Mulling over the disappointing and bizarre 2011 season, I took a look at the Ohio State stat sheet. It isn't pretty, as one might expect. But I must confess that I was not prepared for a few of the most shocking numbers. I know that you can make statistics say almost anything you want. Still I believe looking over them will allow us to get a feel for why 2011 wound up being a season to forget. Lock up the women and children, though, because these numbers are not for the faint of heart. Here are the stats that caught my attention and punched me in the gut:
1) 48.2%. That's right - OSU completed less than 50% of their passes in 2011. Unless you are Army or Navy that is unthinkable. And by the way, Navy actually completed a higher percentage than the Bucks!
2) 14 catches. The single most shocking statistic in my mind is this one: the leading receiver for Ohio State caught all of 14 passes (a tie between Philly Brown and Jake Stoneburner). Come On Man! Even high school running teams usually have a guy with 20 receptions! (By the way, the leading receiver in terms of yardage was freshman Devin Smith with 247.)
3) 328.6 to 319.8. Would you believe that this talented squad could actually be outgained by opponents? Look it up for yourself. I realize that the Buckeyes still outscored the opposition by 4 points per game, thanks greatly to hidden yardage (kick, punt and interception returns) where they were almost plus 30 yards per contest. But still - outgained in yards from scrimmage. Are you kidding me?
4) 596 yards. The top Buckeye running back had under 600 yards on the year! Yes, I know that number was put on the board by Boom Herron in just 6 games, but how often has the top Ohio State tailback had such a paltry total? Braxton Miller, despite losing 200 yards due to sacks, actually led the team with 695 yards rushing.
5) 20.8 points and 3.9 yards per carry. Both of these defensive numbers stunned me. In the Jim Heacock era the Silver Bullets have pretty much not allowed teams to score over 15 points per game. Of course when you can run the ball against a team, it makes it a lot easier to score on them. Simply put, the '11 squad failed to make opposing teams one dimensional.
6) 40-23. Opponents sacked Buckeye quarterbacks 40 times (you read that right), which is 17 more than the Scarlet and Gray were able to register!
7) 69 tackles. The leading Buckeye tackler totaled only 69, and it wasn't a linebacker, but rather safety C.J. Barnett. This is another asterisk statistic, since Andrew Sweat would have probably had around 90 tackles if he hadn't been injured early in the Purdue game and lost for the season.
Beyond the numbers, the thing that really jumped out at me as I reflected on 2011, was the lack of senior presence and leadership. Remember. this was supposed to be the final season for most of the Block O players, who tantalized fans with promises of a National Championship. Unfortunately the Tatgate scandal devestated this class. With no Terrelle Pryor, and a lot less of some other decorated stars due to suspensions, it wasn't going to be a great season for the seniors. But who would have guessed how unproductive these guys would wind up being? Consider the season turned in by the bigger names in the class of 2011:
-The Block O offensive linemen - Mike Adams, Mike Brewster and J.B. Shugarts were supposed to be studs this year. Not so fast my friend. Shugarts broke every OSU record for false starts and surrendered way too many sacks. Adams gave the team a big boost upon his return, but seemed to lose interest as the year wore on. And Brewster? A guy who started 48 games was a warrior, but under performed in 2011, and his off kilter snaps helped lead to disaster on Senior Day against Penn State. Sad...just sad!
-Boom Herron. After a six game suspension, he started out like a lion but wound up going out like a lamb. Better play out of Boom the last three games would have greatly helped the Buckeye cause.
-Nathan Williams. Hurt in the first game of the season, he left a hole that could not be filled. One can only hope Williams will be back in 2012.
-DeVier Posey. Suspended for ten games, Posey's loss may have been the most painful for this young OSU team. Had Braxton been on target late against Michigan, DeVier's career might have had a magical ending, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.
-Andrew Sweat. He was solid in 2011 before missing most of the last three games, but was certainly not the kind of big play linebacker the team needed.
-Solomon Thomas. He made one play in his whole career, but since Gene Smith voluntarily vacated the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas, I guess that interception never happened.
-Nate Oliver. Never showed up as even a blip on the radar.
-Joe Bauserman. Yeah right! Made Steve Bellisari look like an All-American.
-Tyler Moeller. Saddest story of this senior class. I thought he would be the key cog to this version of the Silver Bullets. Instead Moeller was the player most often grasping air or chasing from behind as opponents headed to the end zone.
Looking over that list of seniors tells us all we need to know about 2011. Sad, to be sure!