Yup. Turns out the best game of the weekend was Friday night.
The Buckeyes’ fall goes on the Ohio State defense in my mind. Sure Todd Boeckman wilted under pressure like a malnourished begonia. But we knew he’d do that, so the goal had to be to keep the pressure off of him.
Jim Tressel came out in the second drive with a little vintage late-’90s Spurrier action, rotating Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor on nearly every play. It worked until the red zone, when USC rebuffed OSU’s attempts at getting in the end zone, but a field goal left Ohio State with a 3-0 lead.
At that point, the Buckeyes were in good shape. The offense had moved the ball well, and the tough, senior-laden defense was now playing with a lead. They had landed the first punch in the only game all those seniors returned to school for.
Oops. It became 14-3 almost before you could blink as the Trojans knifed their way through Ohio State’s defense with startling ease. Now it was different. Now there was pressure. Now, it was time for Boeckman to self destruct.
The next three drives went like this: missed field goal, Boeckman interception returned for a touchdown, Boeckman lost fumble. It became obvious fairly quickly that Pryor was only around to make one read and run, since he missed some open receivers regularly. The game was put on the senior quarterback, and he sure played like one. Provided your frame of reference is Chris Rix or Anthony Morelli, of course.
USC played like the calm assassins they normally are, but (I can’t believe I’m saying this) they weren’t really challenged much in this game. OSU opened with a jab, USC countered with a right hook, and the Buckeyes hit the mat never to get up.
Somehow you knew the Ohio State offense would struggle without Chris Wells, but the inevitable conclusion is that Wells is the offense. Robiskie and Hartline are no Ginn and Gonzalez, and Boeckman sure is no Smith or Krenzel.
The good news for Ohio State is that the Rose Bowl is still out there. Only Penn State, and to a lesser extent Wisconsin, look like a serious contender for the conference throne for now.
Still, this season is lost for the Buckeyes. They said constantly before the game that it’s not about the top 10, it’s national title or bust. Well, bust it is.