You probably thought I was going to go with some kind of dramatic, over-the-top reference to the exciting finish of the Buckeyes’ win over Purdue, right? Well, I thought of that then decided to go a different direction. Can’t go wrong with a Garth Brooks song, anyway…
What we learned last week: Never say never? I don’t know…
I often say to myself I don’t know where to begin when I sit down to write one of these, but I’m truly feeling that way this week. Perhaps this time it’s for real.
It’s just that I have never seen anything like what happened at Ohio Stadium last Saturday. I am not afraid to admit I was one of those who had written the obituary for Ohio State undefeated football season of 2012. I hadn’t seen enough from the available parts to think they had a comeback in them.
I’m not the only one who felt that way because quite honestly the odds were against them.
After the game, Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman didn’t say he doubted the Buckeyes’ ability to come from behind, but he intimated he realized how difficult it was going to be. It was interesting to see his response, with him being a new guy on the block.
Obviously the rest of us have seen a lot of these stories unfold over the years, and aside from 2002, they tended to have an unhappy ending. Herman was coming at it from a different perspective, one I couldn’t pretend to fully understand without asking him more about it. But working with those guys every day, he’s going to have a different perspective on what those guys can do. And yet he probably didn’t know they could drive 61 yards in 47 seconds either until it happened.
Herman strikes me as a pragmatic person, so he certainly would have been acknowledging, at least subconsciously, the odds all along we’re not with him regardless of how much hope he might have had as he called the plays in the waning seconds.
So maybe the lesson is just to remember this whole season is about re-adjusting expectations on a personal if not program level.
This 2012 season is all about a fresh start. Parts of it we have seen before, but much of it is new. And even some of the familiar with things are going to be re-imagined.
Last year we saw them get over the hump of the fourth-quarter collapse. At least that’s what we thought after they beat Wisconsin. They suffered the letdown of the giving up a lead late, but they changed the narrative by coming up with their own late score.
Of course, even with that exciting new twist to the season, they couldn’t finish. The bullets they fired against Wisconsin were their last. The 2011 Buckeyes were really never the same after that.
I suppose that makes a fitting bridge from the Jim Tressel era to the present day. I hate to make too many Tressel comparisons, but we are just going to have to get a few more of those out-of-the-way. That was obviously a significant time in the program’s history, so it’s inevitably going to keep coming back, at least for a while.
And for whatever reason – maybe there wasn’t one – those teams just had a hard time with certain things. Maybe they used up all their mojo early on, but then again there were almost as many bad breaks in the 2001 season as there were good in 2002, so I guess you just never know.
These Buckeyes are still learning to live again, and in some ways it may be killing them. There’s no doubt that right or wrong, them mindset is being re-programmed. Some have already left, and many are not the same players they were before.
I think instead of slow and steady wins the race, the message now is to go out and take what is theirs. That is going to fit better with some players than others.
Sometimes you’re just not good enough, and that’s why even Urban Meyer teams lose games. He is an interesting guy to follow because he seems to have a constant struggle between his pragmatic side and his passionate side. Both mean well, but they can’t always have their way. Ideally, they’ll work together to keep him aggressive but sane and he’ll be able to pass that on accordingly, but who knows.
I imagine we all know what it’s like to ache for the best in life while realizing there are steps that must be taken to reach them. There are going to be plenty of small victories along the way that must be celebrated in their own right, ultimate goals be damned.
Expectations are key for excellence, but understanding is necessary for sanity.
Games like last Saturday’s will drive you crazy, but they are often necessary to achieve true excellence.
That is where the Buckeyes stand 3/4 of the way through Meyer’s first season.
What can we expect to learn this week: Who is the best banned Big Ten team? Doesn’t get much more simple than that.
This Ohio State team is in the odd situation of being able to win all its game but not play for all the marbles, and that is not an entirely bad thing. They get 12 games to work out the kinks in a new system but still have the chance to make their own bit of history depending how these last four games pan out. Given their schedule and the state of the Big Ten, the Buckeyes might have been left of the penultimate BCS title game anyway. Anything can happen in one game, but I’m not sure this team is really ready to take on the nation’s best this season, either.
Nothing is usual about this season, and this Saturday’s game at Penn State might be the strangest of them all.
Two proud programs will get together with nothing but pride for which to play despite their respective records and the good vibes from new coaches.
What Bill O’Brien has done within any Nitany Lions in the past month or so cannot be ignored. I definitely did not think they had it in them, but they are playing well on both sides of the ball. This is a big showcase for two old programs going in new directions, and it should tell us a lot about both.
O’Brien’s time in the NFL seems to have taught him a few things about matching up with a team’s weaknesses, something that might not bode well for an Ohio State defense that still has plenty of those.
Purdue is a strange team that seems to be worse than the sum of its parts. Penn State may be just the opposite. The Lions have a senior quarterback playing better than he ever has, a patchwork backfield that’s still been productive, a better-than-expected offensive line and a wide receiving corps that has produced a new star. Defensively, they are familiar in that they play tough up front, but I’m not sure the secondary has been tested yet. That may or may not change this week given the state of the aphid State passing game.
Whatever happens, it’s another and new experience for these young Buckeyes, another chance for this coaching staff to get to know its players better. That figures to be valuable but now and even more so in the future, not to mention fun to watch.