September 19, 2011

Three keys to the game

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Offensive is a word that comes to mind to describe the Ohio State offense.

The quarterback and receivers' performance Saturday night in primetime left much to be desired. However, the defense's inability to make tackles also has been highlighted.

It was a concern for Ohio State's defensive coaches a week ago and the problem crept up again against Miami. Many of the missed tackles were due to players attempting to arm tackle instead of locking someone up and driving them to the ground.

Inexperience is one reason for the poor display. Ohio State has a number of young guys playing significant minutes on defense. But that isn't the lone reason. Veterans such as Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino were also missing guys.

Several of Miami's big running plays were the direct of result of poor tackling. The Hurricanes converted nine of their 15 third down plays into first downs.

In general, Sweat struggled throughout the game. It was an underwhelming performance for the senior who has been so impressive throughout his Ohio State career. He suffered a minor injury in the first quarter, but he looked slow out there. Miami's running backs were blowing right by him. In contrast, freshman Ryan Shazier provided a bright spot.

Despite the poor defensive effort, Ohio State sits at third in the Big Ten and 14th in the country in total defense.

MILLER TIME: And we're back at square one talking about the quarterbacks.

Joe Bauserman turned in one of the most forgettable performances in school his history Saturday, finishing 2-of-13 for 13 yards. He still hasn't thrown an interception, but it is clear Bauserman is never going to take a chance on making a play. You can't win games if that is your quarterback's game plan.

Some have compared the situation with 2008 when Todd Boeckman played poorly at USC and was benched in favor of freshman Terrelle Pryor. Boeckman's biggest problem, though, was the lack of an offensive line. He became a sitting duck and the Buckeyes needed a mobile quarterback to compensate for the poor line.

The line this season isn't the problem. It rests solely on the quarterback. The lack of big play receivers doesn't help, but there is enough talent on the field to produce touchdowns.

The coaches' handling of the quarterbacks, and Braxton Miller in particular, does not make much sense. To leave him on the bench against Toledo because the situation didn't warrant him playing but to insert him in when trailing 14-0 at Miami does not add up.

Miller did not perform much better, but he was clearly overwhelmed at times. Combined with Bauserman's performance and losing, expect Miller to be the starter against Colorado on Saturday.

He is the future and 2011 has become a lost year. Miller can make plays with his arm and his feet. While he will go through growing pains, taking the lumps in a season when you aren't going to contend for a national title makes more sense than throwing him in when expectations are through the roof.

Unlike 2008, I don't foresee a situation where losing the locker room is a possibility. Boeckman led Ohio State to a national title and was still a solid quarterback. While Bauserman is well-liked, he hasn't produced enough on the field for there to be much friction among the players.

SECONDARY THOUGHTS: Jacory Harris and his penchant for throwing interceptions was discussed for an entire week leading up to Miami's game with Ohio State.

The inconsistent senior didn't disappoint Buckeye Nation as he tossed two crucial interceptions with Miami leading in the first half.

Harris' first pick came with Miami leading 14-0. He followed up the next possession with another floater.

The Buckeyes' inability to push the ball across the goal line, however, negated the turnovers. Two chip shot field goals from Drew Basil is all they had to show for them. Instead of tying the game at 14 and gaining momentum, Ohio State still trailed by a touchdown.

C.J. Barnett and Bradley Roby were the recipients of Harris' passes.

Roby's interception was especially big as it came with Ohio State trailing 14-3. He was able to redeem himself after being out of position on Miami's second touchdown. Roby never knew where the ball was and Harris lofted the pass to Allen Hurns for an easy touchdown.

Roby said after the game that he should have turned and that it was a stupid mistake.

Roby was exposed again on a deep pass to Tommy Streeter that allowed Miami to kick a field goal before the half.

Barnett, meanwhile, was able to get some justice on his interception. In last season's blowout win against the hurricanes, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.

Ohio State had a glimmer of hope late in the fourth quarter when Christian Bryant stepped in front of a poorly thrown ball by Harris. He couldn't come down with it, though, and Miami breathed a sigh of relief. There was nothing but green grass between Bryant and the end zone.


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