They don’t do the old “steak and beans” thing anymore, but if so the members of the Scarlet squad would’ve dined nicely after a 20-7 victory over the Gray in Ohio State’s 2008 edition of the Spring Game. With several main cogs (Chris Wells, Brian Robiskie, Steve Rehring, Ben Person) being held out due to injury, some of the star power bloom was off, but over 76,000 folks braved a rainy day to get a first look at one of the most talent- and experience-laden teams in school annals.
Senior QB Todd Boeckman ran the show for the Scarlet for the first half only. On the opening series of the game, he looked the same Todd Boeckman from the end of ’07, seeing his first deep throw of the day picked off by Kurt Coleman on a super diving snag. As is always the case, there’s good and bad to every play in the Spring Game. The bright spot here was seeing the defense make the pick, something they botched more often than not last season.
“Boom” Herron got the next Scarlet drive off to a nice start with an eight-yard gain on first down, but on third down Boeckman was “sacked” (playing with a black jersey, he was off-limits to being tackled) by Lawrence Wilson. Obviously, the silver lining of Wilson’s injury last year was the emergence of freshman Cameron Heyward at defensive end. Now with Wilson healthy, he and Heyward are the end tandem and it will be fun to see if those two can generate the heat that Vernon Gholston did.
The Gray made hay on the ground on their second possession, mixing runs from Brandon Saine and Mo Wells with a nifty 9-yard scramble by Antonio Henton. That jaunt left the Gray with a 4th-and-3, which Saine failed to convert as Cameron Heyward dragged him down from behind.
The Scarlet took over with good field position at their own 47. A 4-yard pop by Herron was followed up with a Todd Boeckman long-distance hookup with Brian Hartline to the Gray 2. After Herron bulled for 1, Boeckman ran a sneak for the score, a curious call considering he was supposedly “off limits” with the black jersey.
The Scarlet “D” turned up the heat on the next drive, forcing Henton to basically throw the ball away on consecutive plays. Hilliard Davidson product Bo Delande jumpstarted the next Scarlet offensive drive by snaring a 6-yard pass out of the backfield as quarter one came to a close.
Rory Nicol hauled in a 10-yard pass to move the chains- something I’m sure we’ll see a whole boatload of in the fall…. fill in your own joke. Boeckman dialed up Hartline four times in his next 5 passes to advance the ball to the Gray 16, but after a holding call on Brian, Todd tried to go to him again over the middle and Ross Homan made a rather easy interception at the Gray 19.
Redshirt frosh Joe Bauserman took control of the Gray offense for the remainder of the day. A pair of throws to Taurian Washington and two nice dashes from Marcus Williams moved the ball to the Gray 49. From there, Bauserman got tremendous protection from an “O” line featuring only one potential starter in Bryant Browning and lofted one to Washington for a 51-yard score to even the count at 7.
Wideout Ray Small, who has spent the spring in Jim Tressel’s doghouse and got his #4 jersey taken away as a result, got open for a 19-yard pickup on 3rd-and-10. Facing 3rd-and-18 moments later, Jake Stoneburner plucked another 19-yard toss to get the ball into Gray territory. An interference call on Andre Amos produced a first down at the Gray 35, but Amos atoned on the next play, dragging Ray Small down inbounds to keep the clock moving towards the half. Aaron Pettrey was summoned and drilled a 48-yard field goal, giving the Scarlet a 10-7 lead at the break.
Todd Boeckman’s day was done, with effective numbers (12 of 17, 142 yards). But there were the two picks. The first took a great play by Kurt Coleman, but the second was a no-brainer for Ross Homan. Out of 17 passes Todd threw in the first half, 10 of them were complete to, or intended for, Brian Hartline. Yes, Brian Robiskie was hurt. Yes, it’s the spring game and the rosters are mishmash. Yes, B-Hart is a dependable receiver. But the wide receiver position, although lacking a proven third guy, isn’t exactly chopped liver, especially when it comes to depth. Does Todd not have confidence in anyone else? Were the play calls all designed to go to Hartline, especially seeing that Boeckman didn’t appear to be making any progressions?
As last year wound down, I admitted that I was becoming disenchanted with Boeckman. And I’m looking forward, just as you all are, to what Terrelle Pryor can bring to the table. The frustrating thing is that the Todd Boeckman of last September and October has vanished, and that’s the Todd Boeckman this team needs to get to the title game for a third straight year. The interceptions have got to stop. And it won’t take defenses long to react if Todd, or any of our QB’s, are going to lock on to one receiver.
Right now, on paper, OSU’s season boils down to three road games- USC, Wisconsin and Illinois. If last year’s second-half game plan against Michigan- Beanie left, Beanie right, Beanie up the middle- is enough to win those games, then pack for Miami. But odds are much better you’ll need to have offensive balance, and a big part of that is utilizing all of your weapons.
Joe Bauserman’s first throw of the third quarter was a dart to Brian Schuck for a first down. Problem was Joe was past the line of scrimmage, resulting in a 3rd-and-15. No sweat- Bauserman went right back to Schuck for 18 and a first down, but the drive would fizzle as Thaddeus Gibson and Dexter Larimore teamed up to sack Joe three plays later.
Ray Small’s knee was down at his 34 as he fielded Jon Thoma’s ensuing punt, but as the Big Ten Network broadcast returned from commercial the ball had magically moved back to the 30. I thought I had missed a flag, but upon further review the game clock at the top of the screen had moved eight minutes ahead. Should’ve known better than to rely on the Big Ten Network for a complete broadcast. Guess they couldn’t talk freecreditreport.com into buying more ad time for this tape-delayed extravaganza.
Antonio Henton had switched to the Scarlet side for the second half, and with a 3rd-and-13 at the Gray 33, he drifted left and floated one for Ray Small, who made a nice grab at the sideline to give the Scarlet a first-and-goal at the 3. Henton came out of a play fake and looked for Rory Nicol in the back of the endzone, but fullback Curtis Terry- and several defenders- were in the vicinity as well. Donald Washington went up and tipped the pass in the air, but Andrew Sweat couldn’t quite snare it before it hit the turf. The offensive braintrusts on the Scarlet side wisely decided to keep the ball on the ground, and two bursts by “Boom” Herron got the score, fattening the Scarlet lead to 17-7.
Joe Bauserman scrambled for 12 to get the Gray going on their next offensive thrust, then fired long for Taurian Washington. Chimdi Chekwa got himself turned around in coverage, and although he was right there, he missed with a swipe at the ball and Washington cradled it for a 63-yard touchdown. But the duo’s second TD strike was not to be as the Gray was flagged for a hold. A Nader Abdallah sack throttled the drive, and with it went the Gray’s best chance to get back in the game.
The Scarlet added a final field goal with under a minute to play. Mike Mattimoe’s 23-yard boot finalized a drive highlighted by tough inside running from Bo Delande and another acrobatic scramble from Antonio Henton, although it resulted in no gain.
The Buckeyes got out of the game pretty much injury free, which is always key in these Spring Games. Linebacker Jermale Hines was helped off the field after Jake Ballard inadvertently rolled up on his ankle, but in the postgame press conference Jim Tressel didn’t think it was that serious.
So, to summarize-
Offensive pluses- Joe Bauserman showing a nice touch on his deep throws and hints of mobility, solid protection from the Gray “O”-line, flashes from “Boom” Herron
Offensive minuses- Boeckman (Hartline) and Bauserman (Taurian Washington) honing in on one guy, precious little of the “pony” backfield (two tailbacks on the field at the same time) that we’ve heard so much about during spring drills (although I can certainly understand not tipping your hand), a lack of aggressiveness by the Scarlet on their final drive of the first half
Defensive pluses- The SEC can snicker all they want, but the “D”’s overall speed is outstanding; the depth is mind-boggling- the third teamers are probably better than most of the Big Ten; welcome back Lawrence Wilson
Defensive minuses- A few guys whiffed on possible sacks and TFL’s; memo to certain members of the defensive backfield- C’mon fellas, you could be part of one of the greatest teams to ever roll through this place. Keep clean off the field
Again, apologies to everyone for a less-than-thorough play-by-play breakdown, but I was at the mercy of the Big Ten Network’s tape delayed broadcast, which they had to trim to two hours. Former Buckeye tailback Butler By’not’e did OK as color commentator, but his partner John Berger (sp?) was pitiful. I lost count of how many times he had the wrong guy doing something. Of course, as far away as the camera shots were of the field, I guess I could understand if ol’ John couldn’t see someone. There’s no excuse, however, for saying Aaron Pettrey’s 48-yard field goal at the first half gun was “right down the middle” when the live shot and subsequent replay clearly showed the football just sneaking in the upright. I guess we better get used to our friends at the old BTN- it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if all of OSU’s August and September games- excepting USC- turn up there.
After a beautiful week in Columbus leading up to the game, the weatherman blew it for gameday. The crowd of over 76,000 was soaked by a consistent rain that may have kept OSU from breaking Alabama’s attendance record of some 92,000+ at their spring game last year. On the plus side, the lacrosse team beat Denver 20-13 in the run up to the football game in front of the largest crowd they’ll probably ever play for.
Here’s hoping for a quiet summer off the field, and we’ll prepare for what should be another tremendous season.
RANDOM THOUGHTS- Cris Carter and Mike Tomczak served as honorary coaches for the game. Tomczak, of course, broke a leg in the ’84 spring game, but rebounded to lead OSU to an outright Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth…ABC/ESPN must be convinced that this is Joe Paterno’s last go-round. Penn State will play three 8PM games this fall (including October 25th in Columbus), plus a 4:30 start against Michigan. And what was the Big Ten Network showing while Ohio State was playing its Spring Game? Of course, live coverage of Penn State’s spring contest, with JoePa providing sterling color commentary in the booth. Brace yourself, folks- the media’s coverage/butt-kissing of JoePa this fall is gonna rival the holy reverence Tiger Woods gets every tournament…The Bucks wore a decal on their helmets Saturday with the initials “DS”. This was in honor of Dianna Sharp, who, while working as a school crossing guard here in my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio, was hit and killed by a dump truck trying to protect a student. One year ago decals on OSU’s helmets honored those killed at Virginia Tech…