Tuesday, November 2, 2010

MONDAY NOTES: NITPICKING OHIO STATE'S 52-10 WIN OVER MINNESOTA

(AP Photo/Paul Battaglia)
COLUMBUS — Whenever a team dominates an opponent like Ohio State did to Minnesota on Saturday night, it's difficult to find something to criticize or look at and say 'hey, this problem needs to be addressed.'

But as we all know this is Ohio State football and whenever the Buckeyes steamroll an opponent we always have to nitpick a little, and during Saturday night's 52-10 thrashing of the Golden Gophers there was one play that some can't let go of — especially OSU head coach Jim Tressel.

Midway through the second quarter — and the Buckeyes ahead 17-7 — sophomore tailback Jordan Hall fielded a punt, juked the first couple defenders and raced 70 yards down field before being pushed out at the Minnesota 3-yard line.

No, Hall not being able to finish the final three yards on the brilliant return isn't what we're going to "nitpick" — it's the ensuing play that has garnered ill-criticism.

Facing a first down at the 3-yard line — and the Buckeyes looking to drive in the dagger — Tressel called for a play-action pass which looked like it was supposed to go to fullback Zach Boren in the right flats of the end zone.

Being pressured heavily by Gopher defenders, quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn't get the ball to Boren in time and when he did get an opportunity to throw it to the Buckeye fullback seconds later, the ball landed directly into the hands of Minnesota cornerback Ryan Collado, who successfully sniffed out what the OSU signal caller was trying to cook up.

Sure, in the grand scheme of Saturday night's victory that play really didn't mean anything, but don't tell Tressel that because the usually mild-mannered coach admitted after the game that that play stayed with him, even after his team went onto to win by six touchdowns and his quarterback totaled 277 yards and three scores.

"I thought Terrelle did a good job," Tressel said following Saturday night's win. "He came up with some big passes. But as coaches we think about the things we could've done better, and the one where we were down on the 3-yard line and we throw an interception, you're going to lose tight games if we do something like that ...

"I have a little trouble with that one."

Pryor understands his coach's sentiments and explains what happened on that second quarter miscue.

"It's stupid stuff like that. I've got to play a better game from a smart stand point," Pryor said. "I don't know if it was exactly a mental error, I think I saw him open and I had no clue — I mean anytime I'm down in the redzone you have to get rid of the ball very quickly so you can avoid a pick or a situation like that — but I saw Boren pop right away and I had some guys on my legs and I thought it would be a nice little chest pass. But all of a sudden the guy came.

"So it is what it is."

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM ... During Saturday night's win against Minnesota, OSU junior tailback Dan "Boom" Herron ran for a career-high 114 yards and a touchdown, and he did it all in the first half.

Some may have wondered why Tressel decided to sit Herron in the second half instead of letting him pad the stats after his incredible performance early on.

Well, the Buckeyes coach knows how important Herron means to the running game, and what the running game means to the rest of the season and their BCS bowl game and Big Ten title chances.

Keeping their best runner healthy for the stretch run is priority No. 1 for the Buckeyes.


"Knock on wood, we've been fortunate that Boom has stayed healthy," Tressel said. "We missed him for four or five games in the middle of last season. I think anytime going into a season we try not to over burden anyone with the number of carries and reps and those kinds of things because it's a long season. 

"So 15 to 17 carries, I would like to think he could stay healthy with those kinds of numbers. Jordan (Hall) and B. Saine and those other guys are good backs too, but there's no doubt, Boom is special."

TIMEOUT! ... Ohio State's bye week couldn't have come at a better time.

Not only does this week give the Buckeyes a chance to rehab some of their many injured players, but it also gives them an opportunity to be without the game. As the old adage goes ... 'absence makes the heart grow fonder.'

Pryor agrees that being off this week will only make the team hungrier to play.

"I think we can go about it a couple of ways," Pryor said of the bye week. "From healing our bodies to getting a head start on the academics and school. And it also gives us a chance to miss the game for a week, you know, when we finally get that feeling it gives us a ferocious attitude because when something's taken away from you a little bit we just got to be like 'dang!' 

"We have to just sit back and say 'the game's going to be gone for a week. Let's come back against Penn State ferocious.'"

The No. 11 Buckeyes have three games remaining following the bye — home to Penn State, then on the road to Iowa and back to Columbus for the regular season finale against Michigan.