Sunday, September 13, 2009
"Tressel-ball" Wearing Out Its Welcome
None of this was true Saturday night in Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State was seven minutes from exorcising the “can’t win a big game” demons of the recent past and reclaiming its place as an elite team, temporarily silencing the critics in the process.
And then it happened. Ninety-five yards. Six minutes. Game winning touchdown with seconds remaining. Sound familiar, Cleveland?
As the Buckeye Nation sits here on a Sunday morning, still shell shocked from another defeat on the national stage, I’m not even sure where to start. But I’ll give it my best shot.
First of all, it seems awfully strange to me that the coach that utilized Troy Smith so well is creating an such an identity crisis for Terelle Pryor. One of the most physically gifted athletes to ever step on the Ohio Stadium turf isn’t being utilized to his full potential.
Fourth and goal on the one. Your quarterback is 6’6”, 240 pounds with incredible strength and speed. At some point don’t you have to look Terelle Pryor in the eye and say “OK…you want to be a leader and a big time quarterback? Go get that touchdown…”
Result? Field goal. “Tressel ball” at it’s finest. I cringed. Field goals don’t win big games.
It was odd watching Tressel playing aggressive when he should have been conservative, and conservative when he should have been aggressive. I scratched my head when the Buckeyes passed twice in the closing minutes of the first half when simply running the ball could have effectively run out the clock, with OSU taking a 10-7 lead into the locker room.
More head scratching occurred when instead of attempting a field goal that could have put the Buckeyes ahead by eight points in the fourth quarter, Tressel elected to punt and play field position. The rest, as we now know, is history.
The criticism Jim Tressel in this loss is completely justified in my mind. This one falls directly into his lap. Playing “not to lose” just doesn’t get it against equally talented, well coached teams.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that Jim Tressel should be fired, as many Buckeye fans are screaming this morning. I don’t believe we have reached that point. Yet.
Jim Tressel is a good man. Jim Tressel has been a great football coach for over 20 years, but the honeymoon from the 2002 National Championship is over. A coach who seemed able to do no wrong for the first 5 years at OSU is now being raked over the coals for not being able to win “the big one” anymore. Some of the criticism is unjustified. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes you just lose to a better team. There is no shame in this, and no amount of good coaching will change the outcome of some games.
Jim Tressel is getting paid millions of dollars to coach at Ohio State. He’s not getting paid big money to beat Northwestern and Purdue. He is the coach at an elite football power whose status is slowly fading. You want to coach a big time program? You better be wining some big games, at least once in a while. Ohio State wins even one or two of the past six “big games”, and we aren’t having this discussion.
Ohio State outplayed USC for 50+ minutes and (in my opinion) deserved to win the game. To be fair, some credit should go to USC. They made the plays when it counted and won a game that shouldn’t have been a close as it was.
The players did their part. The fans did their part. It was the coaches who failed.