Countdown To THE GAME 2015

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Buckeyes Rocked By The Hurricanes, 24-6

Ohio State traveled to Miami in its quest to maintain its undefeated record, and establish an offensive identity. Losing 24-6 at Miami, Ohio State accomplished neither, in a game that rivals the 2001 Ohio State/UCLA (UCLA 13 - Ohio State 6) for offensive frustration and inadequacy. The Miami loss may have also ended any thought of Luke Fickell's chances of being named Ohio State's permanent head coach.

Miami won the coin toss, deferring until the second half. Ohio State, under quarterback Joe Bauserman, had a quick three and out drive that promptly gave the ball back to Miami very early. "Three and out" was a common theme for the Ohio State offense throughout this contest, and it was eerily foreshadowed on this initial unsuccessful drive.

On Miami's first possession, Lamar Miller nearly took the ball to the end zone on a 54 yard run. On a third and goal, Miami scored on a pass play from Jacory Harris to Allen Hurns, to give Miami a 7-0 lead.

On Ohio State's second possession, another three and out offensive series allowed the Hurricanes to get the ball back quickly. Ben Buchanan nailed a deep punt that Miami returner Travis Benjamin nearly returned for a touchdown. Methodically, Miami drove down the field, to set up another first and goal scenario at the Ohio State 3. Jacory Harris again found Allen Hurns in the end zone, making it Miami 14, Ohio State 0.

Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller entered the game, prompting Ohio State fans to expect a possible offensive spark. The spark came in the form of running back Jordan Hall, who responded immediately with back to back first down runs. Ohio State's good fortunes were squandered, as Miller's first pass attempt to tight end Jake Stoneburner was tipped and intercepted by Miami's JoJo Nicolas.

Before the first quarter concluded, Miami's Lamar Miller had gone over the 100 yard rushing mark. This game was beginning to ominously look like a blowout. Ohio State's C.J. Barnett was able to intercept Miami's Jacory Harris, who took a tremendous amount of time throwing deep.

Again, Jordan Hall responded with big plays, gaining consecutive first downs on big running plays into the heart of the Miami defense. Unfortunately, Braxton Miller was unable to complete a pass to Verlon Reed, forcing Ohio State to punt yet again.

After the Ohio State defense forced a Miami punt, Joe Bauserman returned as Ohio State's quarterback. Ohio State responded with its best offensive performance yet of the game. Mixing powerful running by both Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde, Ohio State moved down the field on a drive that would have made Coach Woody Hayes proud. Carlos Hyde saved the drive, gaining a first down on a 3rd and 6 on a busted snap. At one point, Ohio State had a first and goal at the Miami 8, but two Jordan Hall runs, and an incomplete pass by Joe Bauserman pass to Chris Fields led Ohio State's Drew Basil to kick a 22 yard field goal to make it Miami 14, Ohio State 3.

Ohio State quickly intercepted Jacory Harris again, this time by Brad Roby. Joe Bauserman was the beneficiary of a roughing the passer play that again allowed Ohio State to set up within the Miami 10. A pass into the end zone for Jake Stoneburner was dropped, forcing Ohio State to again settle for a field goal to make it Miami 14, Ohio State 6.

Miami concluded the first half behind an acrobatic reception by wide receiver Tommy Streeter deep into Ohio State territory. Miami kicked a field goal to take a 17-6 halftime lead.

After halftime, Miami received the second half kickoff and the Ohio State defense forced a three and out, largely behind the hustle of defensive lineman John Simon. Jordan Hall had an impressive 27 yard punt return, setting up Ohio State in Miami territory. Hall suffered leg cramps, and did not seem to be the same after this play.

Joe Bauserman and the offense could not get anything going, giving the ball back to Miami. Ben Buchanan responded with a beautiful punt that pinned Miami on its 4 yard line.

The Miami offense, behind the running of Lamar Miller, were able to push out from their end zone to the Ohio State 41. On a 4th and 1 call, Storm Klein forced a Jacory Harris fumble, giving Ohio State possession of the ball.

Braxton Miller returned, almost giving the ball back to Miami on a fumble Miller recovered. This play must have terrified the coaching staff, as Joe Bauserman returned on the next play.

Again, Ohio State could not develop anything offensively. The same woes began to afflict Miami, as Ohio State forced a three and out, getting the ball back on the Ohio State 42. The third quarter concluded, with Ohio State's offensive statistics reading thusly: 12 plays, 6 yards gained, and 0 first downs.

As the fourth quarter began, Braxton Miller was brought back into the game. Behind designed quarterback runs, Ohio State began to march into Miami territory. On a first and ten at the Miami 46, Braxton Miller gained six yards on a run but was hit from behind, causing him to fumble. Miami recovered at the Hurricanes' 31 yard line.

Christian Bryant nearly came up with an interception that could have sparked Ohio State back into the game. Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, Jacory Harris was able to begin a drive with 9:21 remaining that was kept alive by a Jacory Harris scramble, and a key Tommy Streeter 15 yard reception on a 3rd and 10 play. The Ohio State defense had to be extremely fatigued, as Miami drove down the field, scoring a touchdown with under a minute to play to make it Miami 24, Ohio State 6. Remarkably, Luke Fickell and the Ohio State coaching staff never used any of their second half timeouts, a move that will undoubtedly be questioned and scrutinized.

The final combined Ohio State passing statistics by Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller, and they are brutal: 4 of 17 for 35 yards, no touchdowns, one interception.

What does this all mean?

The Akron game is looking more and more like an aberration, as Akron has been drilled by Temple (41-3) and Cincinnati (59-14) since Ohio State played them two weeks ago. The Toledo offensive frustrations of last week were evident in this loss to the Hurricanes.

While Braxton Miller may not be ready, the Ohio State coaching staff should start Miller against Colorado. While Joe Bauserman has given it his all, he is not the future of Ohio State football. Bauserman's statistics have declined steadily since the Akron game. Only further playing can help Braxton Miller, and the Colorado game is the best way to prepare Miller for what is appearing to be a treacherous October Big Ten schedule.

Nathan Williams' absence has been painfully noticeable. John Simon played his heart out against Miami, but the defensive line has not been getting any noticeable pass rush against either Toledo or Miami.

Lastly, Luke Fickell will come under some strong and deserving criticism for his clock management in this one. Knowing the struggles of the offense against the Hurricanes, why were all of the time outs kept, when the Ohio State defense could have used a quick break in that nearly nine minute drive at the end of the game?

In August of 2011, I wrote a story where I stated that the 2011 season was going to be a difficult transition year for Ohio State, and how the Miami game was the pivotal game of the season.

After the close Toledo victory, Coach Fickell was quoted, saying "I think and I hope that this is what's going to make us better, all the adversity" . Coach Fickell may be getting the opportunity to not only face adversity after this loss to the Hurricanes, but also determine his long-term future as the head coach of Ohio State.

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