Notes on Ohio State win over Toledo

Ohio State football
2011 season – game II, vs Toledo

This isn’t the type of Ohio State team who you expect to compete for a national championship. There are probably going to be games that they lose this season, but throughout today’s tight victory against the University of Toledo, I found myself thinking, “Fickell cannot afford to lose this game.”

Certainly I’m happy Ohio State was able to hold on and get the win this afternoon. At the same time, this team has given us a host of major concerns going forward:

The passing game, the running game, the offensive line, a blocked punt, etc.

With quarterback Joe Bauserman, the sharpness and poised passer we saw a week ago was replaced with a man who looked so terrified to throw an interception that he threw a half dozen passes that weren’t catchable to his own receivers.

As the offense struggled through the first half, I kept waiting to see Braxton Miller enter the game. Not to replace Bauserman for good, but just to switch things up. When it got into the fourth quarter, and Bauserman was still struggling, it was clear that he was going to be the horse Ohio State went with for the whole race and that Miller wasn’t going to play.

I can’t remember ever seeing a game where a quarterback overthrew so many receivers. As badly as Bauserman looked at times, as the game progressed, I think there was value in allowing him to learn from this game. Making a knee jerk reaction and benching him would not have been good for his confidence, and cutting and running on Bauserman in favor of an unproven, true freshman would risk major consequences. Chiefly: if Miller isn’t ready in terms of his development, there is little else to go with in terms of alternatives.

On a positive note, I think that the defense did a lot of good things today. The style of offense Toledo runs always presents difficulties for Ohio State. They reminded me a lot of a team like Northwestern. One of the strengths of that style is that it picks up a lot of yards. When you throw a short screen to a receiver whose already about to the line of scrimmage, if he can make a tackler miss, it can be really easy to pick up 4 or 5 or 6 yards.

Toledo was able to break a couple of really long plays, but they struggled to sustain drives. While they seemed to be able to run screens at will for much of the game, their running game struggled even more than Ohio State’s ground performance.

Even though Toledo had nearly 300 passing yards on the day, neither of their quarterbacks was setting the world on fire (screens aren’t exactly the most complicated passes to throw in a passing arsenal.)

While the screens were successful, in the face of defensive pressure, both quarterbacks Toledo used struggled to pass down the field. At times, they were reckless with forcing throws. They were arguably fortunate to have only had one interception.

I think the defense will be fine. I thought against a spread offense, where it can be difficult to get consistent pressure, the line was effective. Secondary coverage was also very strong.

Considering how weak the offense looked, I feel like much of the problem came down to line play. While the play calls looked vanilla, I don’t think that the plays themselves were always bad. It was their execution which was lacking. As lackluster as Bauserman played today, for me, the line is a greater concern.

Carlos Hyde didn’t even look like the same player he was a week ago, but the poor offensive line production and cluttered running lanes weren’t helping the situation.

This was a concern I had before the season started. If this offensive line struggles, and it causes problems for the running game, and it forces more passing situations with inexperienced quarterbacks throwing to inexperienced wide receivers, the offensive will continue to have games where they are painful to watch.

Certainly have to give credit to Toledo for playing a great game.

The anticipation for next week’s game against Miami does leave me a bit uneasy. There are some adjustments on offense which must be made. While I know Miami isn’t a great team, they have a lot of very skilled athletes, and it’s going to be a difficult road test.

Lastly, as a Bowling Green graduate, I also enjoyed this game because it gave me another excuse to hate and to root against Toledo. I felt like the only thing that this game taught us is how horrible Akron is.