Sanzenbacher flies by Eagles for a record setting day. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Sometimes you sit down to blog about the previous Saturday’s game and it just flows. Sometimes it takes a few more days to let the game sink in before you can really begin to put feelings into words. Most of the time for me the latter has come after a game where the Buckeyes could/should have played better and let one slip away (Penn State 08, USC last year, Purdue Harbor) – which makes it even more strange that I felt the same feeling (although in a completely different way) this week when the team dialed up a beat down to the tune of 73-20 on Eastern Michigan. It really comes down to me having to come to grips with my disbelief of what occurred. And I can honestly tell anyone that I never, not in a million years, would have ever thought a Jim Tressel coached team would put 73 points on the board. Ever.
What more can you say than 73 points. Had never seen the Buckeyes score like that. Woody didn’t do it. Cooper never got higher than 63. This was highest total since 1950 when Wes Fesler (who?) was the coach and they beat Iowa 83-21. It is especially weird because sometimes when I see eye popping scores I would normally roll my eyes and think “running it up”. On this point I feel two ways about last Saturday’s game. For one – the backups were in most of the second half and put up 21 points of their own and two – if we want to stay in the hunt for the NC we at some point have to put up big scores like another team (cough Boise State cough) will. I mean this was a weekend where a couple Big Ten teams went large in the scoring department after all (Wisconsin 70, TSUN 65 ). If Ron English or anyone else has sour grapes about the score then maybe they should think twice about EMU accepting $850K paydays to come into the Shoe for beatings. Or I guess EMU could try to get players that can stop our third and fourth string players from scoring.
As ridiculously amazing the offense was the defense was not its’ dominant self with the Eagles being able to move the ball and put up 20 points on what was for the most part the starting unit. It even seemed for a couple drives that the play action pass to the TE on the seam and over the top to WR’s was there for them anytime they wanted it. Granted Chekwa was on the sideline and his backup Corey (Pittsburgh) Brown was completely victimized on one score, but Torrence was also beaten and Johnson was suspect in his help over the top. You could tell Heyward and Rolle were both mad at the execution defensively. To be sure the secondary needs to get healthy and the youngsters need to grow up fast. Tressel said today that Howard is back this week which helps, but he also said Chekwa had back spasms and Oliver has a sore hamstring. So it actually was really great to get this lesson now so the backups know that anything can happen and they have to be ready. My guess is that between Fickell, Heyward, Rolle and Larimore that there is enough veteran nastiness to make it a point to raise the intensity and focus for this week.
How ridiculously amazing was the offense? Well other than the 73 points there are equally as amazing individual stat lines – Pryor went for 22/26 for 224, over 100 on the ground and 6TDs.. One on the first offensive series when he busted lose on a scramble for a 53 yard score, four through the air and even catching a TD pass from Hall. It was sick. Or how about the day Sanzenbacher had hauling in all four of Pryor’s TD passes for a record tying day for most scores by a receiver. Now you can put Great Dane in the same class as Terry Glenn. Think about that. Oh yeah how could you not notice Hall with a TD pass and TD catch and Berry breaking loose for 67 yards and a score – these youngins have skills and seem to run the ball with more energy than both Saine and Boom, who seemed to shine more as receivers on Saturday. For what the team seems to lack in quality depth in the defensive backfield they seem to have a wealth of it offensively. I mean even Bauserman and Guiton both scored too through the air and on the ground respectively. Eastern just had no answer no matter who was on the field. As for calling the Hall halfback pass to Pryor? I look at that as Tressel accomplishing two things – first seizing the opportunity to practice the play in a game situation with nothing on the line and secondly – doing anything to keep the game interesting for his players (and fans) at that time.
The only deceiving aspects to the utter offensive dominance in my mind was the ineffectiveness on the ground of Saine and the overall offensive line play. I think every Buckeye fan on the planet held their breath after Big Mike Adams did his best matador impression as the EMU defensive end blew by him for a backside hit to Pryor’s legs. I just don’t get this guy – all the physical tools, and we hear about his change in attitude, he even played decent against the Canes – so why does he look so lost against EMU? Somewhere deep down there is a tremendous Buckeye left tackle inside him, I just hope he can get it together consistently at some point. Not just to pile on him either – this is the second game against a lesser opponent where we could not run the ball whenever we wanted. I don’t want to hear this “they put eight men in the box” crap – on this team we should have been able to shove them around more. Granted Tressel is calling many more pass plays which could be due to his trust in Pryor more than the inability to run the ball – but come conference play you have to think we will need to be able to grind out yards – so let’s hope we can.
With Saine I just wonder if he is 100% healthy. It is weird because it is like last year – start the season good and then kind of disappear. Hopefully like last year he will rebound and have a great end to the season (think Penn State, Iowa, TSUN and Rose Bowl) which I would be totally stoked about considering the depth we have at the position. But much like the line play – you would think by now the consistency would already be there – he is a senior after all and his ranking as #5 back in this year’s NFL draft won’t be there for long if he continues to put up 3 carry 11 yard performances like he did against the Eagles.
And what would a Buckeye blog for this season be without mentioning special teams. The biggest win here is no scores were given up and nothing was blocked. Barclay was perfect on PATs and his lone FG. The coverage units were not exactly air tight but on gave fans a couple sphincter tightening moments where we thought something might break. The big star (special teams player of the week) was Basil though – after taking some serious beatings in articles and blogs about wimping kickoffs to the 10 yard line he managed to put three or four of this 13 kicks in the end zone for no return and got in on a couple tackles. Good stuff.
So now the team and the Buckeye Nation turn their sites on conference play. The days of beating up on the little guys are over and the target on our backs just got that much bigger. Time to get down to business on the road with Illinois this Saturday. Regardless of what everyone in the country thinks – Big Ten conference play is no joke.