Zoom led the stampede…………. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan
Damn it felt good to see the Buckeyes back in the Shoe for some real game action. Even more so considering that along with a rep for some questionable play in big games the teams of the Tressel era have been known for sputtering out of the game often times against lesser opponents, so it was nice to see them come out and set the tone as a #2 team in the country should with a dominating performance that sent the Marshall Thundering Herd crawling back home after a 45-7 whipping.
The vast majority of the entire game was pretty much awesome. Pryor looked sharp going 17/25 for 247 yards and 3 TDs. On the ground it seemed as though Marshall had committed a spy on him most of the game to guard against him taking off. His footwork has dramatically improved and there is a significant amount of zip on his throws. He was able to challenge the defense vertically and of the eight incompletions I saw four that were the right read decisions, TP was just low or long on the throws. There was really only two that I remember as an instance where he could have done something different (although the one long throwaway after the bobbled snap would have been as good as a punt had it been picked). The only other critic of his play is that on some of his runs he tried to make a big play and lost yards instead of just getting tall and stretching forward for a couple, and no more taking on linebackers with the throwing shoulder please. Stiff arm okay, shoulder bad. Outside of those few things it is easy to gush about how much better Pryor looked throwing the ball – footwork, poise, touch, eyes downfield – very nice to see. Obviously when you have a QB go big the receivers also have big days and Sanzenbacher and Posey delivered in a big way going for 113 (1TD) and 41 (2TD) respectively. Stoneburner got in on the action with three grabs for 41 yards too (so we CAN throw to the tight end after all). He has big body and is going to wreak havoc in the hook, curl and seam areas. On the ground Saine looked very much the #1 back with 103 yards on 9 carries with 2 TDs – one coming on a short run to the right where Boren sealed the end and the other a 45 yarder up the middle. Boom added 44 and Jordan Hall seems to be the #3 being the first in after Saine and Boom had sat down for the day. Berry got in late and had some nice runs (7 carries for 80 yards) – so we will see how the season plays out there. The line did a nice job all night long – giving up only a couple sacks ( one due to good coverage) and only a handful of plays went for little or no gain. No one really stood out as awesome or terrible – which is a good sign when the line functions well as one cohesive unit. Very nice.
Overall the offense came out and did what it had to do – dominate the trenches, no turnovers, get points off opponents turnovers, and rack up yards on the ground and through the air. Only briefly in the second quarter did they see to lose some intensity and execution suffered slightly. If not for some penalties and a very kind spot in one instance some drives would have stalled. But hey – anytime a Jim Tressel team goes out and scores 38 pts on offense you gotta give a big O-H!
Defensively the Silver Bullets shut out the Marshall offense and only once were the Herd ever really threatening. Early in the second half they had some success in the spread with short passes behind the linebackers and moved the ball. But Chekwa stepped up with a big play and forced a fumble which the Buckeyes recovered. It was really the only offense Marshall had all night. For most the first half where you had to ask yourself if the Herd had any first downs. It was domination. Rolle even put forth an encore performance of last season’s opener with a pick six – dude’s got skills and attitude – fitting that he wears #36. Everyone else played good too but it is hard to single anyone out – Solomon Thomas filled in well for Williams aside for a horrendous roughing the passer penalty. The secondary was kind of a mixed bag in my mind. Moeller was everywhere in his return to the field after a year off. He is an amazing blitzer and had a monstrous hit on the Marshall QB and also ran down a couple of backs which was pretty impressive honestly. Hines will be fine at safety and Chekwa played decent and snuffed out the only real drive with his forced fumble. But that drive did seem to expose the newbies in the secondary a little. So they will have to tighten that up this week for sure with the Canes coming to town.
Speaking of areas that need to be tightened up – special teams. The blocked FG which Marshall took back for their only score was just awful, and let’s not forget the partially blocked extra point. Both times we just got overpowered right up the middle. Kickoff coverage had the great hit by Bell which caused a fumble to start the game but then gave up a 62 yard return. We still seem to be hampered by short kickoffs from time to time and even the extra points didn’t look right down the middle. You know between the field goal and kickoff coverage Tressel will be after the special teams unit to get their act together. On a positive note punts (the Vest calls it the most important play in football) looked okay averaging 40 yards – not bad.
And most importantly there were no significant injuries. Tressel did say that Dorian Bell, Carlos Hyde and Corey Linsley got “dinged up” – all are backups but Bell is the one who made the hit that caused the fumble and Linsley is our backup center. But the key players came out unscathed and ready to meet up with the U next Saturday. Miami had a similar outing against FAMU and Jacory Harris matched TP’s day almost exactly.
This week it gets serious.