Five Things: Northwestern

By Chris Lauderback on November 9, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Rory Nicol flashed great hands hauling in two passes, one for a TD. (Photo: Rex Arbogast)

Pryor Bounces Back
We know the annual beat down of Northwestern is becoming almost as certain as death and taxes but it was still nice to see Pryor bounce back mentally in response to "The Fumble" two weeks ago.

Pryor completed 9 of 14 passes for 197 yards and 3 TD adding another 33 yards rushing. Even in downright nasty conditions (winds gusting at 30mph) TP made some of his finest throws/plays of the season.

On the opening drive, Pryor rolled out, saw Hartline get behind his defender and launched a 44 yard strike to convert a 3rd and 16. The pass itself wasn't perfect, but it wasn't a floater either and in the gusting wind, it was a hell of a conversion.

Perhaps Pryor's best throw of the day was a 22 yard missile over the middle to Nicol on 3rd and 10 to open the 2nd quarter. From our endzone seats, we could see only a small window between defenders and Pryor placed it perfectly. Amazing throw. The conversion set up Beanie's 55 yard bob-and-weave TD scamper following...wait for all too common false start penalty.

Again looking for Nicol, TP's six yard TD strike after rolling out and avoiding at least three tacklers was a thing of beauty. He rolled/scrambled with a purpose and kept his eyes downfield while tip-toeing the sideline before throwing slightly across his body for the touchdown giving OSU a 31-10 cushion late in the 3rd quarter.

The toss to Nicol was set up by another Pryor 3rd down conversion three plays earlier when he found Hartline for 46 yards on 3rd and 8 setting up OSU at the Northwestern 22 yard line. On TV replays the pass looked a little under thrown but from our endzone look, it looked like Hartline wasn't all that open but the defender was looking back for the ball so Pryor put it on his back shoulder almost like a fade-stop type throw. Whether on purpose or not, the ball was put in a great spot.

Overall, you have to be happy with Pryor's performance considering he had just two TD passes in the last five games before recording three today. His TD/INT ratio now stands at 9/3 on the season. Oh, and not that QB rating really means anything, but he put up a 253.20 today.

Love Those 3rd Down Conversions
Thanks to Pryor, the Buckeyes converted 7/10 third downs through three quarters and 8/13 for the game. The drive extenders helped wear out a Wildcat defense that surrendered 244 yards rushing (5.4 ypc) helping OSU equal their best scoring output of the season.

Looking at those ten 3rd down plays, Pryor went 5/6 for 134 yards to convert five first downs. He also picked up two long conversions with his feet running for 15 yards on a 3rd and 13 before busting a 21 yard run on a 3rd and 16.

The only failures were a sack on 3rd and 4 thanks to a collapsed line on OSU's second drive of the game, an incompletion on 3rd and 3 and a two yard rush on 3rd and 10 on the possession following Northwestern's first fumble.

With OSU leading 14-7, that "drive" (5 plays, 14 yards) appeared doomed from the start as Tressel seemed hell bent on kicking a FG even though the Buckeyes took possession at the NU 29 yard line. To not even try a pass on 3rd and 10 in that situation was simply a poor and overly conservative call but certainly not surprising since he had already called four consecutive runs.

Anyway, still a great day for OSU in the third down conversion department. We'll take it.

Speaking of Play Calling
Considering the weather, we had no real issues with the play calling today outside of the aforementioned lack of killer instinct shown after the gift fumble. If you weren't there or couldn't tell on TV, we can confirm it was crazy windy out there. Plus, the wind was swirling when it wasn't gusting diagonally across the field.

That said, OSU was highly predictable on first and second down thus putting themselves in constant third and long situations. In the first half, the Buckeyes ran a total of 14 first down plays - 11 of those were runs.

In fact, Tressel didn't call a pass on first down until OSU had a 17-7 lead. On that drive, he dialed up back to back first down passes, both incompletions, before calling another first down pass which was the 15 yard TD to Robo giving the Buckeyes a 24-7 lead with a little over a minute left in the half.

Bottom line, we're willing to give Tress a break for the first down predictability considering OSU played with the lead all day in crap weather. Win the safest way, right?

First Drive Craziness
So, were you all spazzing out when Northwestern peeled off their 13 play, 67 yard drive to answer OSU's opening march making it 7-7 late in the first quarter?

Luckily for us, the anger building inside our bodies helped generate some much needed warmth as we watched Kafka run the ball 10 times against a Buckeye defense that seemed confused an unprepared for exactly what Kafka had done the week before. Of course, the ultra wet personal foul call on Laurinaitis only fueled our rage but seriously, it was incredibly frustrating to watch the D look so confused as Kafka ran 10 times for 35 yards and the score.

To their credit, the D did make the necessary adjustments as they held Kafka to 48 yards on 19 carries the rest of the way. In total, Northwestern averaged just 2.7 yards per rush though that number is helped by OSU's 4 sacks netting -39 yards.

Random Babbling

  • A fake punt? Be still my heart.
  • How 'bout Nader Abdallah? Dude had eight tackles and deflected a pass in probably his best performance as a Buckeye.
  • Beanie's performance (28/140, 2 TD) moved him into sixth place on the all-time OSU rushing list. He now stands at 2,999 career yards.
  • It was great to see Boom Herron get back in action after a month off thanks to a nasty concussion suffered against Wisconsin. He finished with 33 yards on 6 carries including the 16 yard TD jaunt for OSU's final TD. With Beanie doing his usual of coming off injured at least twice every game, this team needs Boom to reestablish himself as a productive backup RB. It's November so you can bet we'll see the offense continue to lean on the rushing attack and we don't need to see Saine or Rasta wasting those carries.
  • Lastly, a word on Ryan Field. I can't say whether or not the NU fans were hospitable because I didn't actually run into any with the crowd comprised of 75% OSU fans but I can say that I'm amazed Ryan Field is even allowed to be open considering I think there's less than 15 toilets in the whole place. Well, make it 30 if you count the port-a-potty's strategically placed to make it virtually impossible to navigate the concourse. Not cool. Especially when you are forced to pound Crown and 7's to keep warm.