Urban Meyer is a perfectionist. There’s no denying it. He wants it in himself and demands it out of others. It's why he’s been so successful. Anything less than your absolute best is unacceptable. That’s how Coach Meyer runs his program. That’s also where quotes like this come from:
“When you score 40 points out of almost 460 [yards] or something like that and you’re disappointed, that’s a good sign. And the bad sign is we’ve got a long way to go.”
Just think about that for a second. I mean really THINK about it. During the Jim Tressel era if the Buckeyes scored 40 points and racked up nearly 500 yards in the process you would be giddy. Couple that with the defense only giving up two TDs and you would have been downright ecstatic. But that’s not where the bar is anymore. The promise of an Urban Meyer spread offense coupled with two incredible recruiting classes has taken that measuring stick and propped it up to heights not seen in Columbus.
Meyer knows it, and even embraces it. That’s why he was “disappointed”. The inevitable by-product of a coach who expects as many points as possible is a fan-base that gets upset when those points don’t come on EVERY SINGLE DRIVE. To those people…take a deep breath, relax then really listen to yourself. You’re upset because OSU didn’t score 100 points. My how far we’ve come.
With that said, there were things that need to get better. Here’s my take on the areas that must improve.
The Scarlet and Gray were able to rack up 261 yards rushing, but a lot of those yards came via three plays: a Jordan Hall 49-yard TD run, a Hall 37-yard TD run and a Braxton Miller 41-yard rumble. Overall the unit looked average though there were a few variables playing into the unimpressive effort. Khalil Mack will be the best LB the line will face all year. He wreaked havoc on players like RT Taylor Decker, rolling up 2.5 of the Bulls 4 sacks, 9.5 tackles and an interception return for a TD. In addition, the unit didn’t have center Corey Linsley for most of the day playing him only 16 downs in order to get him back to 100%.
There were positives. Holes were open for Hall for most of the day, and the absence of Linsley allowed players like Jacoby Boren to get valuable playing time. This group will continue to gel as the season rolls on and 4 sacks in a game might not happen again all year.
Cutting down on turnovers will certainly be a point of emphasis for Meyer and his coaching staff heading into week two. The Bulls were able to rack up 13 points on two straight Buckeye turnovers in the second quarter. Freshman Dontre Wilson started the party by fumbling at the OSU 44, then on the Scarlet and Gray’s next drive Miller threw a pass right into the arms of a waiting Mack who showed off some impressive speed for a 47-yard pick six. Fumblitis would strike again in the third as Miller was sacked for a 7-yard loss, and coughed up the ball. Luckily the Buckeyes were able to recover but it stalled the drive and led to a punt. Erase those turnovers and OSU potentially wins 40-7. That’s the difference ball security makes.
Growing Up Fast
According to coach Meyer OSU played 10 new players on defense last Saturday. That’s a lot of youth and inexperience on that side of the ball. At times it showed. Players like Armani Reeves were picked on for the greater part of the day, and when Shazier went down guys like freshman LB Trey Johnson were forced to come in immediately. The good news is, these kids are incredibly talented. The better news is they’re going to play, Urban Meyer doesn’t red-shirt. Meaningful minutes for the young-guns on both sides of the ball only means the team will get better. There will be growing pains, but it’s for the best.
NO MORE SUSPENSIONS
Last but certainly not least, this team simply needs to stay out of trouble for the remainder of the season. The Buffalo game was supposed to be the culmination of one year under the Meyer system at full-strength. Unfortunately because of a few bone-headed decisions, the Buckeyes were missing some key players that certainly would have made a difference.
To start, the return of Bradley Roby next week will be huge. The defense was operating without their best player (the injury to C.J. Barnett didn’t help much either). The absence of Roby allowed Joe Licata to make a number of quick short passes, getting the ball out early and negating the defensive line’s rush. With Roby in, those throws don’t come as easily.
Rod Smith will also return for the second game of the season. Had he been in the contest on Saturday he may have been the team’s primary tailback with Hall working out of the H-back position. However the Buckeyes choose to use the tandem next week, one thing is clear: Smith is a viable weapon that makes the Scarlet and Gray better when he is on the field.
Lastly, Carlos Hyde will return after the game against Cal. We all know what he can do, and his presence will be a calming force, especially in close games where three and four yard pick-ups between the tackles make all the difference. The team absolutely could have used Carlos after the Miller interception. Having a dependable back at times when nothing else seems to be working is something every team craves.
All-in-all the game was a standard opener. There were moments of brilliance as well as head-shakers. That’s why most teams play winnable games in their first week; to work out the kinks. The game-tape will reveal no shortage of coachable moments and that’s how teams get better. The Buckeyes didn’t score 100 points, but they also didn’t have to. They won by 20 and didn’t show much of their hand in terms of play-calling. Exactly what you’d want in a team’s first game.