Buckeyes Come Up Large in Red Zone
Ohio State's struggles in the red zone have been well documented but hopefully yesterday put an end to said struggles. In five trips to the red zone, OSU registered 4 touchdowns settling for just one field goal and that one probably shouldn't count considering it came in the 4th quarter with the Buckeyes up 35-7. Further, once inside the 20, the field goal drive started with two Brandon Saine rushes so to expect a TD was probably unrealistic.
Pryor definitely looked more comfortable in the red zone especially on the second TD when he found Robo in the back of the end zone as the trailing receiver on a roll out to the right sideline. Poised and upright, Pryor zipped a perfectly thrown ball against the backside of the coverage to put OSU up 14-0. This particular trip was especially rewarding in that OSU capitalized after an interesting chop block penalty (Rehring/Brewster) forced the Bucks into 1st and Goal at the 21 yard line.
With Penn State on deck, an offense with some red zone confidence is huge.
Offensive Line Makes A Guest Appearance
As with the red zone offense, it's no secret the offensive line has smelled like hot garbage for much of the season and here's to hoping yesterday's performance will serve as a springboard to facing the Lions versus being an anomaly in a season of inconsistent performances.
The run blocking was simply dominating, especially in the first half, as OSU racked up 158 yards rushing (5.4 ypc) with 3 touchdowns with Beanie blowing up for 105 yards (18 rushes) and two touchdowns. The pass blocking wasn't quite as effective but Pryor was still able to hit 7 of 9 for 116 yards.
For the game, OSU totaled 216 yards on the ground, a week after they managed just 222 total yards and zero touchdowns against Purdue.
As with red zone offense, the challenge now is whether or not the Buckeyes can achieve some consistency rushing the football with Penn State coming to town for a night game throw down in the 'Shoe.
Beanie Freaking Wells
Looks like the big fella is as healthy as he's gonna get and Tressel appears poised to ride the Beanie Express the rest of the way. Yesterday, Beanie racked up a season high 31 carries, good for 140 yards (2 TD) giving him 402 yards in his last 3 games (5.36 ypc).
In fact, the 31 carries are tied for second most in the last year behind his record breaking 39/222 performance in the Big House last November and the 31/221 steamrolling he put on the Spartans last October.
He's averaging 25 carries per game during the last three and if he gets at least that many against PSU, you gotta like the Buckeyes' chances considering what the D is doing lately. Speaking of which...
Defense Continues Emergence
The Silver Bullets just might be back...Of course, it's no coincidence that the D is stepping up thanks to an improved game plan (props to Heacock) employing more man to man coverage coupled with an improved effort from the front four.
Gibson (Fumble Ret TD), Heyward (2 tkl, 1 TFL), Larimore, Worthington and Abdallah helped hold Javon Ringer to a season low 67 yards (worst since 48 against PSU last Nov) and pressured MSU starting QB Brian Hoyer into a dismal 5/13 day with just 27 passing yards.
Even more important was how the line was able to get pressure without the aid of a blitz allowing the linebackers to roam unblocked.
Laurinaitis was the main benefactor and took full advantage keying on Ringer all day long. Little Animal played his best game of the season registering 11 stops (1.5 sacks) and he knocked Hoyer out the game with a big shot on a roll out.
Ross Homan also took advantage of open space recording nine stops including two behind the line of scrimmage.
Of course, the biggest hat tip the defense is the five forced turnovers with two of those brought back to the house in the form of a Gibson fumble return for 69 yards and a 48 yard fumble return out of Hines.
Lastly, how dominant was this group in the decisive first half? In eight first half possessions, the D forced four 3-and-outs, two turnovers and two five-play drives that totaled just 23 yards. Oh, and first half time of possession: OSU 19:22, MSU 10:28. Dizzamn!
Throwing the Coaches A Bone
While I think the staff has earned every bit of criticism tossed their way this season, you gotta give some love to Heacock for finally, apparently, getting the D back on course.
It took far too long but the decisions to get Gibson on the field and later to finally employ a little more man blitz coverage, especially in third and medium situations, have both helped the defense step up the aggression and create turnovers (9 in last 3 games).
Offensively, I still think Bollman is a dinosaur but the o-line definitely put forth an effective effort yesterday and I liked Tressel's first half play calling. The 56 yard pass to Hartline on FIRST DOWN (?!) was a great call signaling Tress was going for the throat leading 14-0 with great field position (own 43). That call was certainly more palatable than the two Mo Wells runs Tress dialed up last week against Purdue when a Jenkins pick gave OSU the ball at the Boiler 30 with the Bucks up 10-0 in the second quarter. Is someone learning from past wussy-play-calling? I'm hoping so.
As for the second half, I had no problem with Tress pounding the ball and running clock considering how the D was playing. It wasn't exciting to watch the nine play, 15 yard drive early in the 3rd quarter with OSU up 28-7 but Tress took 6:14 off the clock with the nine straight rushing calls. Totally the right thing to do.
I was then glad to see once there was no doubt MSU could come back, Tress allowed Pryor to get a couple pass attempts off during the 4th quarter FG drive. And how bout those passes to Brandon Smith? Kudos to Tress for yesterday's in game strategy.