Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Ohio State flirted with defeating a ranked opponent against Nebraska, but came up empty-handed after a late-game meltdown. Saturday, the Buckeyes will look to upset No. 16-ranked Illinois.
I was hesitant to jump on the Braxton Miller bandwagon, but consider my bags packed. Under Miller, the Buckeyes held a 27-6 lead in the third quarter. Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman was dialing up misdirections, play-action passes and seemed to get rid of the “run on first and second down, pass on third, punt and repeat” philosophy.
When Miller’s injury forced Joe Bauserman back into the game, the offense ceased to exist. OSU needs a healthy Miller behind center to keep the defense honest. When defenses are preoccupied with Miller’s legs, passing plays and running lanes open.
Daniel “Boom” Herron is back this week and Bollman would be wise to feed him the ball. The Buckeyes are 18-1 in games in which Herron has at least 55 yards rushing and 20-3 in games in which he scores a touchdown. Fickell said that Herron will likely be seen on special teams, but he needs to factor in the offense too.
The Buckeyes defense picked up where it left off against Michigan State – but only for two quarters. They held the No. 1-ranked rushing offense to just 37 yards and six points in the first half. But in the second half, when the team needed the defense the most, they fell apart allowing 195 rushing yards and 28 points.
The defense needs to force turnovers as they did in crucial situations against Michigan State. The Buckeyes forced just one Nebraska turnover, an interception, and that came in the first half. Being on the road again, the Buckeyes will have to fight momentum and the crowd. The easiest way to stop momentum is with a turnover from the defense.
Senior defensive end Nate Williams is out for the year, so someone on the defense must step up as a permanent pass-rushing threat. In the disastrous second half against Nebraska, the Buckeyes again went without a quarterback sack.
Fittingly, junior punter Ben Buchanan continues to be the Buckeyes’ best player. He downed a punt inside Nebraska’s 10-yard line as well as pinning the Cornhuskers inside their own 20-yard line twice, including a 55-yard boot. They will need him to help control the field position battle.
Drew Basil has been reliable this season, hitting 7-of-9 field goal attempts and leading the Buckeyes in scoring. If OSU has a chance to put three points on the board, they would be wise to take them.
If special teams are where Herron makes his appearances Saturday, he needs to make the most of them and provide the team with a spark. As senior offensive tackle Mike Adams showed against Nebraska, this team feeds off of a confident senior player.
The coaches must come up with an offensive gameplan that is operational with or without Miller. As effective as Miller was against Nebraska, the offense cannot depend solely on him. A freshman scrambler is going to get beat around, and if he has to come off the field, the offense must continue to attack.
And, if Miller goes down again, the coaches should take a good hard look at third-string sophomore quarterback Kenny Guiton. The Bauserman experiment has been tried, and it has failed – miserably. The offense couldn’t be any less effective under Bauserman.