Hurricane Ivan watch
It’s not very often a Big Ten team is concerned with a Hurricane’s path,
but that appears to be the case with the N.C. State game this weekend. Early
projections of Hurricane Ivan have it stalling out and dropping buckets of rain
in North Carolina possibly Friday and Saturday.
According to Jim Tressel, it won’t make much difference for the Buckeyes.
“I think the only thing it could possibly change is the way you travel. We’ll
wait and see if there are any travel issues. Other than that, when you get there
it’s wet for you and wet for them. You better be on feet…Whoever holds onto
the ball better or makes the least mistakes is still going to win (and) maybe
Given the results of the Wisconsin game in 2003, Ohio State fans might hope
that the storm stays as far away as possible, but not Bobby Carpenter. “I
would like it to go right through and rain as much as it wants,” he said. “It
will keep it cool for us. They’re a big passing team. If they keep the balls
dry it won’t make that much of a difference as far as throwing, but they have
some extremely talented athletes and rain slows down speed so that should be
good for us.”
Buckeye wideout Santonio Holmes commented, “It might factor into the game,
but you still have to be on top of your game.”
He should know. As a native Floridian, he has experienced previous
“I’ve probably been through two or three hurricanes,” he said. “Hurricane
Andrew is the most recent one I can remember that I’ve been a part of. We just
got a lot of rain and a lot of wind and a lot of trees knocked down from our
place and a power shortage.”
If Ivan doesn’t take a detour and the field turns sloppy, Ohio State might
do well to bring along an extra set of uniforms to keep the players dry. Maybe
the Buckeyes could even call up Tennessee and check to see if the Volunteers
have any extra cleats from the 1996 Citrus Bowl…
Although a good many are still down on him as a feature tailback, take a
second look at not only the statistics but the game film from the previous two
He is averaging 5.6 yards per rush (231 yards) on 41 carries. Watch the
tapes. Note how quick his feet look in comparison to previous seasons.
Physically, he appears to be more agile than any point since his freshman year.
He is threading his way through traffic and looking more like a scalpel than a
blunt object. Ross has consistently been fighting for extra yardage, keeping his
legs churning with contact. He even displayed a stiff arm to reach the corner of
the defense and turn up field.
Even when he stepped out of bounds against Marshall this week, the reason was
not to avoid contact. It was to level a blow. Against Cincinnati, Ross did not
leave himself room to meet the defensive back on his 68-yard scamper. This time,
he was trying to gain ground to knock over the defensive back, stay in bounds,
and continue down the field.
Aside from the fumble, Ross’ performance thus far has been what every
Buckeye fan was hoping for in 2004. In fact, if told their starting tailback
would be averaging 5.6 yards a carry before the season - much of that without a
fullback to block for him - Buckeye fans would have dropped to their knees to
utter thank you prayers. One or two might have even considered sacrificing the
family pet in some animistic pagan ritual.
Granted, it’s difficult to say whether or not Ross can keep up this type of
performance, but he certainly has done everything expected of him thus far. As a
senior, this team needs him to build upon the past two weeks. Put another way -
if he doesn’t, then the Buckeyes will likely head home to Columbus 2-1 on
Bobby Carpenter and the Penalty
When the Buckeyes’ coaching staff elected to accept a penalty against
Marshall late in the game, and the Herd scored on the next play (instead of
being forced to try a field goal), more than one armchair quarterback and media
pundit questioned the decision. Jim Tressel explained, “It was one play and
long or two plays and long in my mind…” Tongue firmly in cheek he added, “But
I asked around and Bobby Carpenter said we should take the penalty. So - his dad
is a coach, he’s been around the game a long time…”
Apparently linebacker Bobby Carpenter was none too pleased at the time and
came off the field in rare form. At the media luncheon today, he sheepishly
explained, “I wanted to decline the penalty. He was just making a little joke
out of it. In pressure situations guys get a little heated sometimes (and) there’s
a little bit of controversy between the player and the coach. Coach Tressel did
what he thought was right for the team. Now we can sit back and laugh about it,
but during the game it wasn’t really funny.”
He continued, “During the game I’m a competitor like all guys are. I
wouldn’t be out there playing if I wasn’t. When things don’t always go the
way you want them you get upset, but the trick is you have to take that energy
you have and channel it back onto the field’
That appears to be exactly what Carpenter did. The defense came up big on
subsequent Marshall drives and the Buckeyes escaped with a narrow victory.
Michigan Kicking Woes
While the Buckeyes have been enjoying extraordinary kicking performances in
recent seasons under Jim Tressel, the Wolverines have been hemorrhaging games
left and right with special teams gaffes.
In fact, the number of losses one can chalk up to such mistakes is reaching
ridiculous proportions. 38-14 since 2000, at least eight of Michigan’s
setbacks can be directly attributed to kicking or return game problems. The loss
23-20 to UCLA in 2000 saw the Maize and Blue miss two field goals. In the 54-51
loss to Northwestern that same season, a poor snap on a field goal attempt to
tie the game allowed the clock to run out. In 2001, Michigan was ahead of
Washington 12-6 with only nine minutes and change remaining. What happened?
Washington blocked a field goal attempt, returned it for a touchdown, and
ultimately won 23-18. Later that season against Michigan State, Marquise Walker
fielded a punt deep in Michigan territory instead of letting it roll into the
end zone. After Michigan was unable to gain a first down, the resulting change
in field position set the Spartans up for their final drive to win the game
26-24. In 2002, The Wolverines lost to Notre Dame 25-23, but only after having a
field goal blocked.
2003 might have been the most frustrating season for Michigan fans in the
last 15. A team that should have been playing in the Sugar Bowl found itself
soundly defeated in the Rose with two ugly losses because of their kicking game.
Against Oregon, the Wolverines missed an extra point attempt in the first
quarter, had a fake field goal attempt bounce off the head of Scott McClintock,
and had a punt blocked and recovered by Oregon in the end zone for a touchdown.
The final score? 31-27 Oregon. Though conventional wisdom expected the Hawkeyes
to lose last year’s game against Michigan after the pasting they administered
in 2002, Carr’s team turned yet another victory into defeat with their punting
protection. Two punts were blocked, leading to points for Iowa en route to a
Finally, on Saturday against a questionably talented Irish team in South
Bend, the Wolverines found themselves in a dogfight. Trailing 14-12 but still
very much in the game, punting protection broke down yet again. Notre
Dame blocked the kick attempt and used the change in possession to score a
touchdown. Michigan lost 28-20 in a game that might otherwise have gone their
The question is - what is going on with Michigan’s coaching staff? Clearly
they must know this flaw more intimately than the average fan or reporter. How
is this not being fixed?
What could have been a special run at multiple national titles has turned
into the Keystone Cops. You won’t catch any of the Ohio State faithful crying
for Michigan, but it certainly has to be frustrating for fans of ‘that team up
Pass Rush for OSU
Though the Buckeyes clearly are not pressuring quarterbacks in 2004 as they
did in the previous two seasons, it’s not quite time to hit the panic button.
Gino Guidugli and Stan Hill are not the easiest players to sack, and their
coaches used a good deal of three-step drops and rollouts to keep away from the
athletic Buckeye front seven.
Bobby Carpenter commented on the difficulty of tracking them down: “Stan
Hill was a coach’s son and a two year starter and Guidugli is probably one of
the top 15 quarterbacks in America, so he’s a good player.”
Buckeye Leaf to Maurice Hall
Maurice Hall might not have touched football but he should have earned a
Buckeye leaf Saturday. After the Lydell Ross fumble (and subsequent touchdown by
Goddard), Holmes and Hall were sent back to return the kickoff.
When the ball sailed 5 yards into the end zone, the fans, announcers, and
anyone watching at home expected Holmes to go down to one knee. Instead, he
fielded the ball and looked ready to charge into the face of a fast closing
coverage unit. The only thing that prevented a mistake of epic proportions was
Maurice Hall. Hall effectively blocked Holmes’ path from the end zone, forcing
him to abandon the idea of returning the kick.
The difference in field position was immediately felt as Zwick opened the
drive passing the football instead of being forced to run it just to gain
breathing room. Playing pitch and catch, the Buckeyes marched down the field and
scored a touchdown to put them firmly back into the lead.
Marshall Running backs
Much has been made about the 17 play, nine minute drive by the Thundering
Herd Saturday. Bobby Carpenter was undoubtedly one of the most frustrated by the
long drive, but he pointed out, “I don’t think people give the Marshall
running backs enough credit. They were good players. They did some things
against us we weren’t prepared for - as Coach Tressel said, I don’t think
they showed their full hand against Troy State; they held a lot back. We were
kind of unprepared a little bit, and it took us (until) after that drive in the
third quarter really to adjust and shut them down again.”
Indeed, Marshall tailback Earl Charles routinely used his blockers, cut back
against the flow of the defense, and on one play even dragged Carpenter for
several yards. Backup tailback Ahmad Bradshaw was a highly regarded recruit and
headed for the University of Virginia until his legal woes forced him, like
Randy Moss, to consider Marshall.
Carpenter’s assessed the defense’s performance, saying, “I think we
played pretty well. They had that one drive where they had 70 of their rushing
yards. You take out that, and they are under a hundred. They were just getting
6-7 yards a crack every time and sometimes eight or nine on first down…a lot
things were happening. On the sideline, Coach Snyder was not able to see what
was happening. It wasn’t until they got into the red zone that we were able to
get over and talk to him because of the time out. Once we got everything squared
away we stopped them.”
“We don’t like long drives, but any time you stop them and they don’t
get any points, we’ll take it. If they have 17 plays and take off 8 minutes
but don’t get any points out of it - it’s no good for them.”
A.J. Hawk was more succinct. “We stopped them when we needed to.”