(Ed. Note: Jon typed this on his iPhone, so be gentle. Pray for his computer’s recovery. Jon’s dedication to deliver his special teams analysis article from last weekend’s game against California prompted him to get tennis thumb. Thankfully, our health insurance here on the Death Star covers such things.)
Special teams don’t always win you a ball game, but they can really lose one. Ask Jeff Tedford and his troops back in Berkeley. Three missed Vincent D’Amato field goals were a glaring difference in a narrow seven point loss to a better Buckeye team in Columbus. Again, the Buckeyes did little on special units to separate from themselves from their opponent, but also did not make any mistakes that would ultimately doom them.
PUNTING: Ben Buchanan 8 punts, 40.9 yd per punt, one inside 20.
Ben has been having a very average year so far for the Buckeyes. By saying this, I in no way mean that Ben is an average punter. He just has not quite been reaching the great, game-changing potential that he has. Luckily, our coverage units have been exceptional in getting down the field and forcing fair catches, so these low punts to the middle of the field are not leading to returns. It is a real testament to the whole punt team that the dangerous Keenan Allen finished the game with only one return for -9 yards. Ben did also have one moment of brilliance, with a high arching 55 yard punt leading to a 64 yard net punt and a field position changing play.
KICKING: Drew Basil: 3/4 extra points 0/0 FG
Drew Basil has been a bit of an enigma this year so far. He has not had much work as a field goal kicker, and has had mixed results as a kick off man. I know that Coach Urban Meyer asked him to kick a few short of the end zone in the Miami game to see which guys were going to compete and make a play. However, the short kicks have continued beyond that game. It would be interesting to hear whether he is being asked to kick the ball short of the end zone, or if he is just slightly off his game. Drew was the most polished freshman kicker I have ever seen at Ohio State, and I know he is capable of great things. The shorter kicks could be intentional meant to entice a return, due to the new touchback rule starting the drive on the 25, rather than the 20, as was the case in the past.
The missed extra point was due to nothing more than a lapse in concentration early in the game. It will serve as a great reminder for the rest of the season that EVERY point is crucial, and every play requires 100% focus. Extra points are so easy and routine for kickers that they occasionally go through the motions and miss one. The embarrassment and reprimand from the coaches are usually enough to prevent a dip in concentration again for the rest of the year. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that it did not come back to haunt us in this game.