Sunday, October 28, 2007

A defense, my country for a defense

Okay, folks, calm down. We're acting like we just saw Minnesota come in and steamroll us. (Somewhere in Minneapolis, I think Tim Brewster just had a wet dream.) Let me remind you that we just lost to the (proven) #1 team in the United States. I think we've been making it sound like that's somewhat of an easy thing to do. Well, maybe this year it is. Was this game winnable? Probably. But haven't we been hitting the bowl of Kool-Aid a little too hard? Probably.

Yes, we lost 37-17. Yes, it got ugly quickly.

But from the start I was surprised at how easily both teams got on the board. 7-3 with over 10 minutes left in the first quarter? This is a game where everyone in America thought it would be first to 10 wins. But in the dark reaches of this game, how about a little respect for our offense? Morelli and the O lived up to my prediction of an INT and a fumble (Boeckman was just one pick away from convincing me to open up my own 1-900 psychic line), but I was pleasantly surprised the way Kinlaw and Royster had some fairly impressive runs against the #1 defense in the nation. Did you see a quarterback in a blue jersey control an offense that put together a 78-yard opening drive? Who was that masked man?!

Some of you might frown on me, but I prefer to look at the glass half full in this case. Game after game we've been lamenting about our lack of an offense. I think anyone who predicted us putting up 17 on OSU was being generous. For once, it was the defense that didn't show up! I think a defensive problem is way more fixable than an offensive problem. I have much more faith in Tom Bradley than I do in Galen Hall and Jay Paterno.

The one thing I absolutely got sick to my stomach about -- besides that horrendous pick -- was the lack of aggressive play calling, especially not going for the 4th and 2 on the OSU 38 as the clock winded down in the first half. A perfectly executed drive would've run the clock down to just about 30-45 seconds, a touchdown, sending PSU into the half down 17-14 and with possession to start the second half. All the mojo we worked up in the first quarter was gone. OSU was wearing down the D. We were within striking range of making this a game again. We were in desperate need of a momentum shift. Remember the 4th and 1 we converted against OSU in 2005? But what does the staff do? Wave the white flag and punt.

In fact, Boone punts it into the end zone and we put them on their 20. Brilliant! After imploring my friends as to how the staff could give up such an opportunity, they said "we can't stop their offense!" So what? If we can't stop their offense, what's it matter if they're on the 38 or the 20?! If we can't stop them, an extra 18 yards won't stand in their way. I thought it showed a lack of spirit and aggressive attitude.

I won't lament over the lack of defense last night, because it looks like my colleagues have already ripped into them enough. All I'm gonna say is if Justin King thinks he has a great shot at the NFL, he's probably dreaming now. Yeah, he had a good 2006 campaign, but man, he's gotten smoked this year. He says it's none of his doing, that the WRs they're putting him up against are just that athletic. Well, guess what, Sherlock? They're like that in the NFL, too. And better. If you're getting smoked now, just wait til the pros. King and Lydell Sergeant were frequently mocked by Boeckman and his receiving corps.

And damn, that Buckeye O-line is solid.

But look, Tom Bradley's the man, and I have to have faith he'll start to resolve some of these issues. He'll have a much more difficult time retooling the secondary, but I think we'll rattle off three wins to finish the season and then land, once again, in Tampa for the Outback Bowl. I think it's a little rash to suggest we're headed for the Champs Sports Bowl. OSU will go to the BCS, Michigan will go to the Capital One Bowl, and we'll feast on Bloomin' Onions in Tampa. Keep in mind that Illinois still plays OSU and Wisconsin has Michigan and OSU to finish the year. There's no doubt in my mind that if we win out, we'll be playing in another New Year's Day bowl.

And then we'll lay the lumber on an SEC team and we'll be mixing up more batches of Kool-Aid for 2008.

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