Dave Thurman (3:06 pm)
Okay…who saw this coming? A week after an uninspiring performance against a poor Purdue team, the Bucks headed to East Lansing and played with passion and purpose, totaling destroying the 20th ranked Spartans.
On Monday I ate lunch with a group of guys that includes one other Buckeye fan, and as we talked about the rest of the college football season he dejectedly said, “Ohio State will get beat this Saturday,” as everyone nodded their head in agreement. I took umbrage to his comment confidently promising a Buckeye victory, reminding him that no team in the conference sets up better for us than MSU. And it’s true. They like to run the ball between the tackles forty times a game and that plays right into our strength at linebacker. Still, I never expected 45-7. More on that in a minute.
Now, before you get ready to paint the town red in raucous celebration, may I remind you of some wise advice I that was passed on years ago: “When everything seems to go poorly things are rarely as bad as they appear and when everything goes right, things are probably not as good as they seem.”
Against Purdue the Bucks were better than they showed, because Tressel buttoned things up and relied on defense and special teams. Once Sabino scored on the blocked punt, Mr. Sweater Vest gambled that Purdue couldn’t catch up if given six quarters unless they were handed free points off of turnovers, so he played classic “Tressel Ball,” which accomplished the goal irritating as it was. In addition Beanie was battling the flu bug, and so the offense looked terrible.
Fast forward seven short days, and the same offensive unit came out with a spring in their step. Pryor looked much more confident, and the play calling in the first half was excellent, putting him in situations where he could complete simple passes, and use his wheels on the outside. My favorite play was the first down play action pass to Hartline. I was thinking, if ever we throw a bomb off of play action this is the perfect time, and presto, Pryor when back heaved it downfield, and even though the ball was slightly underthrown, Hartline had so badly beaten his man that it resulted in a 56 yard gain.
Of course some fans are disappointed that Tressel resorted to conservative play calling in the second half, but considering the lead, and the way the defense was playing, it made perfect sense. And, even when MSU had eight in the box, Beanie was still getting tough first downs as the line did their best job of the year, so even if the Spartans hadn’t self destructed there was no way they were coming back in this one.
Now, before we get too excited let’s admit that it was one of those days when everything seemed to go Ohio State’s way. Yes, the team made positive things happen, but MSU played terribly, and even when the Bucks made mistakes (such as Small’s fumble) the ball bounced their way.
So much for the analysis, let’s take a moment to hand out some well earned accolades for some excellent play:
-Malcolm Jenkins is flat out on his game, and looked like a Thorpe Award Winner, covering, tackling, intimidating, and forcing a huge fumble that led to a Thaddeus Gibson touchdown.
-James Laurinaitis was all over the field, and Hoyer will be seeing him in his dreams, or should I say, his nightmares. For those of us calling for Baby Animal to be more aggressive and to hit with evil intentions, well this was a pretty good answer.
-Kurt Coleman closes like no safety in recent memory and hits like a ton of bricks. He also made one of the most athletic interceptions I have ever witnessed. Wow!
-Beanie Wells is not 100% and can’t cut or accelerate the way he would like but I still wouldn’t trade him for any other runner in the nation.
-Ray Small, minus the fumble, was impressive returning punts, and special teams were special for the second week in a row.
-JT had a good game plan, and put Pryor in winning situations, something that had been lacking the week before.
Hats off to each of the above, as well as the entire team and staff!
Now, one negative comment (to make me feel better if nothing else):
Brandon Saine is done in my opinion. Last year he came in like a lion, but he has become a lamb, literally afraid to hit the hole, and is absolutely useless at this point. How someone with that much size and speed has digressed to this point amazes me, and I hope I am wrong, but I don’t ever see him being a Big 10 back.
Well, bring on Penn State. The Nitany Lions are really good and the Bucks will need their “A” game, but at least they move into this showcase contest with confidence, and I have a feeling they may just pull it out!