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I arrived at Ohio Stadium about an hour before game time. Traffic was not bad at all. The university employs a small army of traffic guards, security, and police to ensure everything goes smoothly. So far, so good.
I have nothing but great things to say about the city of Columbus. I mean, wow. This is a real city. It's clean, it's modern, and there's energy. I came down here last night to spend time with a friend from law school. We had a great time trolling around downtown. Akron will never be as large as Columbus, but it's a city that Don Plusquellic (or Mike Williams) should set his sights upon.
I just realized I probably opened a can of worms on this blog by mentioning "the Don" and his opponent in the Sept. 13 primary. I am supporting one of the two Democrats, but I won't tell you whom.
I like the Akron shirts with the phrase "Win Today!" on them. If it means what I think it means, the slogan does not urge someone to win sooner, rather than later. Instead, it refers to winning each increment, and in this case, each day. In the context of college football, if your team is competing better or practicing harder than any other MAC squad on August 15, for instance, then you have "won" August 15. When you wake up the next day, it starts all over again and there's another day to be won. In theory, winning each increment will give you an advantage in the aggregate. "Win every day" was an internal strategy we used on my last campaign, and it turned out well.
The press box is quite high, and we are getting drilled by the sun. It's going to be even hotter on the field, with temperatures already at 87 degrees.
Akron completed its stretches and gathered in a mob on the 25-yard line. Jake Anderson was in the middle of the group, pumping everyone up.
So I'm working through my mind a scenario in which Akron keeps the game close. If the Zips are within two scores at halftime, Akron will need to recover at least one or two fumbles, will need Jawon Chisholm to break a long run, and/or will have to block a punt.
The personnel in the press box could not be friendlier or more welcoming. Both Dallas Moyer (basketball SID) and I have been asked numerous times if we've had enough to eat. The lunch spread here is impressive, too. Featuring McDonald's iced coffee, which is delicious.
A colleague of mine is tailgating at Notre Dame this afternoon (lucky bastard) and he wants to know if the Zips can cover the 31-point spread. I told him a final score of 41-10 is my best guess. I see Akron scoring between 0 and 10 and Ohio State scoring between 35 and 42.
I have to say I'm quite impressed with the poise of the Zips' offense. You can tell the players are psyched to play before 100,000-plus fans, but no one is jumpy. ... Of course, as soon as I posted that, Akron was whistled for a false start.
Zack Campbell boomed a 46-yard punt, so Akron won't lose any field position on the first drive, also thanks in part to a Chisholm first down.
Akron's defense is struggling to pressure the quarterback, and consequently, to maintain coverage down field. Joe Bauserman rolled out and found Verlon Reed for a 28-yard strike. Two plays later, Bauserman dodged an Emmanuel Lartey sack attempt and scrambled through the hash marks 15 yards for a touchdown.
You won't play close with Ohio State by missing tackles in the backfield on the Buckeyes' lesser athletic quarterback. If you remember the Ohio State-Marshall game from about six years ago, the Herd nearly knocked off the Buckeyes by executing at every corner.
I see why Rob Ianello picked Clayton Moore to start. Moore is calm in the pocket. He hangs in there without getting happy feet. His mannerisms on the field tell his teammates: "Guys, I got this sh** under control."
The Ohio State program shows defensive tackle John Simon with a giant tribal tattoo on his right arm. Couldn't someone in the PR department airbrush that out?
Ohio State fumbled near the goal line, after a Rod Smith carry. Lartey pounced on the ball. Big play for the Zips. John Griggs caused the ball to slip loose.
Akron's front seven really has played strong against the Buckeyes' running attack. The problem has been Bauserman's accuracy. He has completed all three passes.
The Zips' subsequent drive stalled when Moore threw a pass to nobody in particular. Someone forgot which route was to be run.
J.D. Broohart's playbook must still be sitting around. For his punt attempt, Campbell rolled to his right (drawing a collective gasp from the OSU fans) and rugby kicked it 47 yards. It was a successful move.
Braxton Miller is now playing quarterback for OSU. Miller's first collegiate play was a scramble that got him speared at the line of scrimmage. The second play was a dropped pass. The third was a botched shotgun snap. Ohio State will punt for the first time today.
Defensively, Andrew Sweat has make two tackles for loss for OSU. Josh Richmond and Brian Wagner have combined for seven tackles.
The press box is soundproof, but I've been to enough Ohio State games to know how loud it gets in the stands. Still, it is odd to have a quiet room when there is so much noise on the other side of the glass.
Moore just made a miracle pass to Anthony Meriwether for six-yard gain. The "miracle" relates to the fact that Simon was in the process of power-slamming Moore to the turf as Moore released the ball. After the pass, Akron faced fourth-and-inches. Ianello challenged the call, but the spot was upheld after replay. The Zips punted, which was the smarter move.
Bauserman is back at QB. Miller had such a dreadful debut (albeit not all his fault) that I wouldn't expect to see him again until Ohio State has a three-score lead. Bauserman eluded another near sack to gain nine yards.
What will it take for Akron to have "Won today"? There must be a way to "win today" without actually beating the No. 18 team in the country. If Akron keeps the Buckeyes within two scores by halftime, that would be a minor victory. If the Zips complete a successful, prolonged drive on this championship caliber defense, that would certainly be a win.
Bauserman's first incomplete pass was almost a Manley Waller interception. Waller stepped inside the receiver and almost secured the ball.
Troy Gilmer made the tackle of the game for Akron, to this point. He stopped an Ohio State rush attempt on third-and-two. ... Luke Fickell made a gutsy call and went for it. The Buckeyes barely got the first down. That's not the conservative mindset that we were promised from Fickell.
Ohio State scored its second touchdown on a lofted pass from Bauserman to tight end Jake Stoneburner. The Zips' defensive back tripped, which made it an easy pitch-and-catch for 28 yards. That's unfortunate, because Akron had really battled Ohio State on that drive.
Akron made its first aggressive play on offense, where Moore threw deep for Marquelo Suel. Unfortunately, Moore stared down Suel for so long that the safety was waiting and the cornerback caught up to break up the play. Moore followed it up with two wildly inaccurate throws.
Campell crushed another punt, drawing one person in the press box to say: "Wow. Nice leg."
Akron has begun to start pressuring Bauserman. Anthony Holmes smeared the Buckeyes' QB, causing an incomplete pass. Ohio State attempted a 45-yard field goal, which missed. But the Zips were offsides. The second attempt by Drew Basil, from 40, also missed wide right.
If Akron plays its cards right, they might be able to enter the locker room within 14 points.
Ohio State's Sweat picked off Moore, as the ball glanced off a receiver and defender near the sideline. The first play of the Buckeyes' new drive was a 24-yard dash by Carlos Hyde. Akron hit him a few times at the line but neglected to wrap him up. Bauserman-to-Stoneburner was the combination on the subsequent 11-yard touchdown. So much for a strong finish to the half...
Akron intends to run out the clock, but Ohio State will not comply. The Buckeyes called timeout. Fickell is cut-throat.
On third down, Moore threw a great ball to Suel, which Suel pulled in, but the Ohio State defensive back shoved Suel out of bounds before the receiver could get a foot down on green turf, or so the referee originally called. Ianello challenged the play, and it was reversed. Thirty-three yard gain.
Moore showed some guts. He scrambled for an 8-yard gain. Rather than slide, he absorbed a head-on hit from defensive lineman Nathan Williams. If Akron can score here, this would be a huge momentum swing.
Chisholm nearly stalled the drive by taking a swipe at a defender's legs after a play. Fortunately, the referees didn't see it. It's akin to the Ric Flair low blow that always seems to come at the moment when the ref is distracted. Chisholm scampered for a first down two plays later.
Akron's T.J. Marchese will attempt a 41-yard field goal to finish the half. The kick missed wide left.
Halftime - Akron 0, Ohio State 21
Ohio State's band really is a show. The choreography is spectacular. The baton twirler is flawless and doing some incredible tricks. This is the seventy-fifth year of doing "Script Ohio," and this band has perfected it.
Notable halftime stats: Hyde has rushed for 68 yards. Bauserman is 10-of-14 with two touchdowns. Stoneburner, the tight end, caught both. Moore is 5-of-13 with one interception, for 49 passing yards and 27 rushing yards. Chisholm has 10 carries for 24 yards. Wagner leads both teams with eight tackles. Ohio State has 15 first downs, to Akron's five.
Akron kicked off to begin the second half. Corey Brown appeared to be trapped near the 20, but he escaped to the outside and wasn't stopped until midfield.
The Buckeyes are sticking with Bauserman, who delivered a side-arm fastball to Reed for 28 yards. Ohio State is in the Zips' redzone only 1:09 into the second half. Rut-roe.
Bauserman-to-Stoneburner, again. Two-yard touchdown. The Zips are down four scores.
So far, the Zips have not played poorly. Moore has been inaccurate, but he has also remained poised. The defense has missed opportunities to tackle Buckeyes for losses. Akron's offensive and defensive lines have hung tough. That's an important harbinger for the rest of the season.
Miller is back in the game as OSU's quarterback. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Buckeyes were forced to punt for the second time today. The first was also with Miller as QB.
Meanwhile, Kent State is losing 24-0 at halftime in Alabama. An overwhelming majority of you said that the Akron-OSU spread would be smaller than the KSU-'Bama spread.
I can't remember a single passing play over the middle. It seems like crossing routes would better serve Moore's strengths and the strengths of Akron's receivers.
I get this feeling that Moore is going to be a good player for Akron. He's not showing great physical skills today, but he's showing the mental tools are in place.
End of 3Q - Akron 0, Ohio State 28
In my cursory inspection of the media guide, I could not find a single reference to Jim Tressel.
The Buckeyes, with Miller as quarterback, earned their fifth touchdown on a pass over the middle. Akron's L.T. Smith was playing tight coverage, but I don't think he saw the ball coming, so he didn't raise an arm to defend the pass. The important part for many fans (and gambling addicts) is that the Buckeyes are now covering the spread.
Antoine Russell made a solid kickoff return for 42-yards. Patrick Nicely will take over the offense this drive.
Referee Dennis Lipsky left the game for dehydration, but he will be fine.
Today's attendance is 105,001. What? They couldn't reject one person to get a round number?
Nicely's drive was nothing special. He took a coverage sack on third down. Campbell hit another great punt: 53 yards.
Campbell finally hit a bad punt. The ball went off the outside of his foot, a shank, for 21 yards and out-of-bounds.
You'll see that catch by Evan Spencer on SportsCenter. Yowza. One handed, spinning around, getting a foot in-bounds. What a catch!
Smith fell into the endzone for a two-yard touchdown. It was the Buckeyes' sixth score. Rod, as he likes to be called, celebrated a little much for such an effortless play in a game that's been over for two quarters.
With six minutes left, the stands are now about 70 percent empty.
In his three drives, Nicely has been completely ineffective. It appears Ianello and Co. made the right choice, at least as to which QB would give Akron a better chance today.
Taylor Graham will play quarterback for Ohio State's last drive.
Final score - Akron 0, Ohio State 42
Total yards: 517 for Ohio State, 90 for Akron. Ohio State had 36:10 time of possession, with 23:50 for Akron.
"Ohio State is a very good football team. They will certainly be in the race in the Big Ten."
"I thought we played well on special teams. I thought our punter punted well. I thought we covered kicks well. Our defense was on the field way too long. I thought we were competitive on defense, but we missed too many tackles."
"I'm most disappointed in our offensive performance today. I thought we would move the ball but we didn't. We played a lot of young guys today. We aim to re-double our efforts going into next week."
"The line of scrimmage was the problem. We knew they were a very talented defensive front. First and foremost, that has to fall on the offensive line and the tight ends. Their line of scrimmage controlled our line of scrimmage today. The plan was to go three-step drop and not sit back in a five-step drop mentality. When you get far behind, you have to throw some five-step drops and that plays into the defense's hands."
"I tell our team it's never acceptable not to compete at a high level. I expect a certain level of fight, competitiveness and execution. I didn't see that today. That disappoints me. And it disappoints them."
"I thought he (Moore) did some things well. He kept some drives going with his legs. He had good command in the huddle and good presence in the pocket. He got those first-start jitters out of the way. He'll be his hardest critic. That I know."
"They're very physical. It's just one of those games where we had a good gameplan going in. We didn't execute like we like to. Part of that's on me. We made some big plays, but the little plays, the little things, is what killed us today."
"We had a lot of new guys out there. We are going to have a good team. I like our team. We have Temple next week."
"They did a lot of good coverage with their deep guys. There were times when I didn't have as much time as I'd like, but most of the time our protection was pretty good."
"Every game that we play, regardless of the opponent, we need to make it competitive. I don't feel like their defense outmanned us. It's just a step here and a step there."
"I've been a competitor all my life. I've never not competed. From what I saw, looking in the eyes of our team, I wouldn't say we gave up or say we didn't compete."
"We just didn't play that well later in the game. They started wearing us down. That's not Zip defense. I can't say we played well. I can't say we played close to good. They ran all over us. They passed all over us."
"We prepared all week against the stuff they threw at us. We just didn't do the little things. We weren't in our gaps. We missed tackles. We did things that winning programs don't do."
"That kind of powerball is going to help us against Temple, because they run the same thing. We have to get in, watch the film, and improve by leaps. We have a tough opponent to open the MAC schedule."