Sunday, September 6, 2009

OSU vs. NAVY ... 'THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Ohio State's 31-27 victory over Navy on Saturday should have been billed as the 'The good, the bad and the ugly.

THE GOOD ...

Terrelle PryorOSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor looked much improved in Saturday's opener against Navy, throwing the football with more confidence than he did as a freshman a season ago.

In the first half, Pryor was sharp going 10-of-13 passing for 127 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown strike to Dane Sanzenbacher on the opening series.

Pryor distributed the ball very well in the first half, connecting with six different receivers. Perhaps his finest drive was his final one in the first half, when he went 4-of-4 passing (all to different receivers) for 47 yards. He capped off the drive with a two-yard TD run.

Pryor stated that he feels good where he is in his progression as a passer.

"I felt good," Pryor said. "It's good to get back into Ohio Stadium. I'm just trying to get the ball to my receivers. Whatever my footwork and all that stuff does, I'll work on it during the weekdays in practice. Out here, I'm just worried about winning the game."

It wasn't all peaches and cream with Pryor, though. But, we'll save that for the "Bad" section below.

Brian Rolle and Kurt Coleman — Even though the defense looked suspect at times, mike backer Brian Rolle and safety Kurt Coleman were incredible all game long.

Coleman looked like he was in mid-season form on Saturday, co-leading the team in tackles with nine, while recording a forced fumble and an interception — two plays that could be seen as game savers.

Rolle, who also led the team with nine tackles — including one for a loss — actually did make the "game saver" late in the fourth quarter, when he picked off a two-point conversion pass from Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs and raced the distance of the field for the nail in the coffin.

Coleman said that the close call will help the team next week against USC.

"Even though they scored and we got two points when B. Rolle intercepted it and took it back, I think a lot of guys got some good experience from the close game. That's something we haven't had going into the big games. So, this is great game for us to take steps forward."

THE BAD ...

ATTITUDE — If the Buckeyes have any aspirations of knocking off No. 3 USC and getting over the 'big game' hump, they must change their ways — and fast.

After jumping ahead of the Naval Academy by 10 points on Saturday, OSU head coach Jim Tressel decided to insert backup quarterback Joe Bauserman into the game for Pryor midway through the second quarter. That sent a bad precedent to his squad. Tressel's decision basically said "well boys, no worries — we have this game in the bag."

It was evident that the players on the team let their guard down, and if there is one thing we can learn from the U.S. service academies is that you should always be on the defensive (and offensive).

This attitude is one of the primary reasons why the Buckeyes have had such difficulties against the elite programs. Teams like Florida, USC, and Texas bring it hard for 60 minutes and don't let off the gas until the clock looks like a bag of donuts.

"I don't concern myself with our guy's effort," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "Our guys gave excellent effort to prepare, to come into the game, but we're going to need to get much, much better. We know that."

Knowing it and doing it are two different things, and to disagree with Coach Tressel, the effort — which was there at times — wilted after he inserted Bauserman in the second quarter. You could see it in the player's faces and by the way they carried themselves on the sideline. The fact is, they ended up winning because they were able to turn the intensity off and on like a light switch because they were going against Navy, a team that has tremendous heart and desire, but lacks in athleticism and talent.

Also, replacing Pryor got him out of a good rhythm. After going 10-of-13 for 127 yards and a TD in the first half, Pryor looked uncomfortable and a little indecisive in the second half, going 4-of-8 for just 47 yards, no TDs and an interception.

If they try to play with the same attitude against USC, the outcome won't be as favorable.

No Jaamal Berry — Nothing against OSU running backs' Dan Herron or Brandon Saine, both are fine players who work hard, can get you some yardage and help move the chains. But, it was evident on Saturday that neither back has that extra gear, the one that can take it the distance.

True freshman, Jaamal Berry, has that extra gear. And yet, he never got any action.

Berry is a player that can be a compliment to Herron and Saine, and can be the home run threat out of the backfield that the Buckeyes have been missing when going against the speedier, elite teams around the country. I'm not so sure that he will be effective at all against USC, being that he has never touched the football in a collegiate game.

AND THE UGLY ...

Play Calling — The Buckeyes play calling was still too much on the conservative side. Sure, it can be said that the Buckeyes didn't want to show USC anything. However, the OSU coaches didn't see anything either, as in — will this work, will that work?

Trying new schemes against a powerful defense like USC just seems a bit dangerous, am I wrong?

Look, great teams don't care if the other team knows what they're doing, they just line up, snap the ball, bust guys in the mouth and dare you to stop them.

As for going for it on fourth and one in the second quarter and not converting, instead of just going for the field goal?

"You know, I probably let the emotion of wanting to score — and wanting our offensive guys to knock a hole in it — get the best of me, and when we didn't make it, what went through my mind? I was hoping the next voice on the phone wasn't (OSU AD) Gene Smith's because you know, it was a poor decision."

No, it wasn't a poor decision to go for it. It was poor play call. You have a 6-6, 240-pound quarterback. Let him plunge it through to move the chains. But instead, they gave it to Herron on a simple dive play and the Midshipmen read it out and blasted through the OSU front.

Which brings me to the final "ugly" ...

The Offensive Line — How can a unit that averages 300 pounds per man, be pushed back by a defensive front that averages 260? The Buckeyes o-line did open some lanes for the runners (166 yards on 38 carries, 4.0 avg.), but when going up against a much smaller and much less talented defensive front like the Midshipmen's, the numbers should have been double that.

The interior line needs to get nasty, and the tackles must get the footwork in step or the USC d-line will make their life — and in turn, Pryor, Herron and Saine's — a living hell.

BOTTOM LINE ...

The team's overall attitude and philosophy needs reform and they need it this week. A close call to Navy can be forgotten with a victory over the Trojans.

However, if they don't change dramatically and end up losing big to Southern California ... well ... that phone call from Gene Smith could be coming sooner than later.