There is joy in Columbus again. Nobody is threatening suicide this week. The "Fire Jim Tressel" chants and websites are quiet at least for a little while. And Terrelle Pryor can actually go to class again without wearing a disguise. What a difference a week makes!
If you saw the game you know that it was actually fun to watch as the offense not only showed up but had over 500 total yards. The line blocked well, Pryor made a lot of good decisions, Posey caught two bombs for touchdowns, and the Buckeyes actually had a multi-dimensional, high-powered attack.
That's not to say that all went well. Early on OSU moved the ball but couldn't convert drives into points. Another Pettrey miss on a short field goal (how is he better from 40+ than from 30 and in?), a failure by Posey to hold onto the ball on a couple of plays that could have been six, and an interception in the endzone at the end of the half meant that the Bucks had 278 yards but only 7 points in the first half. But they did show the ability to have a long, sustained drive, something that has been missing the past couple of weeks. And they didn't panic when a few drives stalled.
A few things stood out to me:
Pryor looked more relaxed. He obviously went through an awful week facing nearly universal criticism, but Tressel and the team seemed to rally around him and Pryor came out with more poise and seemed to have fun. He didn't look like he was carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. For the most part his decisions were good. He picked the right times to tuck the ball and run, but also chose the right times to throw the ball. My favorite play of the game may well have come late in the first half, when Pryor eluded the rush, ran to his right and looked downfield. Nothing was there, and he wisely threw the ball out of bounds rather than force a throw or take a sack. That's progress.
The offensive line did a good job. Especially in pass protection. Early on they didn't open many holes for Saine, but Pryor had plenty of time to throw the ball. I realize that Minnesota is a weak defense, featuring a line that is as weak as any in the Big Ten. But I was still pleased to see the o-line provide solid pass protection, and eventaully begin to open holes for the backs. Cordle at left tackle seems like a big upgrade from Adams.
Minnesota is an undisciplined team in disarray. Recievers dropped easy passes, special teams fumbled numerous kickoffs, defenders were flagged for silly penalites, and players talked back to their coaches. Some people this week accused the Buckeyes of being a team marked by discord. Maybe there has been some, I don't know. But Ohio State looked poised and unified on this day and Minnesota looked like a team that had imploded.
Jermil Martin has got game. I know it all came late after the outcome was no longer in jeopardy and Minnesota's defense was tired, but this kid ran hard, and looked like an old-fashioned Buckeye power back. For a second I thought I was back in the 80's watching another #41, a guy named Keith Byars.
Posey is big time but we need more diversity. Although he could have had two more touchdowns had he held on to catchable passes, the fact is that Devier Posey has taken his game to another level, and looks like the next great OSU receiver. It was good to see Dane Sanzanbacher back in the gameplan, but Pryor seems dialed in almost exclusively on Posey and one wonders what happens when the Bucks play a better defense that takes him away.
The defense had a nasty attitude, led by Gibson. After being missing in action against Purdue, Thaddeus Gibson was relentless this week, with three sacks and a fumble recovery, and the whole defense seemed pretty angry. Again, Minnesota didn't put up much fight, as receivers dropped catchable passes and Decker got hurt in the first half leaving nobody on the field to strike any fear in Buckeye defenders. Still the passion was great to see, and it was nice to not have to watch the D spend 3/4 of the game on the field.
That's what I noticed, and most of it was good. But all that leaves one big question - why were the Buckeyes so much better than one week ago in West Lafayette?
One could point to many potential factors: being back at home; facing a team that seems to have given up; possessing more focus; and, being really ticked off. All those are probably true in part. But I see two main factors: 1) Turnovers and breaks. Last week the Bucks handled the ball like a greased pig but this week they won the turnover battle 4-1. At Purdue the breaks also seemed to go against Ohio State, and though they played lousy it didn't help that three or four key calls went against them. On this day the ball and the calls seemed to bounce their way; and 2) The coaching staff did a good job of preparing the team. If we castigate JT and crew after a terrible performance we need to give them props after a good one. The team seemed loose and Pryor was placed in positions to succeed. The staff had this team prepared. Whether they are ready to tackle Iowa or Penn State remains to be seen, but at least this was a step in the right direction. And that's reason to celebrate!