Another Loss on the National Stage

The #8 Ohio State Buckeyes football team had another disappointing loss on the national stage Saturday night losing to the #3 USC Trojans 18-15 at home at the Horseshoe in a record-setting crowd of over 106,000 fans.  This is the Buckeyes sixth loss in a row on the national stage against a top 5 team.  There are three things I can conclude from this game. 

The first thing I can conclude from the game is the poor play calling and coaching by Jim Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman.  On the drive at the end of the first quarter, the Buckeyes have the ball on 2nd and goal on the USC 2 yard line and the play is to give the ball to Herron to run up the middle two times in a row with no gain and 1 yard gain.  How many times did the Buckeyes run that same play throughout the game and Herron only gain a yard or get stuffed at the line of scrimmage?  Now it is 4th and goal on the 1 yard line, instead of opting to go for the touchdown like USC did in the same scenario on its first possesion of the game(and it succeeded), the Buckeyes chose to kick a field goal instead to make the game 10-7.  Also do Tressel and Bollman realize that Pryor isn’t a natural dropback passer and they need to make plays better suited for him to roll out and scramble more?   There was another poor coaching call that was very critical in the fourth quarter.  Coach Tressel opted to play it conservative by punting the ball instead of deciding to try and kick the 53 yard field goal to make the score 18-10.  Kicker Aaron Pettrey has the leg to kick a 50 yard + field goal.  Last week he made a field goal from about the same distance against Navy. 

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The next thing is poor execution by Pryor and the offense.  The defense played above average in the game, however, Pryor and the offense did not.  Pryor even admitted that he takes the blame for it.  He had a sub-mediocre game completing less than half of his passes for 11-of-25 for 177 yards 0 touchdowns and 1 interception.  Pryor couldn’t see any receivers open and he couldn’t even see Brutus open on the sidelines.  The 1 interception he threw was crucial because USC almost ran it back for a touchdown.  USC capitalized and scored a touchdown off of the turnover that Pryor gave to them.  The Buckeyes had first and goal two times in the game and could not execute with a touchdown on the two series, instead they kicked two field goals.  In the second half, the Buckeyes offense only scored 3 points.  If the offense executes, the Buckeyes win this game by at least 10 or more points. 

The final thing is that OSU needs to change its coaching and strategy to win these games on the national stage.  The Buckeyes played, but they didn’t play to win.  If the Buckeyes play to win against a top 5 team, they need to take more risks like going for the 53 yard field goal and going for the touchdown on fourth and goal at the 1.  In other words, they need to be a little less conservative with the play calling against top 5 teams.  Some of the coaching changes could be bringing in a new offensive coordinator or changing the offensive plays to better suit Pryor and his natural athletic abilities.  There is a Bucknuts discussion poll question, “Do you approve or disapprove the way Jim Tressel is handling his job as head coach?”  Out of 82 respondents, only 34% approve of the way Jim Tressel is handling his job as head coach, while 62% disapprove of the way he is handling his job as head coach.  Jim Tressel’s conservative style of play may get him wins against other teams, but when it comes to the top competition on the national stage he needs to alter his conservative style of play.

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