Four years ago Mike Brewster probably would have guessed his Senior Day at Ohio State would have gone differently. National titles were what Brewster and the 2008 recruiting class – otherwise referred to as “The Brew Crew” – had in mind.
Instead, Brewster and the rest of the senior class said goodbye to the 105,000 people in Ohio Stadium in a way that would have been unimaginable just 10 months ago — with its fifth loss of the season.
Brewster didn’t even get to hug Jim Tressel as he ran out onto the field for the final time because Ohio State’s former head coach was let go after he opted not to come forward with information about NCAA violations committed by the center’s recruiting classmates.
Still, Brewster doesn’t look back at his final season with the Buckeyes with regret.
“I wouldn't trade this year for anything in the world,” he said. “If I could go back I wouldn't have traded my decision. It has been a tough year, a heck of a challenge. We weren't perfect in our record, we weren't perfect on the field, but when I look at perfection I look at what this team has gone through and we were perfect in staying together.”
Predictably somber in the postgame interview room, Brewster realized that Ohio State (6-5) fell far short of the goals and expectations. But at the end, the center found peace in knowing that he could go out big next week – on the road – in the most important game of the season.
“It’s hard to swallow,” Brewster said of the loss. “That’s how the game goes sometimes. I was saying downstairs that I’m proud of the way the guys have handled the season and been through many tough times. I’m just trying to keep my head up and stick with these guys. You throw the records out the window, we have Michigan next week.”
Before switching attention to the Michigan game, I take one last look at Ohio State’s loss to Penn State in the latest version of Sunday Observation:
Braxton Miller is going to be special — There is no question that Miller has a ways to go as a passer, but the freshman quarterback runs as confidently as you’d expect from dual-threat seniors. Though it is easy to make comparisons to former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, I don’t think there is any question that Miller is more elusive. He has unmatched speed and incredible hesitation moves that can simply leave defenders looking foolish. As time goes on and Miller develops more as a passer, things can be looking very good for this quarterback’s future. And the most important sign is this – he has the natural quality to make plays when his team needs them the most, even if he isn’t prepared to be in the situation. Look out because Miller has a bright future.
DeVier Posey was missed — Though I imagined the senior wide receiver’s return would have been more dramatic in terms of production, the bottom line is that Posey made plays that other receivers weren’t able to make all year. In addition to being the best blocking wideout on the team, Posey made an incredibly experienced play on Ohio State’s first drive. Posey extended his route past Penn State’s secondary while Miller scrambled after his drawn-up route didn't get open. Miller read Posey's intentions and found the senior to pick up 39 yards to extend the drive. If Posey isn’t out there, Ohio State is punting after that play instead of threatening to score. Later in the second quarter, Posey helped set up the Buckeyes’ first touchdown with an incredible 18-yard one-handed reception to set up Miller’s 24-yard touchdown run. Simply put, the Buckeyes missed Posey quite a bit this season and it is sad to see his senior year go into the books with no impact made. The good news is he still has a chance to go out a winner if he comes up big in Ann Arbor.
Sometimes punting makes no sense to me — Down by seven before ever having possession, Ohio State was primed to respond to Penn State’s early touchdown when Miller found Posey on the big gain. However, the Buckeyes ended up facing a fourth down and long from the Nittany Lions’ 35. Instead of attempting a field goal, which is in the longer portion of Drew Basil’s range, the coaching staff opted to send Ben Buchanan onto the field. Though Buchanan has had a stellar year pinning opponents inside the 20, the punt was booted into the end zone and turned out to be roughly a 15-yard net. At that point, was it really worth not attempting to get points, or dare I say it, go for it? Perhaps the latter suggestion is a bit too radical, but I’d almost rather see a team try to pick up the fourth down by going for it then punting to net 15 yards of field position.
Due of senior offensive linemen had a rough outing — Widely regarded as one of the best centers in the nation, Brewster was far from impressive in his final game in Ohio Stadium. Having roughly four bad snaps in the game, including one that ruined Ohio State’s chances at scoring on the team’s first possession, Brewster’s snaps were inconsistent for the majority of the game. It’s strange because Brewster’s struggles snapping the ball have happened in multiple games this season and it isn’t something I remembered happening at all last year with Pryor at quarterback.
And finally we get to right tackle J.B. Shugarts, who has become synonymous with committing at least one false start per game. In this game, though, Shugarts jumped before a critical fourth-and-5 late that was set to decide the game. The penalty moved Ohio State back five yards and forced Miller to come up with 10. On the play, Miller rushed for nine yards, the Buckeyes turned it over and eventually lost the game. I hate to lay it on Shugarts, but there is absolutely no excuse for making false start penalties a counted-on feature in every game. It was a joke for most of the season, but against the Lions it may have cost Ohio State a game.
The Wildcat was a good look, but there is such thing as too much — I understand the Buckeyes had a hard time moving the ball through the air so the coaching staff did what it could to try and gain some momentum. But the Wildcat, in my opinion, wasn’t necessarily the answer. Why you may ask? I just don’t understand how the team thinks it is a viable option to run out of that formation 30 percent of the time while in the process taking the ball out of the biggest playmaker’s hands. Sure, it works on a different look, but what advantage is there when Dan Herron hands off the ball to Jordan Hall? That isn’t even the proper way to run it, in my opinion. Instead of getting a different look the Buckeyes turned it over on a messed up exchange between two running backs. Sometimes it is a good idea to keep the defense off-balance, but I think Ohio State went to that well too many times. The team needs to go with the guy who moves the chains – and that’s Miller. Oh, and one more thing – if the team never plans on passing out of the Wildcat, how much of an advantage does it really create? Just makes them more predictable as far as I see it.
Goal line stand never should have happened — Clinging to a six-point lead with 5:55 remaining in the third quarter, Penn State faced a fourth-and-goal from Ohio State’ goal line. Instead of sending out its kicker, who had set his career-long attempts twice earlier in the game, Penn State opted to try and go for the touchdown. The result was Silas Redd being stuffed at the line of scrimmage, giving the Buckeyes the ball back down only six points.
While I certainly understand the strategy by Penn State to try and go for the knockout punch, I find it simply unbelievable that the coaching staff wouldn’t get the three points to extend the lead to two scores. Ohio State’s offense hadn’t proven it could move the ball consistently against the Nittany Lions defense and the fourth quarter was quickly approaching. Had Carlos Hyde not fumbled the ball on Ohio State’s ensuing possession – which was rolling along until the turnover happened – its possible that stand at the goal line could have been the fuel for an Ohio State comeback. Either way, I am stunned Penn State’s coaches put its team in position to have to hold Ohio State out of the end zone in fourth quarter drives to preserve the win. It just wasn’t smart football.
Poor tackling shouldn’t be a trait on this team — Jim Heacock’s Silver Bullets defense is based on making tackles. Against Penn State, the yearlong trend of missing them was continued. I lost track of how many tackles were missed because it was basically impossible to keep track. This was something that happened last week against Purdue and continued against Penn State. There’s no other way to think about the way Ohio State has performed with its tackling than to say it is simply inexcusable.
Devin Smith’s playing time (or lack thereof) is puzzling — All Smith seems to do is make plays when he’s on the field, yet somehow he is never on it. Philly Brown continues to stay on the field despite never showing that he can consistently make plays. Brown had the opportunity, too, when Miller tried to hit him on a fly route where he had two steps on the defender. Though the ball was severely underthrown, Brown still had the opportunity to make the play and couldn’t hold onto the football. Had he caught it, the Buckeyes may have scored a touchdown or at the very least would have been set up deep in Penn State territory. But the drop, unfortunately, has been a theme during the early portions of Brown’s career.
Now this isn’t a knock on Brown as much as it is a question about where Smith is during games. Though he’ll pop up every now and then in possessions, the freshman doesn’t seem to be out there consistently enough. Having proven he is capable of being a game changer, what have the other receivers in front of him done to keep him off the field?
Odds & Ends
• Freshman linebacker Ryan Shazier is a star in the making. Though he seemed to run into Penn State blocks a little too much, Shazier plays with that natural aggression you love to see from a linebacker. Already one of the best tacklers on the team – at least it seems that way – Shazier is just the mental part of the game away from really coming on as one of the best players on the team.
• After the game Luke Fickell was asked about the Urban Meyer rumors and the alleged contract negations the former Florida coach has had with Ohio State. Though not a lot of people gave a lot of credence to the fact that could have negatively affected the team, I think there is something to point to in terms of yet another distraction the Buckeyes have had to deal with this season.
• I said it last week, but now this season will be remembered by how this team goes out and plays Michigan. At the beginning of the year I didn’t think Michigan had a shot to beat the Buckeyes. Now it seems as if the Wolverines will be heavy favorites. With nothing but pride (and maybe a better bowl game) up for grabs, we’ll be able to tell how much this team still cares by how they perform in Ann Arbor next weekend. The game truly means everything. Let's see if the players feel the same way.
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