After yet another offensive display of offensive football by the Ohio State Buckeyes while losing in overtime to an underdog Purdue team Saturday, the best compliment given it was by Dispatch reporter Rob Oller who opined that the offense was as “exciting as Lawrence Welk.” Spending the day out-of-town at a daylong family get-together, the game was on but I did not really get to watch it, so I decided to go on-line later that night to check the game stats when I got back home. Knowing that the Bucks had trouble all game running the ball, I wasn’t surprised to see that Boom Heron had only 62 yards on 18 carries. Why Carlos Hyde had only four carries for 12 yards not only surprised but also amazed me.
I then scanned the receiving stats and was very surprised to see Jake Stoneburner’s name not on the list. All season, fans are being told the reason for the Buckeyes lack of any credible passing attack is that the receivers are all young. Granted, they are all inexperienced but they are also very talented and the team finally gets senior DeVier Posey back next Saturday against Penn State, but the Buckeyes have one of the best tight ends in the nation and refuse to utilize both his size and pass catching talent. I am not entirely positive, but I believe that it is not against the rules of collegiate football to hit your tight end over the middle for a sizable gain, especially when you have maybe the best tight end in the country. Whatever happened to that tight end screen pass that Stoneburner caught for a 32-yard touchdown against Nebraska earlier this season? I’m not sure, but it certainly seems like that catch was his last catch of the season. That tight end screen pass must be one of those clandestine plays that a coach runs just once a year when an opponent least expects it.
However, the problems with the OSU offense are much deeper than just this year’s team. In 2009, the Dispatch reported the national rankings for total offense and scoring offense from 2001 through 2009. Statistics might be for losers, but they speak truth. And the truth about the Buckeye offense is offensive. They had one good year in 2006 and a decent year the season before, however, for the most part OSU ranks in the bottom twenty-five percent of the 120 teams in Division 1A. Their total offense average of sixty-six and scoring offense of fifty-one are nothing in which to be proud. The other weak link on the team season after season has been the offensive line, and this is where the problems begin to surface on who might be to blame. One man, Coach Jim Bollman, has been both the offense line coach and offensive coordinator all these years in which any sense of a powerful offensive team has sorely been lacking. The Buckeyes recruit four and five-star offensive line recruits every year and every year the offense line continues to be the weakest part of the team. And everything on offense starts with the line.
Luke Fickell was placed in a dreadful situation and deserves more than what he has been given. However, if getting rid of Coach Bollman means letting go of Coach Fickell, then they both must go. I would like to see Luke and his fellow former teammate Mike Verbal retained as defense coaches, but that probably will not happen. The Ohio State offense has become nothing more than a national joke on ESPN this year. The ineptitude, however, has been brewing for the past ten years. The suddenly poor decision to fire Jim Tressel has exposed this offense for what it is; too simple, too unimaginable, too predictable, too inconsistent in moving the ball up field, too inconsistent in scoring touchdowns once inside the red zone, too boring and too inept for too long.
The Buckeyes can win out, beating both Penn State and Michigan with good defensive play, and play in a decent bowl game. However, the new year needs to find the university searching for not only a new head coach but a director of athletics as well. Gene Smith under his watch has let the entire athletic department become a national embarrassment this past year. If President Gee doesn’t have the cajones to fire his athletic director, he also needs to go. Mr. Gee himself has been ridiculed by the national press twice this year by sticking his foot in his mouth with comments about the football team. The time has come to start over by cleaning house. OSU right now should be planning its strategy and lining up a list of possible ADs and head coaches who would be interested in these positions. Surely, there must be a few people who would love being at Ohio State.
Steven H. Spring
OSU, Class of ‘87