Being optimistic isn’t always easy. It’s already happened once, and it may happen again, that I struggle to pull three good things out of a performance. This week, though, I could’ve come up with 10 if I tried. Heck, even Twitter was more positive this week (after the game, I stuck to my guns and avoided the site during the game), and that’s saying something.
It’s easy to understand why. Before the season if you had to pick one or two games that the Buckeyes would lose, this one likely would have been the leading vote-getter. It was a road game, the first of the year, against a top-20 opponent that brutalized the Buckeyes defensively last year. Still, despite three turnovers, the Buckeyes got the job done. It was the first signature win of the Urban Meyer era and Buckeye fans have plenty to be excited about.
So let’s get on with it. Here are the three things I liked this week:
1. The tackling is improving. Sure, there was the one touchdown reception where four or five Buckeyes missed tackles. That was bad. But this week, that was the exception not the rule. At one point defensive back Travis Howard, not the surest tackler to begin with, had Le’Veon Bell , a 6’2” 245-pound running back bearing down on him. I thought for sure that it was going to be a first down and more. Not so. Howard wrapped up Bell and brought him down short of the marker. It was a play that the team had failed to make on many occasions this season, but this time it was different. It wasn’t just Howard, though. Etienne Sabino played his best game of the season The rest of the defense tackled just as well. Bell, who rushed for over 600 yards in the Spartans first four games was held to a measly 45 yards on 17 attempts against the Buckeyes.
Things aren’t getting any easier for the Buckeyes and the tackling is going to have to continue to improve this week as Taylor Martinez, Rex Burkhead, and the explosive Nebraska offense come to town.
2. Braxton Miller is still a hoss…and his knee is still in one piece. His foot hit the ground. His knee buckled. The ball came loose. He went to the ground clutching his knee. Buckeye Nation held its breath. It was an ACL for sure. The team’s most important player was done for the season. What’s worse, a 19-year-old kid was about to be put through a year of grueling rehab just to get back to what he was before. But then something funny happened, Miller got up. Then, a shot of him walking around on the sideline. When the Buckeyes got the ball back, Miller trotted back on the field and helped the Buckeyes wrap up the win.
We all know how talented Miller is, and the 300-plus yards of total offense that he put up proved it. But what I was most impressed with was his toughness. Twice he was knocked out of the game, twice he came back in, and not once did he shy away from contact or show any fear in the pocket. It’s that kind of toughness that turns great players into champions. Urban Meyer said it, Tom Herman said it, and I’ll say it: There isn’t anyone in the country that I’d rather have playing QB for theBuckeyes. #GYABB
3. When it was time to ice the game away the Buckeye offense did just that. One of the knocks against the spread offense is that it creates a finesse-based team devoid of toughness. They might look impressive when things our going well, but when up by three with four minutes left, they aren’t tough enough to run the clock out. Well, this Saturday the Buckeyes got the ball back with 4:10 left and a one point lead. All Michigan State needed was a field goal, so it was crucial that the Buckeyes get a couple of first downs. It was a huge test for a young offense against a good run Defense on the road. The Buckeyes passed with flying colors. Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde ran right at the Spartan Defense gaining two first downs and securing the win. I still don’t know what Urban Meyer’s offense will look like once its fully implemented, but I’ll tell you one thing: it won’t be soft.