COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — This promises to be an intriguing week for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Coming off a dreadful 24-6 loss at Miami on Saturday night, interim coach Luke Fickell and his staff and players will be trying to solve a lot of problems while preparing for the most challenging part of their season.
The Buckeyes are coming off one of the worst offensive performances in the school’s 122 years of intercollegiate football.
“We didn’t execute as a whole,” said fifth-year senior quarterback Joe Bauserman, who had spelled Terrelle Pryor the last two years.
Then Bauserman added, “It’s a long season.”
It could get even longer. The Buckeyes, ranked No. 17 last week, plummeted from The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in almost seven years. Now they’ve got to regroup for a home game against Colorado, buoyed by a victory over cross-state rival Colorado State and with a chip on its shoulder.
“The Ohio State game is a big game for us,” Buffaloes quarterback Tyler Hansen said while mentioning three Ohio natives on the CU roster. “(They) really want this next one bad so we are going to fight for them and work our butts off.”
Beyond the Colorado game lies a minefield of good teams awaiting the Buckeyes: Michigan State, at No. 9 Nebraska, at No. 24 Illinois and home against No. 6 Wisconsin.
“With a loss like this, we can go and learn from things and get a lot better,” defensive back C.J. Barnett said of the punchless loss in Florida.
Fickell seemed as flummoxed by his team’s mental and physical lapses as anyone. As the final minutes ticked away, he didn’t even use any timeouts to stop the clock. It was as if he just wanted the whole, ugly thing to disappear as quickly as possible.
“We’ve got to do a great job at sitting down and figuring out how we need to move forward and where our focus is going to be with the guys we have and how we can get the ball into different guys’ hands and what we can do to be successful,” Fickell said. “There are a lot of areas we have to make sure to go back and take a real hard look at — and to get better at.”
The first position is quarterback.
True freshman Braxton Miller completed two meaningless passes to backs on Ohio State’s final possession in the final seconds. That padded a woeful stat line for the passing game. The Buckeyes combined to hit on just 4 of 18 passes for 35 yards with one interception. Miller was stuck with that pick when his hard throw went off the hands of tight end Jake Stoneburner and was intercepted by JoJo Nicolas. Miller also lost a fumble and recovered another one he dropped.
Despite the two turnovers, many Buckeyes fans want him to step into the starting role. It’s a troubling dilemma for Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. The problem fell into their laps when Pryor was first suspended for the first five games for breaking NCAA rules by accepting cash and free tattoos and then left school a year early for the NFL. Inexperienced and unproven players were left to replace him.
Bauserman has not been on the field for a turnover but has also not produced in the last two games. Miller has come closer to enlivening the attack, adding the ability to break containment, but has three turnovers in limited playing time.
The quarterbacks certainly aren’t alone in having a bad game. The wide receivers didn’t catch a pass — all four of Ohio State’s completions went to running backs — and the guys out wide had three or four drops and couldn’t shake defenders.
The void at receiver will be helped in two weeks when DeVier Posey returns from his own five-game suspension for his role in Tattoo-gate. In addition, Corey “Philly” Brown sat out the Miami game after injuring his leg against Toledo in Week Two. It’s unknown when he will return.
On top of the other concerns, the defense was gashed for 240 rushing yards, including 54 by Lamar Miller on the Hurricanes’ first play from scrimmage, and gave up passing TDs on the first two possessions.
In other words, it’s not as if the offense was alone in losing the game.
“We blame no one,” defensive lineman John Simon said. “This is a full team effort. This team is very close, family-like, so we’ll be fine.”
Colorado (1-2) comes in fired up after the first win of the Jon Embree era at the former powerhouse. The Buffs don’t plan on taking the day off.
“I’m familiar with that team; I’ve played them twice,” said CU wide receiver Toney Clemons, a transfer from Michigan. “The Horseshoe is going to be a madhouse. We have to get ready to go play against them. Right now, we’re playing against ourselves. That’s the main goal — to stay focused.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)