Northwestern Week Presents Challenges for Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on September 30, 2013 at 5:00p
Pressure on Kain Colter will be a must Saturday night.

On Saturday night, following Ohio State’s biggest win of the season, a 31-24 triumph over Leaders Division rival Wisconsin, it took head coach Urban Meyer more than five minutes to even mention the victory. Instead, he was trying to take in the news he just received: senior safety and captain Christian Bryant was lost for the season with a broken ankle.

That Bryant’s injury occurred on the game’s second-to-last play was cruel. But the team can’t spend the week moping. They’ve already said they’ll rally around their leader and patch up the secondary.

Once again, on Monday, Meyer spent the beginning of his press conference lamenting the loss of Bryant. The emotion Meyer displayed Saturday night had subsided with the reality starting to take hold.

“We had a shot to our team. We still feel that way,” Meyer said. “It’s complicated. Last year, I probably would have put my hands all over that, because I didn’t really know Everett Withers very well. But he’s an excellent football coach. I have great confidence.”

Meyer met with his defensive assistants early Monday morning and again in the afternoon to discuss the next move at safety. Pittsburgh Brown, Vonn Bell and Tyvis Powell were all mentioned as possible replacements. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said as of now Brown would be the guy to step in.

The Buckeyes are taking on a Northwestern team that can successfully get playmakers in space, forcing defenses to make tackles in space. It’s an area Ohio State has struggled in recent seasons. Last year’s Indiana game and three weeks ago at Cal being the latest examples.

But Northwestern’s defense also struggles against offenses that run an up-tempo system. The Wildcats will be faced with stopping the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the week in Braxton Miller.

“I thought his preparation for the game was one of the best he’s had,” Meyer said. “His practice was one of the best he’s had as far as Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday, and I thought his accuracy on the deep ball was outstanding. I thought he did well.”

Miller threw a career-high tying four touchdown passes and ran for 83 yards, passing Cornelius Greene as the top rushing quarterback in school history. Miller did not grade out well, though, according to offensive coordinator Tom Herman. Mental mistakes were the main culprit in the grading process, Herman said.

Northwestern has the luxury of getting the Buckeyes after a bye week. And this isn’t your typical football team from Evanston. The Wildcats are undefeated and 14-3 in their past 17 games. College GameDay is in town for good reason.

“Some people say bye weeks don’t matter,” Meyer said. “You’ll never hear me say that. Bye weeks are very important. As a matter of fact, if I were scheduling, I would always try to put it against a [good] team. You deal with injury and fatigue in the middle of the season, and then obviously back-to-back [ranked] opponents, especially when you’re playing against a team like Wisconsin, a physical game.

“We had to be very cautious on how we operated yesterday. We have to be very smart on how we do Tuesday and Wednesday. Today, I’m getting a feel for how our guys are as they’re going through the training room and getting treatment. It is what it is. It’s part of the season.”

It won’t be October until tomorrow, but fans are still getting antsy with the rankings. Ohio State is third in the Coaches Poll, which is part of the BCS. But the Buckeyes have fallen since the pre-season, when they were second behind Alabama.

Saturday was an opportunity to roll up some points on national TV with all eyes turned to Columbus. When Ohio State opened up a 31-14 lead, it appeared a blowout could be in order. Conservative play-calling took over instead.

“I heard something style points,” Meyer said. “We’re not really concerned about that – we won the game.”

A familiar scene each season in the Big Ten is running backs getting worn down. Having multiple backs is a welcome amenity for the league’s head coaches. Interestingly, though, Jordan Hall, who rushed for more than 400 yards in the season’s first four games, had but one carry against the Badgers.

Meyer was discouraged with the lack of involvement for Hall. Herman took the blame, saying he fell into old habits as a play-caller, a reference to last year’s ground-and-pound tandem of Miller and Carlos Hyde. The re-emergence of Hyde didn’t come as a surprise. The disappointment centered on Hall’s disappearance.

“Jordan Hall has got to be involved,” Meyer said. “That was a decision we kind of made. We thought and we knew it was going to be very hard to run in there the way they play their defensive line. Those are our top two backs, and we are working on that now.  So I want to make sure we get Jordan Hall involved.”

Said Herman: “We failed him a little bit. It certainly wasn’t by design.”


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Seabass1974's picture

Give any team two weeks to prepare and they have a good shot to do some damage. I hope our Buckeyes are ready for this one. I wasn't even worried about Wisconsin. I'm extremely worried about this game though. I hope by the end of Saturday there was no reason for me to worry. Please give me a blowout!!!

The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender. - Woody Hayes

fear_the_nut70's picture

I predicted 11-1 with a loss to NW prior to season beginning.  If anything, I am more worried now.  In addition to two weeks to prepare while we come off of an emotional home win, GameDay is there and CB is out.  I did think we could load the box and stuff the Wisky running game.  I am not sure if we can stop NW from dinking and dunking us to death, and now with oine of the best players and a leader in the secondary out, this goes code red. 
Having said all of that, these are the kinds of games that true champions win.  We will find out what this team is made of.

Buckeye419er's picture

Just another good reason/excuse for why we played conservatively against Wisconsin. Why put all your cards on the table and why push your players to the limit when you have what I would consider a more important game coming up the following week. Yes I understand that all eyes were on them but they will be again this week. Not to mention College Gameday will be on hand. 

Early bets on who Corso picks??

There can be only one

Hovenaut's picture

'Cats.....just because Woody/Earle annually torched LC's Hoosier teams (he went 0-10 against the good guys from 1973-82). 
I'd be curious to know Corso's record on picking the Buckeyes when GameDay has either been in Columbus or elsewhere with Ohio State the opponent. 

NGBuck21's picture

Hope this helps answer your questions.

dwcbuckeye's picture

Wow.  Just went through his picks and noticed he picked Notre Dame every time.  I think his record would be a bit better without those selections. 

geoffrsc's picture

Seems like the older one is the more one is enamored of Notre Dame. 
I like Corso because he's kinda funny. Not because he knows what the hell is going on anymore.

Hovenaut's picture

Thanks NG...very interesting.

Buckeye419er's picture

Apparently he's only picked OSU 8 times and been correct. If I didn't miss any. He's picked against us 5 times and been wrong. He's picked against us 16 times and been right. Or something close to that haha.
Sounds like he has a 24-5 record in picking OSU games. We may want to him to pick us lol.

There can be only one

doodah_man's picture

ala last year...Jordan Hall...TO LINEBACKER!

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

Him1stftballl8er's picture

I hope Bryant's injury motivates our boys even more. These back to back games will tell all about how good we are this year. If we can weather this storm, I'm confident we'll be in Pasadena on January 6th. 
Ron Tanner was listed as backup FS but it sounds like the coaches may not be considering him? I am confident in Tanner, Pitt, Powell or Bell. What will be really difficult to replace is Christians leadership as everyone knows. It also could really light a fire under our current defensive leaders to step up even more. This is a tight group of guys for sure. 

The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools. 

Thunderbrow's picture

I just looked at the schedule and Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State and Purdue all play the Buckeyes after a bye week. That's four opponents in a row. Granted, the Bucks get Iowa after a bye as well, but damn.

I mean everyone heals people, comforts people, learns from you, learns from me, whatever.

holtzy's picture

I was wondering how many teams had a bye week before playing us, so thanks.  It seems like everyone schedules a bye week before they play OSU...I guess I was wrong.  But four is still quite a few.

Oldschoolbuck's picture

Perhaps NW can put up points, but I truly believe they are going to get run over when they're on D.
Give 'em a heavy dose of El Guapo, mix in a good amount of Hall, a dash of XBrax, sprinkle in some Dontre (I feel he's going to house one Saturday) and add a good measure of TEs; bake with some special D-line outstandigness & improved LB play, and the game is not in doubt!
Not as worried about the 'Cats as I was Wiscy, actually, given the struggles the LBs had (prior to last Saturday anyway), and the fact Bucky always plays us tough. I was pleasantly surprised by Grant & RDS last weekend. If we can keep some pressure on the QB & stay fundamentally sound with tackling, we should be ok.
Having said that, this is NOT the doormat NW team many of us fondly remember from the 70s & 80s! Fitzgerald has done a stellar job there.

bigbill992001's picture

Its hard to get a lot of pressure against dink&dunk.    So far, it looks to my untrained eye like teams just run our outside guys past the QB and let the QB step up in the pocket because theres no pressure up the middle.    Classic pocket play.

OurHonorDefend09's picture

Stunting the DE's inside on an X game would help a lot. Also, don't give their WR 10 yards of cushion. I hate that shit.

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.

Woody16111's picture

Style points don't matter if you lose - Coach is right about that BUT the Coach's Poll gave us 2 points for that win against Wisconsin. Can you believe that ? When was the last time beating a ranked team only got you a bump, barley at that, of 2 points ? 
We better start going for some style points otherwise we are going to be undefeated and watching Oregon in the Title game. 

"There is nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

Completed the "Double Skully" 18-August-2015

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

Its plays like this is why I love new fav player!!

woody4ever's picture

I love me some Braxton too!

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

That block was my favorite play of the game.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

In his press conference on Monday, the last thing Meyer talked about before leaving the podium was how he loved the block and how Braxton had been "chirping" about it all day.  I bet EVERY player on that team loved seeing a guy that was out for 3 weeks due to injury give himself up to spring his running back for an extra 5-10 yards.  Selfless play by XBRAX...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

bigbill992001's picture

I cant believe that kid hasnt took one to the house yet.   Daaayum!

kdogg72's picture

I guess I am in the minority this week, I am not worried about this game. I think we will be able to run the ball against them, which opens up everything. I do not expect a blowout, I think it will be a close game. But I think we are clearly more talented from a personnel standpoint, and I believe our coaches will have as ready to win the game. The best thing about being 6-0 is the chance to go 7-0. 

buckskin's picture

Urban commenting about style points:  not concerned; focused on winning.  Thanks Urbs.
They also knew they did Hall wrong and didn't get him more involved.  Hope that gets rectified. 

CUBS's picture

I'd expect a more efficient passing game from NW than Cal showed OSU which is where the Cats can put up points. Turnovers will be key and NW can create those if Braxton forces things. Venric Mark is a fantastic RB and should cause problems for OSU if the Cats establish a solid passing game. Tyler Scott has been a beast on the DL so it will be interesting if he continues to have success this week going up against the OSU O-line. Lot to look forward to.

OurHonorDefend09's picture

Thanks for the insight, Cubs. I played against Tyler Scott when he was a MLB in HS. He was absolutely unblockable. I hope Taylor Decker is ready for the challenge at RT. I'm not so worried about Venric, as OSU really limits big plays out of RBs. Breakdowns in the secondary are what scares me most about NW's offense. I think OSU will have to "out shoot" them to take this W back to cbus.

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.