Not Fade Away

By Ramzy Nasrallah on October 30, 2012 at 1:00p
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It is unnerving as an opposing fan to see a Penn State head coach actually wearing a headset during a football game.

I KNEW EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING!Don't you forget about me. Don't don't don't don't.

Bill O'Brien was intently focused on everything that was happening on Saturday night to his Nittany Lions. He wasn't aimlessly pacing the sideline with his back turned to the action. After plays, he wasn't asking any assistants what had just happened.

Best of all for the Nittany Lions, he wasn't motionlessly "coaching from the box" behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses.

It was O'Brien's eighth game ever as a head coach and there he was, delegating where appropriate, coaching to his strengths and acting the steward for a significantly outgunned football team that is only going to cede strength to opponents like the Buckeyes over the next several years in purgatory.

And still, Penn State's in-game frustrations have been greater over the past dozen seasons than they were Saturday night. 

Long before Jerry Sandusky's name was ripped out of the past and thrust back into the spotlight Joe Paterno was a smoldering shell of his former coaching self, holding Penn State football hostage in a grotesque display of tenure abuse.

He groomed some terrific assistants. He also took the nepotism route with Jay Paterno and retained Mike McQueary, a graduate assistant he never intended to retain until the former QB stumbled unwillingly into job security in the locker room showers over a decade ago.

Even at its high points this century, Penn State had been playing shorthanded football with Paterno cashing in on decades of excellence and cruising into a retirement that he knew never existed. 

O'Brien simply gets to maintain the good parts – the championship foundation and the framework of the program that were expertly constructed by JoePa. Forsaking morality at the expense of image won't happen again. Penn State will emerge from its rehabilitation period primed to compete for conference titles.

On top of that, as long as O'Brien is in State College his program will be well-positioned to attract talent beyond just Pennsylvania kids who grew up dreaming of playing in Beaver Stadium and the handful of others who live a comfortable driving distance from campus.

Penn State is lucky to have him, just as Ohio State is incredibly fortunate to have Urban Meyer.

It must be unnerving as an opposing fan to see an Ohio State head coach refusing to misallocate his resources at the expense of stubborn habits.

Meyer did not concede anything on Saturday night, continually working to get his best players in best position to score points. And they did, ringing up more against a formidable Penn State defense than anyone else has since...the last time it faced Meyer in his last game at Florida.

Best of all for the Buckeyes, once Ohio State was in clock-killing mode it didn't telegraph three Maurice Wells-ish handoffs into guaranteed futility: It dialed up a forward pass to a tight end running a route against a Penn State secondary that had been selling out to stop Braxton Miller all night.

And that decision landed Jake Stoneburner in the end zone holding the football.

It was Meyer's ninth game as Ohio State's head coach and there he was going for the kill, coaching to his strengths and acting the hunter against a significantly outgunned football team that he should only beat more convincingly once his Buckeyes climb out of self-inflicted roster and NCAA purgatory.

I KNEW EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING! EVERYTHING!A less-plodding way to achieve his greatness.

And still, Ohio State's recent football frustrations have never seemed more distant than they were Saturday night.

Long before Jim Bollman was unwillingly thrust into play calling duties last season, Ohio State's offense was a smoldering shell of what a competently-run offense is supposed to look like, routinely ranking in the 60s, 70s and 90s in the FBS despite being loaded with a grotesque display of NFL talent.

Jim Tressel groomed some terrific coaches. He also took the crony route and retained subpar assistants who since their dismissal from Ohio State have either taken demotions or are no longer coaching, in the FBS or anywhere else.

Even at its high points this century, Ohio State had been playing shorthanded football with players like Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr and Troy Smith being coached down into the 98th-ranked offense during one of their seasons together. 

Its most loaded offenses couldn't breach the top 20 – or get close. Meyer's work-in-progress is currently ranked 45th among FBS offenses. That would rank as one of the very best compared to the previous era. And it's over 60 places higher than last year's catastrophe with largely the same roster.

Meyer simply gets to maintain the good parts – the championship foundation and the framework of the program that were expertly constructed by Tressel. Forsaking basic compliance obligations for the convenience of handling minor issues in-house won't happen again. Ohio State is already emerging from its rehabilitation period primed to dominate the conference for years.

On top of that, as long as Meyer is in Columbus his program will be well-positioned to attract talent beyond just Ohio kids who grew up dreaming of playing in the Horseshoe. 

Ohio State is lucky to have him, just as Penn State is incredibly fortunate to have O'Brien.

Football isn't just about integrity or championships; it's also supposed to be fun. These guys both took over programs that historically can't complain about too much, except maybe that. 

Both men should eventually be able to prove that all of that can be possible. Fortunately for Ohio State, Meyer looks like he might be able to prove it immediately.

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