Five Things: Purdue

By Chris Lauderback on November 13, 2011 at 3:35p
Photo: Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Six and four. That's where the Buckeyes stand after inexcusably starting the game in a daze for the second straight week allowing the opponent to jump out to a 10-0 lead, putting extra pressure on an offense  that struggles to get first downs let alone score points.

Of course, that problem was magnified by a defense that despite holding Purdue to three points in the 2nd half, simply couldn't make the big plays when needed especially on third down in what is becoming an all too familiar trend.

Wanting to make sure there was plenty of blame to go around, the special teams ultimately failed to give OSU their best chance to win after Braxton Miller's heroics as Drew Basil's potential game winning extra point try was blocked thanks to a surge through the spot in the line manned by Marcus Hall and to a lesser degree, Corey Linsley. Instead of taking a 21-20 lead with :55 left, the Buckeyes were tied 20-20 and back to their early game daze. 

Overtime was over before it started. An OSU field goal felt like the best case scenario and after that came true, Purdue found the endzone in seven plays. Purdue 26, Ohio State 23. Six and four. 

Braxton played his guts out. Literally. 

Miller didn't dominate the stats, again showing he's a work in progress with some incredibly wobbly throws and other than sailed miles over the head of the receiver. For the game he connected on just 8/18 but did manage 132 yards, the most since Akron. On the ground, he was just 16 for 43 though five sacks for -19 didn't help that statline. 

Despite the rocky showing - and the fact he was vomiting on the sideline - Miller led the Buckeye offense onto the field trailing 20-14 with 6:15 left in regulation. 

Starting at the OSU 34, Boom popped a 21 yarder on 1st down and Hall ran for three on the next play. On 2nd and 7, Braxton executed a toss to Spencer in the flat for 12 yards and a 1st down. From there, the combo of Boom/Hall advanced OSU to the Purdue 18 setting up 3rd and 8. Miller ran a QB keeper up the middle for five yards setting up 4th and 3 at the 13. 

With the chance at a Leaders Division title and a spot in the B1G up for grabs, Miller once again showed he has a knack for the big play, showing no quit and ridiculous improvisational skills. 

Facing immediate pressure after the snap, he started to shuffle left. Feeling heat, he scrambled right, jumping over a Boiler defender in the process while keeping his eyes downfield. Finally, after creating more space with his lateral movement right, he threw across his body to the left with just enough lift on the ball to find the outstretched arms of Hall for what should have been the game winning touchdown. 

As usual, he barely flinched at what should have been another 'signature play' to lock up a win in his trial-by-fire freshman season. The kid has heart. What worries me is it seems he might have more heart than some of his more experienced teammates. 

Ohio State would not have even had a shot to win it late if not for Miller's exploits to that point. With Boom struggling to find room (18/62) against an 8-9 man front, Braxton was left to take the ball out of the shotgun and try to make something happen. Trailing 10-0, it was Miller who got OSU on the board making three huge plays on an eight play, 68 yard drive. Scrambling for his life, he found Boom for a 19 yard completion on 2nd and 10, scrambled for six on 1st and 10, and made a pinpoint throw to Hall for a 38 yard score, just over the outstretched arms of a DT that had pseudo dropped into coverage. 

Miller was also the catalyst on Ohio State's TD drive cutting the lead to 17-14 early in the 2nd half. Facing 3rd and 10 at the Boiler 14, Miller gained 14 yards on a draw juking one defender so bad I thought the poor kid tore his ACL. The huge 3rd down conversion gave OSU 1st and goal at the 5 and after Hyde lost a yard on the first play, Miller scampered left on the 2nd play, finding the endzone with little trouble. 

So, the yardage stats were once again nothing to write home about but behind a line struggling to find continuity in the face of a stacked box, Miller accounted for all three scores. His presence alone should be enough to interest a top of the line, experienced head coach to Columbus. All we need now is a time machine. 

Death blow for the fickell era?

Conventional thought assumed Fickell would have to run the regular season table and potentially land in the B1G conference championship game in order to earn a multi-year contract extension. 

After back to back weeks of listless starts, one resulting in a loss killing any chances of reaching Indianapolis, it's hard to imagine Fickell keeping his job longterm. 

His only hope at this point likely rests on exactly how severe and specifically when the NCAA slaps the program with sanctions following a year of turmoil. 

The clock is ticking on the Fickell Era

I expect the decision makers will briefly discuss the fact Fickell is completely hamstrung on offense with Bollman slamming his smallest backs into the middle of the defense on 3rd and short while running his biggest back wide on pitches, setting up hail mary's on 3rd and long to a collection of receivers who have zero experience but they won't be as forgiving when it comes to evaluating the poor clock management and undisciplined nature in which the team goes about its business. (Note: Before any Fickell apologists chime in, I'm aware this team isn't among the most penalized - it's just that they always seem to come at inopportune times either killing offensive drives or extending them for the opponent.)

At this point, with the FTM looming and the six and four record, I just have to believe a virtual house cleaning will be in order as the selection committee looks to give the entire program a hot shower, likely including the dismissal of Gene Smith. 

Where I'm conflicted is how Fickell fits into the equation. It feels like that if the school does make a change at head coach, they'll end up with a guy who has a history on the offensive side of the ball meaning he could conceivably keep an existing defensive coach or two in hopes of keeping a semblance of continuity within the kids and staff. 

It's going to be fascinating to see how it all shakes out. I wouldn't be overly opposed to Fickell staying on staff but not at the expense of Heacock and I struggle to seee Fickell's ego and desire to be a head coach keeping him at Ohio State even if the new HC asks him to stay. 

Ryan Damn Shazier

The lone bright spot on defense yesterday was the effort put forth by Ryan Shazier. 

Already known to Buckeye fans for playing like his hair is on fire on special teams, Shazier got a chance to play extended minutes at linebacker yesterday after Sweat left the game with a concussion. 

Showing heart equal to that of his freshman teammate under center, Shazier responded with a seven tackle, one sack, one forced fumble performance in the 2nd half that proved he's one of the best 11 on defense. How can sit behind some of slowest LB's in recent memory became an even greater mystery after yesterday. 

He showed he's a beast in run support as he consistently shed blockers and plugged the whole. Starting the 2nd half, he made plays on both 1st and 2nd down leading a 3 and out. The Buckeye offense scored on the ensuing possession.

With OSU trailing just 17-14 midway through the 3rd quarter, Shazier again made his presence felt. He stuffed a 1st and 10 run again filling the hole with purpose following a 3rd and 17 conversion by the Boilers. Two plays later with Purdue facing 3rd and 5, Shazier blitzed off the right edge and drilled TerBush forcing a fumble. Purdue recovered by was forced to punt thanks to Shazier's exploits. 

Shazier wasn't as strong in pass coverage as he and his secondary partner struggled with handing off a couple crossing routes but he did show very good coverage on a 2nd and 10 play during OSU's 3rd defensive series of the 2nd half. 

With a record of 6-4, I see no reason why the staff should't be giving this kid more time. It's all about next year at this point and Shazier has all the makings of a future star. 

third down

The telling stat about this very average Buckeye defense continues to be its lack of effectiveness on 3rd down. 

Yesterday, a very average Purdue offense converted 9/18 of their 3rd down opportunities following up Indiana's 10/17 output on 3rd down a week ago. A combined 19/35 - or 54% - by those two bottom feeders? Unreal. I wish I had the energy to see how those teams fared on 3rd and 10+. I bet it ain't pretty. 

In building their early 10-0 lead, Purdue converted three of their first four third down tries. On 3rd and 2, a missed tackle sprung a WR screen for 13 yards eventually leading to a field goal and a 3-0 lead. On the next defensive series, Purdue went 2/2 as Sweat struggled to bring down Akeem Shavers on a 3rd and 1 followed by a poor effort by Travis Howard on 3rd and 6 allowing a 10 yard completion to the Buckeye nine yard line. The Boilers found the end zone two plays later to go up ten zip. 

Leading 10-7 with 9:43 left in the half, Purdue two third downs on their way to a 17-7 lead following Ralph Bolden's seven yard run to paydirt. The drive was sparked by Roby's soft coverage on a 3rd and 10 out route and Shavers also ran for six yards on 3rd and 1 from the Purdue 32 as Sabino was slow to get wide. 

The true 3rd down killers occurred in overtime. Facing 3rd and 4 at the 19, Shazier forced Marve from the pocket but Howard's utterly lazy effort to track Marve to the sideline resulted in a six yard conversion. It honestly looked like Howard wasn't aware of where the sticks where and let Marve coast out of bounds. Either way, poor field awareness and/or a truly uniterested effort is not acceptable and hurt the cause immeasureably. 

Three plays later, on 3rd and 12 at the Buckeye 15, Barnett and Bryant blew the coverage - both checking the same guy - allowing Gary Bush to haul in a 14 yard reception to the one yard line. The rest, as they say, is history. 

False starts and average blocking never sounded so good

I can't believe I'm about to type this: Holy smokes did this team miss J.B. Shugarts yesterday. 

Now, that's more an indictment of Bollman in multiple ways but I was craving a false start and so-so blocking from the RT spot in a way I never have before. 

Antonio Underwood may turn into a solid player - this isn't really about hating on a kid thrust into a spot he isn't yet ready for - but Shugarts was missed on a day OSU gave up five sacks and countless pressures thanks to the sieve impersonation Underwood gave us for about half the game. 

What I'm struggling with understanding is how Underwood was allowed to stay in for as long as he did. Sure, he did a decent job in relief last week but he was overmatched early and often against the significantly more stout Purdue front. 

The lack of a quicker personnel change by Bollman and Fickell was even more infuriating by the fact shifting Mewhort to RT and inserting Linsley at RG seemed to quell the uprising just a bit. Linsley actually helped open some nice holes in the run game and Mewhort fared better than I thought he might though pass pro was still an issue, just not on the scale of what we saw with Underwood out there bullfighting his way to the pine. 

Not that he'll catch a pass ever again anyway, but it seems even more certain if Stoney is needed for max protect all the time to keep the jailbreaks to a minimum. In a sign of the times, I'm missing Shugarts. 

With that last sentence, I'm going to end this week's version of Five Things and channel my inner sideline-Braxton. 


Comments Show All Comments

joel121270's picture

Couldn't have said it better...nice breakdown...I am assuming you mean keep Heacok by your "at the expense of" quote correct?

Bucksfan's picture

Purdue won the toss in OT, and deferred.  You NEVER defer in OT.  I think your chances of winning in OT as the 2nd-possession team is like 10%.  What an indictment of this Ohio State team that an opponent like Purdue would rather play defense, even when the statistics say don't ever do that!

M tots's picture

Most every team defers in OT... that way you know what you need to do (TD/FG) when you get the ball

Bucksfan's picture

Thought it was the other way around.

William's picture

Bucksfan you're thinking of NFL OT. You always defer in College OT.

BuckeyeChief's picture

Agreed. It's a little known man-law.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Bucksfan's picture

Well, I'm dumb today.

BuckeyeChief's picture

At least you didn't hit the ONLY pot-hole during a race and fall down.

"2014 National with it!!!"

LABuckeye's picture

Other than that, how did the race go?

Gobucks542's picture

We need to secure a new head coach immediately! It's bad when you get out coached by Danny Hope. These players deserve better, the University deserves better and Buckeye Nation deserves better. We have 4 and 5 star recruits on both sides of the ball and this is the best they could do?! If Tress was still here we would be 9-1 at worst. 


sharkvsghost's picture

right, because Jim Tressel never lost to a mediocre Danny Hope-coached Purdue team is West Lafay...oh, wait.

swing hard in case you hit it.

Joe Beale's picture

It wasn't just Underwood that let us down on the line. Adams had a terrible game, and even Brewster had more than his share of whiffs. Overall, the OL play was horrendous for most of the game. Shades of 2 years ago.

William's picture

The O-line has to yet to show that they're even mediocre in pass protection, in fact they suck in pass protection. 

onetwentyeight's picture

And at least back then they had a budding future NFL star in Kerrigan, so we had somewhat of an excuse. There was none yesterday. This is the same pathetic Purdue D-line that got curb-stomped by wisky. 

Buckeye Chuck's picture

Considering we're losing 3 senior starters off this line, the assumption that everything is going to be back to normal next season (regardless of who the coach is) may be premature. Looks to me like an already weak link stands to be getting weaker in the near future.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

Bruce's picture

You said: " resulting in a loss killing any chances of reaching Indianapolis......,"

I know what I'm putting out here is just about impossible, but if Wisky would lose to Illinois next week (That's the first almost impossibility) we win out, (that might be the second impossibility, but that seems more doable) and Wisky gives PSU it's 3rd conference defeat, would we be in the championship game? Or am I missing something?

From the 2007 HBO special ---->

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

I think PSU only has 2 losses in conference in that scenario.

Bruce's picture

No, they lost to Nebraska, our winning out gives them their second, and my scenario of Wisky beating them would be three.

Also, Wisky lost to us, MSU, and in my (hallucegenic) scenario, Illinois (Yes, yes, I know that that probably won't happen) So they would then have three. 

As would tOSU. But we'd have the tie breakers, right?

From the 2007 HBO special ---->

baddogmaine's picture

It pains me to say it but - our loss put Purdue in the mix too. If Purdue also wins out they are also 5-3 with the head-to-head win against us. If what you say happens and Purdue beats IA and IN I'm not sure who wins a four-way tie at 5-3. Anyone know?

JLP36's picture

That's what the Big Ten needs:  Purdue playing for the title!  They can name it the Stagg Hope trophy - maybe draw a mustache on it.


bucknut24's picture

Nice rightup Chris.

In my opinion clean house!  The coaches don't know what they are doing but then again we kinda new this after Tress left.  He hired a bunch of yes men and unfortunately the players are suffering for it.  Get a coach that will attack defenses and then a D-coordinator that will do the same.  We have talent but the coaches don't know how to use it especially Bollman.

BuckeyeChris's picture

I commented yesterday about the lack of short passes.  We now know that Bollman's defense is that our passing game lacks "precision." we are now on the second straight "must have" four/five star quarterback recruit who lacks "precision" and is incapable of throwing a "precise" seven to ten yard pass. May I ask... how can that possibly be, when (as I pointed out in a previous thread) Indiana's QB and WRs (all froshies) displayed ample "precision?"  

Seems to me our QBs lack "precision" because our coaching lacks "ability." 


baddogmaine's picture

That's partly it. Maybe a good part. Miller is certainly good enough to throw short passes. Whether this year's available receivers can run precise short routes is another question, but if they run the well-designed routes Miller could hit them at least half the time. Bollman is a Woody Hayes coach in a zone-read offense/ fast and strong defense world.

But the other reality is that we are recruiting as our potential starters "dual threat" QBs who at the time they arrive on campus are bigger threats running than passing. We are told that they're ready and the reports are inaccurate. We are not attracting the kids who from the start know how to engineer a passing attack. We'll see what happens to Pryor in the NFL but the recent track record of OSU QBs  in The League is not good because we're not getting guys with the necessary skill set (and I'm of the opinion that Pryor is going to bust as a QB because he has too far to go for a team to keep investing in him. Troy Smith, who could throw and read a defense better than Pryor, is now in the developmemental league.). Perhaps we need to change our recruiting priorities. And get someone who can help our QBs develop what throwing potential they have, regardless what mindless plays our offensive coordinator sends in.


Buckeyejason's picture

Clean house.

That's all I have to say.

Sick of seeing soft offense and defense.


BoFuquel's picture

Time for this whole rats nest to go.GO BUCKS!

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

onetwentyeight's picture

Such a shame that a talent like Braxton has to be "coached" by these incompetent ninnies. 

I guess guys like His Tebowness or Denard have more "precision" than Braxton because they obviously are able to hit their receivers on short underneath routes, screens, etc. 

For a COACH to throw his players under the bus like that to cover for his own blatant failure just pisses me off. 

I wouldn't let Walrus a local high school team. 

Buckeye in Athens's picture

I wish I could upvote this comment for its use of "incompetent ninnies" 

tampa buckeye's picture

Disagreed with fickell being done at this point. He was put into a bad position to say the least. Wholesale changes with the rest of the coaching staff other than vrabel are a must though.

Tonga Buckeye's picture

I agree.  "At this point", however a loss to PSU at the shoe, or on the road at UM will bring a total housecleaning.  Just maybe.  Hopefully? (including AD)

"go not where the path may lead, rather go where there is no path and leave a trail"

Buckeyejason's picture

Vrabel should be canned too. He has a 5 star #1 MLB recruit in Sabino, who is non existent. A Mr.Ohio caliber player in Storm Klein and a top 10 linebacker in Andrew Sweat and this is the worst Linebacking group in 10 plus years.


blazers34's picture

are you serious?  Sabino couldnt get on the field before Vrabel got here, so how is that an indicator on his coaching ability? 


And klein is the fattest LB I can remember at OSU

Jdadams01's picture

Agree about Klein. They showed a close up of him yesterday and he had a gut.

JLP36's picture

Sabino does not appear to be a natural LB.  LBs naturally find the ball.  I think his lack of natural instincts and tremendous athleticism should have led to him being molded into a roler player - passing down edge rusher and special teams hell raiser seem worth a try.

Every down that Sabino is on the field at the expense of reps to SHAZIER from here on out appears to be a horrible waste.

Klein has played well against power running teams.  His strength is between the tackles but there is a place for that.


btalbert25's picture

Sabino was the most over rated recruit I can remember.  People have been criticizing Tressel and Heacock since the kid set foot on campus.  5 star doesn't always equal great player.  Sabino just isn't that good at the collegiate level.  Maybe he peaked in high school.  Maybe he doesn't work that hard.  Maybe he just has never been able to grasp the difficult play book that an NCAA program like Ohio State uses.  It's probably a combination of the 3, but other than a few huge hits on special teams in his younger years, the guy has just never done anything.

For what it's worth, I'm not crazy about anyone on the staff and think they could all get canned and start new, but I certainly don't feel that way because Sabino still leaves a lot to be desired out there. 

btalbert25's picture

The thing about Fickell and his position is, he accepted that responsibility knowing what the situation was.  It's not like it's all be one big surprise.  Sure there have been a couple additional suspensions along the way, but for the most part he knew what he was getting into.  He also knew he was interim(whether the tag is official or not).  The team is not getting better.  They had a great win against Wisconsin.  Illinois is proving to be a pretty bad team, and the games since that Wisconsin game have been crap.  They may pull off the next 2 games, but they'll have to get much better.  The D is bad.  Purdue and Indiana were able to move the ball on them.  Both of those teams are bad. I just don't see how this staff makes it through. 

onetwentyeight's picture

No one is saying he wasn't put into a bad position. I think everyone is evaluating the job he's done knowing full well the circumstances. Nobody was expecting perfection from him, but for him to have won the job this season, he needed to show more than what he has shown thus far. And since its 2 (3 IF WE LUCKY. HI NCAA. ) games before the season is done, I think it's safe to say that he has lost his chance to win the job. 

Again, it's not like Fickell has a long, proven track record that we can also point to as well. All we have is THIS season. The man's never been a head coach for another team in his life. I don't get why we keep making excuses for him. The results on the field have not been promising.

Whether or not he was put in a bad position is besides the point. And i'm not just talking about wins and losses. THere wasn't a set amount of games Fickell had to win for him to keep the job. Yes more wins wouldve helped, but I think what everyone here, myself included, was looking for was whether or not he could COACH. Bad situation and all. And I think he flat out is in over his head. We always look unprepared, scared, make STUPID STUPID unforced errors, crappy on fundamentals (like TACKLING, something you can't blame on Bollman).

There are losses where you feel like the team played to the best of its ability and was coached up to that point. I can't speak for everyone here but who has gotten that feeling ONCE from fickell this season after a loss? 

I'm gonna start ranting again but it seems to me that Fickell, becuase of his Blank Slate record, became a sort of Empty Vessel of hope and expectation for many people. Because we had no idea what kind of coach he'd be, we automatically projected our most optimistic expectations onto him. He became what we wanted him to be. In much the same way that a lot of people treated Pres. Obama when he first got elected (disclaimer: i'm very liberal) as the Savior of this country, and then wound up bitterly dissapointed when it was revealed that he is flawed and not going to single-handidly rescue us. The same thing happened with Fickell, IMO, among the fanbase. 


But the results are in folks. Forget Nebraska or Miami or MSU. We lost to Purdue. (PURDUE!!!!!!). ANd it wasn't some fluky ass Tressl-in-midseason brainfart loss. They moved the ball on us. And so did Indiana. HELL, SO DID TOLEDO. As much as we want to assign ALL the blame on Bollman, all that's all on Fickell. 


TLB's picture

I'm not so sure about the new coach being an offensive guy.  If we get the hammer I think we will get from the NCAA, we may need someone who can coach defence just to keep games close.


Gary Patterson, maybe?

Bruce's picture

Always with the negative waves, Moriarty, TLB, always with the negative waves.....

From the 2007 HBO special ---->

TLB's picture

Take it easy Big Joe.

I'm just concerned that the little things that keep coming up are not at all helpful to the idea that it is just a few rogue players.


And one would think I would know how to spell defense.  geez.

Normal Buck's picture

Ryan Damn Shazier!

zosima's picture

Don't forget that yesterday we put ourselves in a TIE WITH PURDUE in the B1G standings, with the tie-breaker, so they would need to drop at least one more game, also.

onetwentyeight's picture

Mo wells gets me every time

rkylet83's picture

Bravo to you Roger!!!  This is brilliant!!!

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

You could assemble an all-star team of Indiana/Purdue players, and OSU would have more talent than that team.  It's just ridiculous to go into there playing bored and lackluster again.  That's all it is.  It's not about Purdue having our number, it's not about some magic voodoo in that stadium, it's not about Danny Hope being a great coach (sorry, being a great coach takes more than beating OSU) - it's about a team that twice in the last 3 years has gone in there unprepared, uninspired, and came out with a bad loss.  Funny thing is, '07 when Purdue was ranked and it was a primetime game there, we dominated.  A road game against a bad team that might be just good enough to beat you on the right day is always a trap game.  It's time to stop falling into that damn trap. 

Class of 2010.

BuckeyeFanInBoulder's picture

The only thing I would add to this is that 3rd down was noteworthy for both defenses.  Purdue's defense is (was?) apparently the worst in the B1G for holding opposing offenses to 3-and-out.... so, naturally, we started the game with 3 straight 3-n-outs.

German Buckeye's picture

So the question really is, if the administration "cleans house" like everyone seemingly wants done, who comes in?  Meyer recently said he has no plans on coaching next season (true or not, its what he publically has stated) - what other big name coaches are even available?  What other currently employed big time coach would leave their current situaton to come to us? Are we so sure given NCAA punishments forthcoming that we aren't viewed upon with having a plague and big time coaching talents runs the other direction when asked?  Not sure what the answer is, but its not so simple as to fire them all without having better options immediately available.   

Denny's picture

Anybody can come in - our house will be clean and we won't be embarrassed by the dirty laundry hanging around.

The past 10 months have been a shitstorm of ineptitude. We shouldn't just accept it because there might not be 'big name coaches' out there.


onetwentyeight's picture

IMO (possibly just because I want him to come here so bad) Urban only released that statement in the wake of the PSU scandal, when a bunch of idiot talking heads on ESPN kept tying him to that job, which was unlikely enough before the scandal (replacing JoePa, no pressure there at alll) and which is damn near impossible now. I can't see how ANY coach would want to go to that sh!tstorm they have looming. And that's all before the replacing a "legend who coached for five decades" deadl. 


Seems to me we wait a couple of weeks, back up a dumpster filled with GOLD. COINS. into Meyer's driveway, and then see what he says about coaching plans. 



dr green's picture

I hear RichRod is available. :D

hawky's picture

The best case scenario for the season (off the field, can't think of a good one on the field) would be for Gee to fire Smith and re-hire Andy Geiger for 6 weeks to find a coach and sweep out the skeletons that keep popping up under Gene Smith.  Smith must have some talents - he was respected prior to being at OSU and he is active in NCAA activities.  But he has not impressed in a single interview, press conference or action since replacing Geiger.  He is not a hint of a shadow of Geiger.  President Gee, whose job is enormous compared anything the rest of us consider a job, seems to be slowly catching on that Smith is a problem, if not THE problem. 

More likely, though, Smith will stay and he will keep Fickell.  It is the easiest and least inspired thing to do - and that seems to define his character.  Most agree that Fickell is a good guy.  If he wants to coach at this level, he should get a job at William and Mary-size school and then coach a MAC-type team. 


baddogmaine's picture

Following Nebraska there was talk about "most embarrassing game ever." Certainly any time a team lets an opponent overcome the biggest deficit for a win in 110 years that it had been playing football it has done something execrable. But if the complete collapse in the second half was sickening the result was what was expected. We were expected to lose to the Cornhuskers, the surprise was that we were in a position to win. In that regard it was tragic but by no means the most embarrassing.

Worse was what we just experienced. The statistics and facts speak for themselves - giving up 250 yards in the first half while gaining only 97 against a team that (I'm guessing) does not have even a single third team all Big Ten player; yet again having a kickoff result in the foe starting at its 40 late in the 4th; not being able to execute even the most basic of plays - the PAT. Not showing up for OT. Nebraska was in week 6 when we had no great hope for the future and were still learning (arguably). Purdue was week eleven, when the team should have known how to play basic football yet didn't: it delivered a 60 minute bathroom break (OK, 55, we did drive for what should have been the winning TD) with the B1G game on the line.

There are two games left in the regular season. If Purdue beats IA, which is essentially a toss-up game (Hawkeyes 2.5 favorites); and Indiana, who Purdue should beat handily, we finish behind Purdue in the standings whatever we do. If they lose one we still need to beat both PSU and scUM to finish ahead of them. We are now odds-on favorites to finish behind Purdue. When we lost to Purdue in 2009 we didn't in fact lose anything but momentary pride (our collapse against USC did not mathematically take us out of the championship game but we would not have been the preferred choice of pollsters who contril BCS standings). This year we gave away the B1G game and may end up looking up at the Boilermakers. That is how embarrassing that game was.

In my opinion two things now need to happen. Luke, you stepped in when help was needed but when you are unable to get Ohio State ready to play Indiana schools at the end of the season you are not the head coach for this job. End of discussion. Blame the offense on Bollman but it is the HC's job to override an assistant coach when that AC is wrong, and Fickell apparently knows too little about offense to understand that if all a team can do is run opponents will bring 9 players into the box and the run will get stuffed. Bollman clearly needs to go as well. Fickell is supposed to be defensive minded but we saw little sign of tht all year. And so depending on who comes in I would not put up a fight to retain the guy who in 11 weeks could not get 4-star linebackers, corners and safeties to understand their assignments. It wasn't just that they were getting beaten by better players or trickeration, it was that in week 11 the defense was consistently out of position and not prepared to tackle. But Heacock has given us good defenses in the past and I would not get overly worked up if he stays. Smith needs to go as well.

My second idea is far more controversial. I bet I get a LOT of disagreement over this, and it may be that some of that disagreement will make sense to me and make me change my mind. As of now, though, I think that this team is not good enough to think itself above fundamental principles of good judgment. No team is, but this year we proved that we in particular are not. At its extreme the belief that one is above the law leads (apparently, I know the defense has not yet spoken) to what happened at PSU. No children were hurt by Buckeye selfishness and stupidity, but the school and teammates were hurt. To be clear, I'm not comparing Tatgate with raping children. But wrong is still wrong, and it is time for tOSU to say that wrong is not a part of what we do. There are technical NCAA violations, and there are violations of greed and gross stupidity. There is no place for those latter things on a team with high aspirations and values. The next HC (and hopefully AD) should establish a firm rule from the start: if a player commits assaults or drives drunk or takes money for jobs not done or selfishly ignores NCAA regulations that player will be before a review board with the power to strip scholarships and kick the player off the team. It won't be automatic but players should know that that Board has teeth and is prepared to use them. Playing for the Ohio State football team is one of the greatest privileges in sport and anyone not willing to set aside for four years (or three or two) his desire to be an idiot should expect to find himself off the roster. Boom, Adams, Posey, Pryors of the world - you've been warned. Act like wearing the Scarlet and Grey means something to you and you have a very good chance of getting a pro contract with a lot of zeroes to the left of the decimal point. But if we are going to sink to 7-5 with you on the roster but not available because you could not act with dignity (I'd say act like adults but that is too low a bar) then we are going to do it without you on the roster at all, with players who wake up every morning grateful to be Buckeyes. There may be a few years of darkness before high school players realize that this will work out for them too - but we are now looking at a few years of darkness anyway.

Football is not more important than good citizenship. I have my own views of what good citizenship means, and my guess is that my view is more forgiving than most. But if you don't like NCAA rules then either don't put yourself under their thumb or get the lawyers to do the fighting. As long as you are an athlete at a Div One program you should play by the rules the NCAA establishes. Otherwise you are embarrassing an institution bigger than you are.

RBuck's picture

Heacock and Fickell were co-defensive coordinators and it worked out pretty well. I don't think Heacock would have the desire to move on and I don't think Fickell has the ego to not accept a demotion. Besides that, he has a young family here and is home grown. Also, Ficks is OSU's best recruiter.

I would hope a new offensive minded head coach would try to keep these guys on staff for those reasons and to bring some continuity to the new regime.

Long live the southend.

baddogmaine's picture

Agreed. I meant that Fickell is not a good HC fit for Ohio State. You are right that past defenses were frequently solid and if Fickell was a part of that (and if Fickell no longer able to focus exclusively on defense was why our defense has been so inconsistent) then Fickell and Heacock can be reunited to, hopefully, give us again a reputable defense. But we can not keep Fickell as HC if he gives us an ultimatum that it's HC or the highway.

sharkvsghost's picture

Didn't St. Jim Tressel go 7-5 in his first season here or did I just dream that?  I was drinking a lot back then so maybe I'm confused...

swing hard in case you hit it.

JLP36's picture

yeah, but he had Steve Bellisari to steady the ship!


baddogmaine's picture

Yes. But the year before OSU had gone 8-4, meaning that the team had questions going in to 2001, and Tressell had won four national championships at Youngstown State, meaning he knew how to coach. Last year OSU went 12-1, and Fickell has never lead a team to anything of consequence.

The problem is not really won-lost records. Given the players not available due to suspension, leaving the team and injury; given the shortness of time Fickell had to mold the team, there likely was a ceiling on what the 2011 team could accomplish. I don't agree with some posters that we would be 9-1 with JT, we were going to lose a couple of games whatever happened. The measure is how the team plays, how the team progresses. Had we started 0-5 and finished 8-0 I could see giving the guy a serious look, because that would show that he had a plan and sold it to the team. But we didn't. We beat an Illinois team that has now lost 4 in a row and likely isn't done losing yet (WIS is next for them); we did get a good win over Wisconsin, though nearly lost it because the defense that Fickell supposedly knows how to coach fell apart at the end; we needed a fourth quarter interception to hold off 1-9 Indiana; and lost to a team that, I think, doesn't have a single player on even the third all-Big Ten team. The offense is horrid, the defense is a mess, and special teams, well, a team that misses a PAT that could win a game is not a team that wants to win. We are not looking better as the year has gone on. Overall there is no sign, none, of a system being put into place. The fair question is what signs of leadership has Fickell shown? List what you want from a head coach - my list would not have Fickell's initials next to many entries.

So, it's gambling time. In Tressell's second year he went undefeated - think Fickell can do that? Or let's be fair - think Fickell can go 9-4? Or with the NCAA cloud hanging over us do you think that even 7-5 in 2012 would be a heck of a coaching job? What is the best we can hope for next year? But even that's not fair - what is the best we can hope for in the next few years? If we stay mediocre or even drop off how quickly can we rebound? If you think that Fickell, who has never lead a team to anything of consequence and by most measures has not inspired confidence as this year has unfolded, gives us the best chance of quickly becoming the Ohio State football team you want us to be then clamor for his retention.

Once upon a time there was a guy who won big at a Big East school. A Big Ten school needing a new coach lured him to their campus, and then spent three years waiting for the prior success to be repeated. It was a bad fit, and the divorce was overdue. Because scUM had better players than was apparent from Rodriguez's coaching it took one year under a new coach to return to respectability or better. Brady Hoke was not a big name - he was a guy with a passion for coaching and the Wolverines who knew enough Xs and Os to turn good players into a good team. We don't necessarily need an Urban Meyer. But we don't need a Rich Rodriguez either, even if Fickell is infinitely nicer than DickRod. We can keep the marriage intact, hoping against evidence that it will improve, or we can look for someone more likely to give us what we want. I'm in group 2.