans, going into halftime with a bad taste in their mouths. The last thing you want is that "here we go again" feeling rearing it's ugly head in an offensive player's psyche.

A good coach will protect young players (especially quarterbacks and kickers) from situations that ask them to do more than they consistently can do. Braxton made a nice play scrambling to the goalline and providing a young kicker, who needed a confidence boost, a chip shot field goal. 

baddogmaine's picture

No, almost none of those costs us points. An incomplete pass stops the clock with time still on it. If the o-line breaks down Miller gets outside the tackle box and throws it at a cheerleader - Miller can do that in six seconds. If it's a bad snap pick it up and spike it. You've got the time during the TO to coach those things. Of course something could go wrong on a pass play - but something could go wrong on a FG too. Things had been going wrong for Basil too much, in point of fact. Though what he needed was not an extra point attempt to regain his confidence, he'd made all of those - he needed a 47 yarder, which he made in the second half.


The problem is that "here we go again" is exactly what we were feeling after the FG. Here is a game at home that we are supposed to win with ease and we go into halftime up by less than two scores. I know Vegas had us by just 16 but how many of Buckeye Nation would have been happy leading 15-7 at half? - right on pace for Vegas but not exactly impressive. 24-7 is not bad. 20-7 is here we go again.

Irricoir's picture

The same and valid arguments can be made for both sides. Let us look at the outcome of each. We got three points which had the highest probability of success. The fans are happy and we extend our lead with points that we did not expect before that kick. Option b, we get 7 points and the fans are even more ecstatic but the success rate of those 7 points are much less guaranteed. Greater risk, greater reward. Already up 10 on Colorado and not needing to risk anything at that moment, why do so? He made the correct call and you know what? Either call would have had the same result when looking at the score. <Psychological what ifs aside> Hey Buckeye fans! WE won! Enough Monday morning...Err....afternoon Quarterbacking! We won the game with 4 less, unneeded points. We have renewed confidence and a full game under Braxton's belt. He has some experience to hang is hat on and can build off of that now. If the game had been tighter or we had been losing at that point I think Fick would have made a different decision, as it was it seems appropriate which is all we should demand. I don't think it is a matter of right or wrong.

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

Roger's picture

Agree that's it's not necessarily a matter of right or wrong but it does call his coaching ability into question and I think this situation has been spun in a way that projects issues that don't exist. 

I can guarantee you that most successful coaches would have made the same decision. It was a safe, by the numbers, classic decision.

Roger's picture

Agree to disagree, especially your first points. That's how the game works on XBOX, but not in real life.

Jdadams01's picture

I personally think all of you saying Ramzy is wrong about his take on the FG call are reading the post wrong. I think Ramzy was just using that as an example of the greater problem that Fickell has. Indecision, deer in the headlights feel, lack of a killler instinct, and the general presence of a coach who is not quite ready to be the head man at a place like OSU.

Buckeye06's picture

Shugarts would have false started and 10 seconds would automatically go off the clock if we don't kick the field goal.


Believe that

Irricoir's picture

Holy false start, Shugarts! You did it again! Every time I see an offensive play stopped early I automaticly wait to hear the number 76 being called. Seriously, if they keep this stat, does he have the record for most false starts in a career at Ohio State? Inquiring minds want to know!

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

Two Bucks's picture


Hamby was good for a couple a game. I think it would be close.

baddogmaine's picture

Question on the rule. I know there's a 10 second penalty for a flase start during a live ball, but is there a ten second deduction when the clock is stopped? If so then yes, Shugarts could have cost us 3 points. But if we can't go from the one because we don't trust our tackle then we've got the wrong lineman in for that play. And in truth even Shugarts doesn't get flagged every play. Teams lose titles by doing really stupid things, but they don't win them by never taking chances. In terms of risk and reward, need versus desire this was a safe and a good time to go for it.

Roger's picture

Since the clock was stopped there would be no time taken off the clock.

btalbert25's picture

The reason I would've taken a shot of the endzone, is it was freakin Colorado, if that play contributes to a loss to Colorado, then a whole lot more went wrong than one screw up going into halftime.  That's exactly the time I test my offense and young team.  Get them confidence in such situations. 

Bama, Florida, Oregon, etc, go for on 4th and short, or in situations similar to this.  They execute often.  Why?  Because their players routinely get these opportunities.  Granted, I take the 3 points if this is against Wisconsin, but against the Buffalos?  Maybe take a shot.  Tressel's teams often got stuff in 4-1 or situations like this one because they never got the opportunity to do it.  He would avoid going for it in meaningless games, then all at once decide oh let's try it in a big game.  A team that's not put in those situations very often, feels the pressure a lot more than a team that does goes for it several times a game and succeeds.

BrewstersMillions's picture

I did some looking and even the box scores don't have who committed the penalties, just that they were committed. With that said, I checked the 2009 Toledo Box and in the first quarter there was a false start during an OSU drive. Is it bad I immediately assumed it was him?

Do I come off as arrogant? Shame on me, I was hoping it would be more obvious.

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

Taking the 3 points was absolutely the right move.  No doubt in my mind.  Colorado had just scored and moved the ball on the previous drive.  If we get stuffed, they feel pretty good about things.  Going for it is the absolute wrong move there when you have a mediocre team. I usually agree with Ramzy, but not on this. This amorphous "killer instinct" it was going to instill was not worth the risk. We had absolutely no guarantee of scoring again, folks. Say what you want, but it isn't that far-fetched that we would be shut-out in the second half.

Not starting Braxton in game one is also not the wrong call.  Start the senior and allow the frosh to get some reps once the game is in hand.  Now, not playing him at all in game two was terrible and completely inexcusable IMO. I have no idea what could possibly have gone into that decision.  However, JT missed badly (and very costly for the team) in two previous QB decisions as well (JZ/TS and TP/TB). 

So far fickell has been fine.  We are not a very good team. We are 3-1. We have won the home games and lost our first road trip under the lights on national television with the youngest team I can remember as far as experience (I was not around for the super sophomores).  He is doing fine, lets reserve judgment about his ability to put a stamp on the team or anything else until a little more data is available.    


baddogmaine's picture

Look at our schedule so far and tell us which additional game a lesser coach would have lost. I know that Toledo was a nightmare but no one expected that going in, and my guess is that by the end of trhe year that will be seen not as pulling out victory against a tough foe but nearly blundering a home win againat a team that should not be in the discussion against even mediocre OSU team. Fickell did no better than almost any other coach would have with our pre-conference schedule. This doesn't mean he should be fired, but it does mean he hasn't done anything yet that indicates that he deserves the job.


You are right that we might not have scored again. In that case a 13 point lead is no better than a 10 point lead, because as you say CO had just scored, looking good doing it, and there was no guarantee that they would not do it twice more.


The reality is that CO and IN were the last two "easy" games we had in our last 9. If we couldn't score from the one in one play (which actually was two plays - a quick pass play still leaves time for the FG) and don't score in the second half AGAINST COLORADO AT HOME then we are probably going to finish 5-7 at best and beating CO by 13 or losing by 1 would be meaningless.

NW Buckeye's picture

Ramzy, love your writing, but disagree on this one.  And, no, I am not reading this as just the FG decision. 

First, the waffling you cite for the "Q or's".  Hey, he could have easily started Braxton at the beginning of the season.  I believe the real reason he went with the "or" at Q is that he really wanted to make Baus (a senior) part of this team - in a sense, to make all the sr's part of this team.  Allow Braxton to get his feet wet slowly, and have Baus in there with it being his job to lose.  The Akron game afforded him the opportunity to get a look at both Q's in live action.  The Toledo game turned into a nail biter and he stayed with Baus - no surprise there - again, the job was his to lose.  The Miami game was the make or break for Baus, and it broke him.  Once the decision was made to start Braxton, he stayed with it.  Even after Braxton struggled in the early going against Colorado.  Would have been real easy to insert Baus, but no, he stayed with the Freshman until the game was put away.  There was no dissension among the ranks because Baus blew his opportunity in Miami. 

Next, the captains.  Ok, so we have weekly captains.  Just where is it written that you have to have season captains?  On this team that saw all it's natural Sr. leaders gone or suspended (save one - Brewster) I am not so sure this was not a good move.  Yes, the media types want that go to leader who will speak for the team.  But, what is really going on in the locker room?  My take is that with all the turmoil Luke really wanted to see who the natural leaders are in the games (and, they are quite often different players than who stands out at practice).  And, often, without a lot of experience on the field you can not tell until you are actually in the games.  We all need to remember that Luke was thrown into this without the proper amount of preparation.  Most new coaches are already thinking these things during spring practice, Luke was thinking about molding the defense then.  Once he was make HC, his contact with the players was extremely limited because of NCAA regs.  Yes, he did have 3 weeks in August to evaluate, but with all that was happening behind the scenes with the NCAA can your really fault him for his stance on captains?  Imagine naming captains only to have some or all of them suspended before the first game - it could have happened......  Again, citing this action as a sign of gross indecision is a cheap shot. 

Many question the Miami Time Out situation as indecision.  Citing the lack of using Time Outs in the second half is laughable.  By the time he should have been using the time outs, the game was already out of hand.  Yes, it is easy to look back at the video and say "hey, he should have called a time out right here."  As I recall watching the game my thoughts were "use the time outs", but I really could not grab the right moment to call a time out (I have coached many games over my 30+ years in coaching, and I was known as a good time manager.)  Let's face it, that game slipped away mostly because of poor play by our team - missed tackles, dropped passes, missed blocks.  No amount of time outs at the end of the game could have diffused that.  And, if you want to get technical about HC's and their clock management all the coaches who are mentioned by these bloggers have at one time or another in their careers at top level programs botched the clock management in games.  Heck, Les Miles seems to make a science out of bungling it, and yet his team is ranked #1 right now. 

Last and least, is the FG situation you cite at the end of the first half of the Colorado game.  There was no right decision.  But, given the circumstances, no time outs left , freshman Q, a line that has demonstrated performing poorly at the goal line over the last 3 years, etc, etc.... it seems as if the FG was the right choice. 

Your article seems to point out that all of these things make Luke an indecisive leader, and as such he does not deserve the HC job at the end of the season.  Like I have said before, one game does not a season make.  Many point to his learning on the job as reason to not have him as the HC, but any HC worth his salt is constantly learning on the job.  Give him a season.  Don't expect it to be perfect.  Evaluate him on what he is able to do with the cards that were dealt.  I might add here that I am not a "keep Luke at all costs" kind of fan.  I want what is best for OSU.  But, I do recognize that nit picking a HC that has all of 4 games under his belt is not in the best interest for this team. 

One last point.  Ramzy, I really do admire your penmanship.  I have easily agreed with you on so many occasions (even when I had differing thoughts to begin with).  Your articles are usually well thought out and planned - they really do come across as having a purpose.  But, this article started off on the wrong foot with your incorrect recollection of the time out situation at the end of the first half.  I just watched on TV, and I vividly recalled the time out situation.  You relied on an ESPN play by play write up.  Bad choice.  It made this article look impromptu and forced and brought the question to my mind "did he even watch the game?".  None the less, it was thought provoking, and inspired many replies / comments. That said, I look forward to many more great articles in the near future. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Excellent reply to a thought-provoking, but flawed, post from an otherwise talented writer in Ramzy. I even read all 1000+ words of your comment. 

I'd suggest that you please impart some of your wisdom to other fellow Buckeye fans, but the ones who might most benefit from it are perhaps the least likely to heed your words.

BoFuquel's picture

This coaching staff if they are as you guys say are interim. Then they have but one job to prepare this 2011 team for 2012.If they do that then they should retained.Simple enough.

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

crazykg's picture

While our Head Coach is an OSU Alum, an Ohio Native and an all around good guy who was put into an extremely bad situation by seasoned professional politicians and a coach that had too much power, can we stop the Urban Meyer talk? The dude was the LB's coach and "Assistant" D coordinator, hes gonna fail a few times while he gains experience. We have 3 deep freshmen at some spots and 4 guys suspended for another week while 2 starters were suspended for the first two games, most of you dumbasses couldnt even figure this out on NCAA12 in a controlled environment let alone the real deal.

Miller's picture

+ 1,000,000.

Preach on, CrazyKG! That's the truth truth!

BoFuquel's picture

Give Coach a 2 million dallar contract, and see what that dose to him.Pull the trigger Luke, unleash the force.Did you see where Luke Skywalker turned 60.That makes me old enough to be Anikin.Oooh!

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

Rooster Buckburn's picture

I mostly agree with this article - but I don't have a problem with going for three at the end of the half however.

Colby3333's picture

You preach on CRAZYKG!!!!!!!! 

BoFuquel's picture

Going for the FG was pure class. He was taking care of his kicker who was 0 for life.,and needed the confidense builder much more than a QB who is one of the most fearless players I have ever seen.Dude would take on a tank with a fly swatter.

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

crazykg's picture

Giving the kicker the ability to gain some confidence was a great coaching move. Tresselball or Fickellball doesnt matter, having a kicker that has gained confidence and knows his coach believes in him is gonna pay big dividends for OSU real soon! Great post!

RBuck's picture

I agree strongly with Ramzy on one of his points....the captain issue. It's a damn shame that Mike Brewster is not a permanent captain. Without Brewster there would be no Brew Crew.

Long live the southend.

Miller's picture

This is 100% correct Brewster and Moeller (I think) have done and given enough for this team to be permanent captains.

NYC Buckeye's picture

I'm getting the feeling you are not applying for the position of Luke Fickell fan club president anytime soon... 

I disagree with you on the FG call before the half though, kicking was the right call, wonder how your opinion would change had we fumbled the ball on the TD attempt and walked away with nothing...  we werent expecting anything, they muff punt return, take the free 3 points...

this seems to be what everyone is talking about in the comments, and not the important fact which you pointed out, that Fickell is coaching with Tressel's staff, and thus has not been given a completely fair shot of establishing his own identity... I agree that he hasnt really even tried, to establish his own identity, and does seem to be in a little over his head...


Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

If they had tried for six and failed, it would have served as a situation to point to in games that are a) actually competitive and b) actually matter. They had the luxury of options. Later on this season, they might *have* to gain one yard to save or win a game. This is why going for it is the ONLY OPTION.  Say this as many times as you need to for it to sink in: It's not about the three points. It's not about the three points. It's not about the three points.

It's about getting one yard, not against Colorado, but against Michigan State. Wisconsin. Penn State. Do it against Colorado when you have the option to do it with minimal risk. It was a *wonderful* opportunity and Luke turned it into being about getting three useless, meaningless, unneeded points.

There is no down side to going for the TD in an uncompetitive game. It wasn't about the points. It was about the rest of the season and - for the first time all year - making a statement about who is in charge. Thus far Fickell has been a substitute teacher and it's movie day every Saturday.

I'm not opposed to him getting the job. I'd just like to see what he's all about first. Four games in and I have absolutely no idea.

NYC Buckeye's picture

This ain't the 2007 Buckeyes homey!!!  It IS about the 3 points, especially in the first half...  your assumption that we can just chalk up Colorado as Akron is not corect, not after seeing what I did in South Florida, or even the Toledo fiasco, which was at HOME!!!  This team is not in a position to play around with other BCS programs, not even Colorado...

I see your point, but I won't criticize the guy for thinking, "What Would Tressel Do???"


 "Thus far Fickell has been a substitute teacher and it's movie day every Saturday." - Love this though...

sharkvsghost's picture

I'm not going to hold Fickell responsible for the fact that the incumbent OC calls an offensive scheme that dates to the Coolidge administration.  As far as I'm concerned, unless this season is an abject disaster, Fickell isn't on the hot seat until next season - especially if he hasn't replaced the offensive coordinator and QB coach he inherited.  

Ramzy, I absolutely love your writing, but given the scrutiny Fickell took after Timeout-gate last week, how on earth could you have expected him to do anything other than take the sure points in that scenario?  We really expect our freshmen QB (who, god love him, is still having an adventure fielding most snaps) to hit a fade to the corner or get a run play off in under 6 seconds?  Have you seen the offense this year?  Let's take the points when we can.  The reality right now is that there's no such thing as a sure win for this group, which should be obvious to anyone who watched the Toledo game, and as it's beoming more clear that Miami is a pretty poor football team. 

Maybe I'm just numb from a decade of red zone drives culminating in FGs and have lost the ability to be irritated by them.   

swing hard in case you hit it.

yrro's picture

Personally, I think it's really hard to judge Fickell one way or the other based on the offense.

He's an interim first year coach with a defensive background, with a well-established veteran offensive coordinator he inherited from the previous coach. I expect that he is trusting Bollman's judgment on offense almost completely right now. Which... while terrifying, makes sense.

The unfortunate thing is, I don't know that it'll be an option if he does stay on to have Bollman retire and do a national search for someone competent to replace him. Which really saddens me, both because I really want Fick to succeed and because I expect that a new head coach will mean a new defensive staff as well.

Doc's picture

For this scenario let's give Fickell the job.  What does he do to make this team his for next year?  Does he clean house on the offensive side of the ball?  Does he leave the defense alone?  If he does clean house who does he hire to be OC, or QB coach?  If it was me, I would get rid of all the offensive coaches, I would leave the defense alone.  I don't have a clue who to hire though. 

Your thoughts?

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

Buckeyejason's picture

I would do the same Doc, although I'd keep Drayton as wide reciever coach or make him coach the runningbacks.


BoFuquel's picture

As long as you have an interim coaching staff, thier only job is to prepare for the next administration and nothing else.

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

Buckeyejason's picture

No, their job is to try and win every game, one game at a time.


Doc's picture

I would think that some of the defensive coaches have a better chance of hanging on than their offensive counterparts with a new HC.  Heacock was there before Tress, wasn't he?

I'm hiding baby and I'm dreaming
I'm riding down your moonlight mile

buck sqrt -1's picture


I agree with almost all of the assessment, but I think if you name permanent captains, you don't allow Boom, Posey, Adams and Thomas the chance; as Jordan Hall has shown, you can be suspended and show leadership, and I think Fickell is trying to allow for the possibility that the Tat 4 could redeem themselves over the season.  If you name season captains, you can't choose them (and maybe that would be a legit decision, but...).