Reporting from an 'unobstructed view' in B-Deck.
For the first time in Ohio Stadium history the two teams took the field together.
A packed house sat(literally) and watched as the Buckeyes squeeked past the Midshipmen 31-27 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in central Ohio. The outcome was in doubt until Navy's on-side attempt rolled out-of-bounds - allowing Ohio State to run out the clock.
There were moments when it appeared as if the Buckeyes were in control. On two seperate occasions the Buckeyes went up by at least 2 touchdowns, but failed to capitalize and pull away. A scrappy Navy team took advantage and almost pulled off a colossal upset in week 1.
Qb Ricky Dobbs was nearly flawless in his triple-option execution and Navy cranked off 3 long drives(one of 99 yds) into the teeth of the Ohio State defense.
What did I take away from the game? One, Navy is a strong team that will win about 10 football games this season. I'm confident we'll look back on this narrow victory and it won't seem nearly as bad as it does going into USC week(and believe me it feels bad). Navy is a team that is capable of knocking off some of the tougher teams on their schedule(ND, Pitt, Wake).
Ohio State played conservative up until they went for it on 4rth and 2 late(from the Navy 13) - a decision that allowed Navy to get back in the ballgame and gave them a chance to win. I strongly disagreed with that decision by Jim Tressel - especially with a good kicker and a kick-off team that smothered Navy all day long. That wasn't the only decision I didn't like. Tressel inserted back-up quarterback Joe Bauserman mid-way through the 2nd quarter. Bauserman was ineffective. Neither quarterback had many shots downfield, nor the time to make them.
Was this part of a larger plan? Was Tressel sandbagging? Are we going to see Joe Bauserman again on Saturday - this time with Terrelle Pryor at WR? Well, I guess it's something for Pete Carrol to think about. One thing I know for sure is that USC is going to see more than 4 designed runs for Terrelle Pryor. USC is going to see more stunts and blitz packages than what we showed on Saturday. Hopefully, USC is going to see a team that looks much improved, or else we're in for another blowout folks.
As for the players, there was good and bad. Brandon Saine ran the ball extremely well, breaking tackles and making a strong case for the #1Rb spot going into the USC game. Saine looks healthy and fast. DE Thadeous Gibson was a monster on Saturday. Nathan Williams and Jermale Hines played well on defense as did OLB Ross Homan. Justin Boren played great in his first start at LG. Boren blocked through the whistle every play and displayed the nasty disposition that everyone have been talking about in the off-season. Unfortunately, I have some serious reservations about some of the other players.
Brian Rolle may have saved the game with his 100 yard interception for a 2-pt conversion, but I don't see this team as a National Championship contender or an elite power with Rolle at MLB. Rolle did not have the size to hold his ground against Navy - so I suspect the situation could get worse against a stronger opponent. It's not as if Rolle isn't a good player. He may be better suited on the outside, like he was in the spring, where he can use his speed and not get caught up in all the traffic. On a simliar note - Austin Spitler does not have the speed to play MLB. What does that mean? That means we may need to take a serious look at either Etienne Sabino, or Nathan Williams, the defensive end, to sure up the inside rush defense. It's getting to the point where a permanant move of DE Nathan Williams to Lb has to be seriously considered! Another issue is Anderson Russell's pass defense. For the second game in a row he was beaten badly by a Wr crossing his face to the inside. This may be another case where we need to see if someone else can get the job done. I'm not being critical folks - I'm being realistic. When Aaron Gant and Orhian johnson get healthy it may be time to give someone else a shot at FS. Ditto goes for all the corners who stuck to Wr blocks like TBDBITL bumper stickers on a black Ford Taurus. Only, we don't have many options at corner. The run support of Donald Washington and Malcolm Jenkins was sorely missed on Saturday and the thought of Joe McKnight and Co. coming around the end is already starting to give me nightmares. I'm not trying to throw Rolle, Spitler, and the DB's under the bus - I'm just trying to avoid a tragedy before it happens. Hopefully, both units will make me change my opinion this weekend. The D-Line didn't play much better as our towering linemen were cut-down play after play - spending more time on the ground than on their feet. I half way expected the new Lb's and Db's to struggle early but the lack of production from the DL was and is discouraging. It was nice to see Lawrence Wilson back on the field.
The worst thing about Saturday was the crowds' lack of enthusiasm. The play calling didn't help - nor did the long, soul-crushing Navy drives. Ohio State had many opportunities to pull away in this one, but was unable to because of conservative play calling and mistakes. This game could have easily been closer to the 3td margin predicted by the experts in Vegas, but all the credit to a Navy team that fought hard for the entire game. If Ohio State is to stand a chance this Saturday they'll need the Shoe to be as loud as it was in their night games against PSU('08) and Michigan('06).
The highlights of the game were the displays of respect shown by both squads. The handshake before the game, and when the Navy team sprinted downfield following their song to join the Ohio State team as they sang 'Carmen Ohio'. The mood after the game was somber as the result was a sobering reminder that this is a unpredictable game played by young students or by honorable men that risk their lives for our freedom.