The game did have its exciting moments, but they came early
I typically take the point of view that the win is ultimately all that matters. Whether it's by one point or 50, the parity in the game means there really are no bad wins -- just ask Michigan or Illinois fans. After all, the Buckeyes were coming off a tough battle with a physical Badger team with another tough one looming next week in East Lansing, so we'll take the "W". But if this Ohio State offense doesn't figure some things out with a quickness, we can all forget any type of good win against a team in a January bowl game, let alone any longshot fantasies of sneaking back into the championship game.
For the second time this season, the Buckeye offense was kept out of the end zone and if it weren't for the stellar job the defense turned in, Curtis Painter might have got that elusive victory over a ranked foe. As it was, the 16-3 Ohio State victory was either sad offense and great defense or two good defenses going at it, depending on which side of the Ohio/Indiana border you live on.
Once again the Buckeyes seemed to do some things well, others not so well -- they're still waiting on that complete game. But no matter how you view it at any type of meta level, from about the 14:00 mark of the second quarter it was a pretty terrible game to watch and my head hurts from having to write about it. But at 11W Inc, we strive to dissect the turds just as we would the roses, so please read on.
First, you have to give credit to Brock Spack (just as fun to type as it is to say) and the Boilermaker defense. They put together a nice plan to contain and really limit Pryor (120 yards on 28 plays) and also did a good job of tackling Beanie on the afternoon, limiting the yards he normally gets after first contact. Linebacker Anthony Heygood had a monster game with 11 solo tackles (12 total) and defensive end Ryan Kerrigan had two sacks and and another TFL, but this is the nation's 108th ranked defense we're talking about.
You can make the argument that with the defense playing well and a comfortable halftime lead, Tressel shut down shop to save some things for bigger games on the horizon. But even if you're just calling straight ISOs all afternoon, you'd like to see the line take over a little bit. A mere 11 more yards of total offense than punting yards against the league's worst defense?
From my view, the lead actor in this offensive tragedy was the line today. They surrendered three sacks and five TFLs and pretty much did their best to turn young Boilermaker linemen into superstars. There were times when they won the battle up front, but overall the effort was inconsistent at best. The team finished 4 of 14 on third down conversions and three visits inside the Purdue 25 turned into two field goals and a missed field goal, continuing the team's red zone troubles.
I'm also not sure I understand the logic of getting Rehring into the game at the expense of Browning. The sack he gave up while playing right tackle was a total bullfighter play and I'm starting to be of the opinion that the less seniors on the starting line, the better. Boone is a great quote and the press loves him and all that, but you have to start to wonder if part of the line's problem is his devil-may-care philosophy towards life. I really hate piling on these young men, but patience is running.
Some of the blame surely wrests at the feet of Pryor. The announcers touched on it, but I think it's absolutely true that he's overthinking the game right now instead of letting it come to him. Someone mentioned that Krenzel was on 1460 a few weeks ago and mentioned something along the lines of how the quarterbacks are pounded not to throw an interception so much that they don't just get out there and play. He has the tools -- he just needs to get out there and have fun, playing to his instincts.
Beanie had his 100-yard game streak snapped at five in having his worst outing since the Illini held him to 76 last year. He did finish with 95 yards on the afternoon, but his 4.3 yards-per-carry average was well below the 7.9 he brought into the game. Much of that is on the offensive line -- even when he was breaking off big runs, he typically had to beat one guy in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage -- and some of that is because of the solid tackling put forth by Purdue. There was a scare when he tweaked his injured toe a bit and was replaced by Mo Wells on the next series, but he did return to the game.
Saine did play, but surprisingly, didn't register a single carry. With Boom out, many were thinking that he would get more chances, but that didn't happen. Rasta picked up just 6 yards on 5 attempts, continuing the funk he's been in all season -- or translated, Beanie is the only running back capable of getting good yardage with this line (shows you how special Boom is going to be, as well).
With only ten total receptions among them, none of the receivers put up any type of numbers. In fact, the leader was Posey with his two catches for 28 yards. Robiskie had just two for 19 and a near miss at a bomb as he had beaten his man badly only to see an underthrown ball from Pryor that led to a pass interference call on the defense. Hartline finished with one catch for five yards and could have doubled his production if not for a pretty bad drop in the 2nd quarter. Flash Thomas saw his first significant action of the season, both on offense and special teams. He was thrown to a couple of times and finished with just one reception, but I liked the reverse to him that we saw blown up via Purdue encroachment.
The passing game was kind of weak, but it looks like Pryor is starting to look Posey's way more and more. Those two will obviously play a large role in the future of Ohio State football and the sooner they can get on the same page, the better.
As bad as the offense looked, the defense looked equally as good. The closest Purdue would come to the end zone was a 53-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half. Their other 11 drives were composed of six punts, two turnovers on downs, a fumble, an interception and a missed field goal.
The group was able to neutralize every threat on the Purdue offense and seemed to really do a great job of disrupting the flow of the Boilermaker offense. They applied pressure, got into passing lanes and broke up passes and tackled well. For the first time in what seems like forever, the defense was able to get good play out of each level. The much maligned line finished with two sacks and five TFLs, Laurinaitis and Freeman led the team in tackles with 10 and nine respectively and the secondary, led by Jenkins, flat-out stopped the Big Ten's top passing team.
Jenkins might have had his finest day as a Buckeye and finished with an interception, four tackles and another pass broken-up. He also turned in the play of the game with his first quarter block of a Purdue punt that led to Etienne Sabino's first points as a Buckeye. He nearly had a pick-six on a failed Purdue fourth down attempt in the 2nd quarter, as well. Chekwa also played well, finishing with four tackles and two passes defensed. He will be scary good next season.
The play of the line was a pleasant surprise and it was the emerging Thaddeus Gibson once again standing out. He had six tackles on the day, including one sack and two TFLs. His first half sack was a thing of beauty as it led to a fumble recovered by Wilson and with each game you can almost feel his confidence growing. I'll never understand why it took so long to get him into the starting lineup, but he's in now, so I'll stop trying. Abdallah had a rare sack ad Denlinger, Larimore and Nathan Williams all finished with TFLs. Finest outing of the season from this group.
Another week, another mixed bag from the special teams. The blocked punt was a brilliant -- especially considering the team had looked for an opportunity to come after it if Purdue lined up on the left hash and Flash's opening kickoff return proved that the Buckeyes can field an effective unit there. But Pretorius missed another mid-range field goal and there was the delay of game penalty on the fake attempt early on. Can anyone tell me why we have a backup kicker that's two for two, both from 49 yards or more backing up a guy that's hitting about 80% of his shots from closer in? I heard about the trajectory and style points, but isn't it worth a shot?
Lawrence Wilson will have an MRI on Monday... This is the first time in four attempts that Terrelle Pryor did not lead the team to a touchdown on their opening series of the game... Curtis Painter has now directed 23 straight possessions that did not reach the end zone... For the 9051st straight game, the Buckeyes lost the sack battle to the opposing defense... The blocked punt for a touchdown was the first time Ohio State has done that since A.J. Hawk scored on one against Northwestern in 2005... How many false start penalties have we seen out of this line this year -- should that not fall back on Bollman somewhat?