Just One Tweak: Episode II

By Jason Priestas on February 7, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Holy BuckeyeHappy thoughts

We have a spirited and growing community of readers that do a great job of adding to the running conversation. To recognize a few of these, we have asked them each to write a guest post about what they'd tweak to ensure the Buckeyes got (yet another) shot at redemption in ‘08. Joe Fox got things rolling last week and the Jack Park of 11W, GoBucks89, weighs in today.

On January 30, 1994, the Dallas Cowboys trailed the Buffalo Bills at halftime of Super Bowl XXVIII 13-6. As the teams came back on the field for the second half, the sideline reporter relayed to the announcers in the booth what Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson had told his players at halftime. He told them to go after the football and create some turnovers. As the Bills were moving the ball on their first possession of the 2nd half, the Cowboys forced a fumble and ran it back 46 yards for a touchdown. The rest is history.

What does this have to do with OSU football you ask? Well, I think it's the key to our success in finally breaking through to a BCS championship next season. I was asked to provide one thing that I would tweak, and so my answer is: tenacity and ball skills. I know what you're saying: "Hey you idiot, that's two things." Well, let me explain how they go together. One problem I saw in the game against LSU, and it has been there for at least three years, is that we don't force a lot of turnovers on defense. Another thing that was obvious in the LSU game is that our receivers didn't go aggressively after the ball when defenders were close by. We can get away with that against inferior competition, but against the top teams, we need to win every battle for the football. Remember "Holy Buckeye"? That was Michael Jenkins one-on-one against a defender and he was determined to get that football. Remember Jenkins again converting 4th-and-14 in the championship game? Same story. Look at the replay and you'll see Jenkins both times aggressively creating separation (some would say pushing off) so that he would get the ball and not the defender. That is what we needed, and didn't get, against LSU. Think about Robiskie dropping that TD pass, leading to a blocked FG attempt. I'm telling you, Jenkins would have had that one. Think about Ray Small losing the one-on-one battle on LSU's key INT in the 2nd half. I know the ball was underthrown, but he needs to go after that football aggressively and at least keep it from being intercepted.

The same is true on defense. It seems for the past 3 years or so our DB's have had stone hands. We got an INT against LSU, but even that one was almost a drop. And it is absolutely inexcusable that Austin Spitler missed blocking that punt when he was in perfect position to get it. Go after the football! Why does James Laurinaitis have more INT's over the past two years than any of our DB's? He's tenacious. He goes for the ball. Think about the key play against Texas in 2006: JL knocked the ball loose at the 2 yard line and we took it 50 yards the other way. Go after the football! Who wins the battle for the football? The one who is more aggressively trying to get it. Tenacity will pay big dividends for our players on both sides of the ball. If our DB's get more aggressive, then suddenly we will be praising them for their "ball skills". The one leads to the other, so they are really two sides of the same coin. Win all of the battles for the football and you probably win the game. Remember MoC against Miami stealing the ball away from Sean Taylor? That should be our model for all of the next season. Be aggressive. Be tenacious. Get the ball, and get the win. This is one thing that Coach Tressel could learn from Jimmy Johnson.