October 10, 2010

Sunday Observation: Indiana

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The No. 2 Ohio State football team bounced back from a shaky win over Illinois by dominating Indiana in the second game of the Big Ten Conference schedule Saturday at the Horseshoe.

Now the Buckeyes will head into a game that has been circled by many as the biggest threat in the conference next weekend when they travel to Wisconsin, but for now they advance to 6-0 on the season and remain in the title hunt.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel got his 100th win as the Buckeyes' head coach and quarterback Terrelle Pryor full asserted himself as a passer.

There is a lot to look forward to with the Badgers looming just a week away, but BuckeyeGrove.com breaks down the game with observations from Saturday in the latest version of Sunday Observation.

  • Pryor was clearly slowed by his quad - Tressel wasn't willing to admit in his postgame press conference with the media, but there is no question that Pryor was slowed by his quad injury. When Pryor spoke to the media, he maintained that his lack of running was a conscious decision to allow his leg to full heal heading into the Wisconsin game next weekend.

    Pryor did admit to being in pain all week to some degree, but even if the quarterback didn't say anything, it was clear that he wasn't 100 percent like his head coach indicated earlier in the week. What makes Pryor so dangerous are his legs, and for the first time all season, he didn't use them.

    When it comes to quad injuries, they feel good until you sprint at full speed. After back-to-back games in which Pryor rushed for over 100 yards, he didn't have a single rushing attempt against the Hoosiers. Instead, he was sacked multiple times and he finished the game with negative rushing yards due to the lost yardage.

    Ohio State determined they didn't need Pryor to run in order to beat Indiana, so not fully testing his leg turned out to work for the Buckeyes. Ohio State cruised to the win without making Pryor rush at all and it should allow it to become even healthier this week. The last thing the Buckeyes wanted to do was aggravate it, so he played the first half and one drive in the second half and was done. But don't let anyone tell you Pryor is 100 percent, because it was obvious that wasn't the case.

  • Pryor can still be dominant without legs - Despite the fact Pryor clearly wasn't equipped to evade the rush or make plays with his legs, he didn't need to. He tore up Indiana's secondary by staying in the pocket and throwing the entire game.

    Kudos to Ohio State's offensive line for the great protection, giving Pryor all day to make decisions, but it is quite possible Pryor had the best game as a passer during his Buckeye career on Saturday. He finished the day 24-of-30 for a career-high 334 yards and three touchdowns. And as Tressel will be quick to point out, there were no interceptions.

    Though there were a few passes in the first half Pryor missed on - the long post to Dane Sanzenbacher that would have been a huge gain comes to mind - this was the best game I have seen Pryor play in. No bad decisions, was patient in the pocket, and made great throws. The best throw of the day, in my opinion, was the pass to DeVier Posey on the receiver's back shoulder for the touchdown.

    Pryor may have looked like he was overly patient in the pocket, and that may have been because he didn't want to run on and possibly have a flare up in his quad, but there is no question he can beat defenses with his arm. If they put eight players in the box, Tressel and his staff won't hesitate to throw. And Pryor proved today why they shouldn't.

  • Saine could excel in his new role, if it continues - Ohio State senior tailback Brandon Saine has been the victim of some pretty harsh criticism in the last few weeks. After having a 100-yard game in the Buckeyes' season opener against Marshall, he was only averaging 2.3 yards per carry heading into the game with the Hoosiers. Some said he didn't hit the hole fast enough and some said he didn't have vision to find the seam.

    While he may not be best suited as a runner in between the tackles, he has remainder a weapon in the passing game. Viewed as someone who can take it to the house on any play, Tressel and the staff have envisioned getting him the ball in different ways. Because of his immense speed, Saine creates a mismatch for the defense and is often being covered by the opposing defense's linebacker. On Saturday, the Buckeyes took big advantage of it and Saine caught a 60-yard touchdown pass, using his "track speed" to beat the defender.

    The Buckeyes are loaded in the backfield and it looks as if Saine's job is evolving into something different. He didn't have a carry in the win over the Hoosiers, but that could be for the best. They are starting to use him split out wide and he has some of the best hands I have ever seen on a tailback at Ohio State.

    I am not sure if this is a permanent situation for Saine or not, but he doesn't need to get carries to be a big weapon on this team. As long as they can use his speed and get him out in the open, he will be a weapon for this offense. I like the imagination the coaching staff has with him and it can only get better as he eases into this role.

  • Hall could be on the verge of getting Saine's carries - It has been a big topic for weeks. Why isn't Jordan Hall carrying the ball more? Well, Hall has continued to be in Ohio State's plans and Tressel affirmed last week that he trusts Hall. On Saturday, he got a carry in the first quarter and was in the game quite a bit early.

    While Dan Herron got the majority of the carries - which will continue to be the case - I see the offense progressing toward getting Hall the ball more. He has great vision and is very elusive. Every time he touches it I feel something could happen. Though Hall only got one carry, it was a good sign to see him in the game early against the Hoosiers.

  • Hyde's fumble could be reason youngsters stay on bench - Just in case you haven't noticed, there is nothing Tressel hates more than turnovers. Not to pick on Carlos Hyde, but his fumble inside the red zone is the reason Tressel is hesitant to put in younger plays. Both Hyde and Jaamal Berry showed they have a ton of upside, but you may not get to see these plays as often or early as you think because the risk of turning it over or making a mistake is not one Tressel is willing to take at this point. Granted, the game was in hand when Hyde put the ball on the ground, but it is all about trust with Tressel. And that isn't an easy thing to earn.

  • Bryant doesn't make Buckeyes defense regret decision - Tyler Moeller was the type of guy who could run all over the defense and make noticeable plays. While Christian Bryant has shown his ability to hit, he didn't necessarily do anything to stand out to me. And guess what? That's a good thing.

    There was a lot of worry heading into the game that Indiana would exploit Ohio State's youthful secondary, but that certainly wasn't the case. Bryant seemed to play a sound football game in terms of staying true to his assignments and no big plays were allowed.

    I was against the notion of throwing Bryant in as a safety and moving Jermale Hines to star. I didn't see what good that would do given Bryant has been repping at star since the fall camp session. Though Ohio State will be in its base defense for most of the game next week, excluding Bryant from a ton of playing time, he proved more than capable of filling in for Moeller on Saturday.

  • Tressel solidified himself as a legend - Tressel doesn't do things flashy. It isn't his style. That's probably why he was modest when presented with a award in the press conference after the game signifying his 100th win. With a national title already under his belt and great success, it is hard to think that Tressel wasn't already a Buckeye legend. But with the milestone, Tressel has now solidified himself as one of the greatest figures in Ohio State football history.

    Fans have watched "Tressel Ball" now for 10 years and it hasn't always been the most entertaining brand of football, but there is a reason the head coach was the fastest in Big Ten history to reach this milestone. In the future they will look back at this time and regard this as a golden era for Ohio State football, and Tressel is the main reason for that success.

  • Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the nation - College football is crazy. Just ask the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. Well, they used to be No. 1. Ohio State will likely take over that spot in the polls after Alabama - a team people referred to as an NFL squad - lost to South Carolina on Saturday. Ohio State is in great position to contend for a spot in Arizona for the national championship game. The ultimate target is now on they're backs, however, and they have a big game coming up this weekend. For now, though, Ohio State is the No. 1 team in the nation.

    Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.


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