Five Things: Penn State

By Chris Lauderback on November 20, 2011 at 2:00p
Getty Images: Kirk IrwinSlow (26) and Slower (19) give chase as Stephfon Green completes his 39 yard TD sprint up the gut

For the third straight game, the Buckeyes fell into an early 10-0 hole and couldn't get out of their own way thereafter. 

The result was a 20-14 loss at the hands of the Nittany Lions on senior day in the 'Shoe, dropping the Buckeyes to 6-5 on the year. The last time OSU went 6-6 in a season? 1999. 

I'm not going to spend much time on the whole coaching situation but I will say this. There's no question Fickell was dealt a bad hand from the cloud of sanctions to lost players to having the worst offensive coordinator on staff at a big time program but there's also no question the great Buckeye is not yet ready to lead an elite program. 

Coaches may not make the on-field mistakes but they are charged with getting their team ready to play, installing a game plan that gives the team the best chance to win and at ensuring gradual individual and unit improvement occurs over the course of a season. Under Fickell's leadership, those three areas have been woefully inconsistent. 

One positive thing Fickell's troops seem to indicate is that they are sticking together. That's certainly good to hear but will be that be enough as they invade hostile territory next Saturday in Ann Arbor? Consider me a skeptic at this point. That's the great thing about The Game though, by the time kickoff comes around you've convinced yourself Ohio State will win. 

Before we jump fully into Beat Michigan week, let's take a last look at the debacle that was Penn State. 

Psst...The game started 15 minutes ago

How in the name of Woody could this team come out flat? Home game. Senior Day. Penn State. Two previous weeks of slow starts to learn from. Unreal. 

The Travis Howard show started early as he committed a PI on the first play from scrimmage. He bit hard on a double move, pushed his man out of bounds then gave the "what'd I do" gesture to the official. Excellent play. Three plays later, on 3rd and 4, he was beat to the spot on a slant for a 12 yard chain-mover. Two plays later, Stephfon Green foreshadowed the rest of the game as ran though a huge hole up the gut and easily outran the back seven for six. Five plays, 80 yards, two and half minutes, 7-0 Lions.

The offense then took the field trying to stop the early bleeding we've come to love so much. Braxton did what he could improvising on 3rd and 15 as he scrambled to his right and found Posey for 39 yards. That play went for naught however as Brewster shanked the snap on 3rd and 6 to set up 4th and 13 from the PSU 35. Instead of attempting a 52 yard FG, Fickell opted to punt which the usually stellar Buchanan blasted into the endzone for a touchback. So, in forgoing a shot at scoring points, Fickell's bunch netted 15 yards. Freakin Sweet. 

Fresh off giving up an 80 yard TD drive, the Bullets trotted back on the field and promptly allowed a Lion march to the OSU 32 in 11 plays, including 3/3 on 3rd down. Finally, McGloin stopped the PSU offense with back to back terrible passes on 2nd and 3rd down to bail out the defense. The result was still a 43 yard FG and a 10-0 lead. The drive lasted 15 plays as the season long struggle to get off the field on 3rd down took center stage. It also took us to the 1:59 mark of the 1st quarter meaning the Buckeyes slept through another one. 

The early mistakes and general early malaise again proved too much to overcome. Fickell and the players will talk all week about how they are learning from those mistakes but will you believe it as the Buckeyes take the field in Ann Arbor? Proceed with caution. 

I'll be hoping for the best but it's tough to hear the team talk about learning from mistakes only to watch them go out there and repeat them the following Saturday. 

i repeat, ryan damn shazier

Shouldn't this be his nickname? It's aggresively straight to the point just like Shazier in pursuit. 

Getty Images: Kirk IrwinI'll flip ya...flip ya for real.

Can someone please explain to me why the coaches never found a way to get this kid into the starting lineup? It shouldn't take a Sweat concussion to get your fastest linebacker on the field. Not to mention the fact he plays with a passion - on every snap - only matched by Simon. 

Following his strong showing in West Lafayette, RDS was all over the field against the Lions registering a team high 15 tackles. Fellow LB's Klein and Sabino combined for 13 and that was with Klein making nine in one of his better performances of the year. Funny, you barely even notice Klien/Sabino unless they are missing tackles yet Shazier's play just jumps out. 

Always looking for turnovers, he jarred the ball loose from Brandon Beachum but it was just a hair after Beachum's knee hit the ground. How many other guys do you even see reaching in to strip the ball? 

Another impressive skill Shazier shows is his ability to actually shed a blocker and make the tackle, seemingly in one motion. He did this at least three times yesterday. One specific instance I loved came on the first play of PSU's third series. He engaged his blocker and shuffled down the line before reaching right just as Redd thought he had a crease. Shazier stood up Redd and Roby flew in to clean up the tackle. 

Shazier was also the only Buckeye who seemed to know where to be on the Wildcat. No question PSU killed the Buckeyes with it but Shazier made his fair share of plays. He was generally fantastic at recognizing the hole and filling it with bad intentions. He did look to guess wrong on Green's first TD run but overall he was decisive when approaching the ball carrier. 

What was then a huge goal line stand as the Lions were turned away on their 2nd possession of the 2nd half was all Shazier. Things were looking bleak as Hall and Boom combined to fumble at the OSU 11 yard line. After Howard racked up his billionth penalty of the game on 2nd and 3 from the 4, the Lions had 1st and Goal at the 2 yard line. 

Shazier helped stand up Michael Zordich on back to back runs up the gut setting up 3rd and Goal from the 1 yard line. McGloin called his own number on a sneak but Shazier channeled his inner Arrington, jumped the right guard and stopped McGloin for no gain. It was a sick play but the encore was better. 

Now facing 4th and Goal, Redd attempted to jump over the pile on a give straight ahead but Shazier again busted through the line, hit Redd mid-jump and flipped the RB for no gain as Penn State turned it over on downs. 

The kid contributed to a 3 and out on PSU's next possession as he skillfully defended a 2nd and 11 screen play again showcasing his ability to engage and shed his blocker just in time to make the stop. 

Finally, on Penn State's last possession of the game, Shazier brought all kinds of wood to Green on a 3rd and 12 give to the left side to force a punt. 

Ryan Damn Shazier. 

gashes to gashes

Penn State rushed for 239 yards yesterday on 39 attempts. That's 6.1 per carry. That's gross. 

Penn State rushed for 188 yards in the first half averaging 9.0 yards per carry. That's like parachute didn't open gross. 

The most agonizing thing about PSU's ground success was that it came in such large chunks and with no frills. The Lions ran right at the Buckeyes and too often holes five yards wide opened, the RB got to the 2nd level then easily outran the members of the back seven. 

Green's 39 yard TD jaunt right down the teeth of the OSU defense showcased this perfectly. The hole between Hank and Bellamy was at least five yards wide, Shazier leaned right despite Green taking the handoff left and Klein was completely sealed off allowing Green to reach top speed just as he reached the 2nd level. From there, the safeties showed little ability to take effective angles and exposed their lack of speed. 

Three possessions later, the Bullets had PSU in 2nd and 7 from their own 22 but Redd took a handoff and ran behind his right guard for 42 yards. Both Sabino and Bellamy failed to fill the hole, again allowing the RB to get rolling downhill, and Redd juked Barnett out of his shoes, outrunning Bryant in the process as he coasted to the OSU 36 yard line. Three plays later Penn State led 17-7. 

Keeping in theme, two posessions later, some kid names Curtis Drake (rapper pedigree?) took another handoff behind right guard and slashed 40 yards to the Ohio State 40 yard line. Eventually, the drive would end with a 46 yard field goal and a 20-14 lead for Penn State at the half. 

Missed assignments, misses tackles and general too-damn-slowness plagued the Buckeyes and this was against a more power oriented Lion attack. What happens next week against a faster group of Wolverine ball carriers? Again, I just hope this is the week where players actually improve on understanding their assignments and the fundamentals of tackling because lord knows the slowness issue can't be fixed. 

You better brax somebody

I was hoping for a little more development in Braxton's passing game by now but with a shaky offensive line that consistently allows pressure off the right edge, a crop of receivers not yet ready for prime time (save Posey, obvi) and insanely predictable play calling, it's not hard to understand why that part of his game has been stifled. For his part, he's also been inconsistent actually throwing spirals. 

Despite the shortfalls of the collective passing game, it's still very easy to be encouraged with what OSU stands to get from the QB slot the next three years. I'm assuming Braxton's talent is also very exciting to a guy like, let's say, Urban Meyer. 

Once again, it was the Braxton Miller show yesterday. 

His day started with the usual 3rd down magic as he swerved to buy time before finding Posey on the already mentioned 39 yard conversion. He then found Boom for what might've been a decent gainer on 1st down but Boom dropped the ball. Brax responded with a determined eight yard burst around left tackle to set up a 3rd and doable. Unfortunately, Brewster's inability to snap the football killed the drive. 

Two possessions later Miller keyed Ohio State's scoring drive cutting the deficit to 10-7. After a slightly underthrown ball to Hall on a go route (DE stride for stride?!), Miller found Posey on a deep out route thanks to a sick one handed snag by DeVier at the sideline. After a 1st and 10 bad pass to Hyde, Braxton kept right on 2nd down chewing up eight yards with a nifty cut and spin to the PSU 24. Now facing 3rd and 2, Braxton kept right out of the pistol formation. He crouched low hiding behind a wall of blockers, juked the safety, got a key block from Posey and raced untouched into the endzone. The run looked almost too simple on the replay as Miller clowned fools with little effort. 

After an Orhian Johnson interception following Barnett's tip of a McGloin toss, Miller brought the offense out trailing 17-7 but with possession at the PSU 37. Boom went for five on 1st down setting up 2nd and 5 at the 32 yard line. Braxton ran the option with Boom to his left. Just before making his cut upfield, Miller faked the pitch to Boom, freezing the LB, and turned on the jets for 24 yards, reaching the eight yard line to set up 1st and Goal. Dude is so fast once he hits the corner. Sick run.

The next two plays yielded nothing up the gut setting up 3rd and goal from the seven. Miller dropped back, scanned the field and made a great throw over the top of a linebacker and in front of the man in coverage as Stoneburner hauled in the TD reception in the back of the endzone. Great touch by Miller to get the ball over the LB but still have enough zip on the ball to keep the man in coverage from closing to make a play on the ball. 

Miller unleashed a few more nice throws on the day finding Posey on a comeback route and later on the drive he threw a bomb to Philly that was promptly dropped. The throw was a bit underthrown but Philly needs to make that catch every time. If Philly hangs on, it's a 3rd and 7 conversion and OSU is in business near the red zone trailing 20-14 early in the 4th quarter. 

Finally, on Ohio State's second to last possession but truly their last real chance to score, Braxton took...wait for it...another botched snap on 1st and 10 at the OSU 38, shuffled left then scrambled all the way to the other side of the field before cutting up the sideline for 21 yards. The run moved the ball to the PSU 41 but things fell apart from there. More on that in a sec. 

Senior Leadership

I love Mike Brewster. I really do. But there's no excuse for yesterday's performance and it shouldn't be overlooked or passed off as acceptable just because of his larger body of work. 

Ohio State had some chances to win that game yesterday and Brewster's inability to simply snap the ball accurately killed a few. 

Trying to answer Penn State's opening TD drive, the Buckeyes were on the move and faced 3rd and 6 from the PSU 28. Brewster launched a worm burner at Miller in the shotgun and a panicked Miller dove on the ball for a loss of seven yards. Not only did Brewster's snap kill the play but it erased any chance of getting points as Fickell didn't feel it was worth trying a 52 yard FG. 

Looking to start the 2nd half on the right foot, the offense took possession at their own 24. Braxton found Philly for 10 yards to the 37 but on 3rd and 9, Brewster couldn't successfully find Miller with the snap. Miller was able to field the grounder but timing was blown and he could only manage three yards forcing OSU to punt. 

Again, I can't stress enough how much I like Brewster. That doesn't change the fact he has had issues snapping the ball on and off all year and, in my eyes at least, has regressed his senior year. He says all the right things and I feel very good about assuming he works his ass off in practice and sets an examples both on and off the field for the young guys but as an All-American senior, the Buckeyes needed more from him this season and defintely needed more from him yesterday. I hope he thinks the same, at least about yesterday, and comes out inspired against Michigan. 

And how 'bout JB Shugarts? The false start jokes are obviously the coping mechanism of Buckeye fans worldwide but it sure wasn't funny yesterday when he flinched away any chance the Buckeyes had of staging a winning drive. 

Miller and Boom had the offense on the march moving the ball from the OSU 13 to the PSU 36. It was 4th down but it was at least manageable since only five yards were needed to extend the drive. So what does the senior right tackle do? He jumps the snap pushing the Buckeyes back five yards and into a 4th and 10. The result? Braxton scrambled to avoid pressure and eventually was brought down trying to stretch for 10 yards along the right sideline. 

Thanks for the memories, Shugs. 

I won't even get into the senior leadership shown by guys like Boom and Posey for screwing their team over by making bad choices. At least those guys produce on the field once they are finally allowed on it. 

All we can hope for now is that the seniors really do get this roster to circle the wagons and truly focus on beating Michigan. Hopefully there will also be a galvanizing effect knowing it's the last game for Fickell and these guys can go up there and pull off the upset. 

They've got enough talent. Do they have enough heart and want-to? I've got to believe they do. 


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