Instant Analysis - Rose Bowl
Ohio State 26 ... Oregon 17
Rose Bowl Stream-of-Consciousness Notes
Ohio State, and Alabama in the SEC Championship, showed how you stop the spread offense like Oregon likes to run and Florida would like to run when the ground game is working well: you keep the chains moving.
Ohio State didn’t shut down the Duck offense, but it came up with great play after great play on third downs to get Jeremiah Masoli off the field, and Terrelle Pryor was able to keep the chains moving to help the Buckeyes hold the ball for 41:37. Give Oregon’s defense credit for holding up late, but when the offense is up-tempo and it’s not producing on third downs, drives can be very short and the rhythm of the attack can be gone.
It’s going to be tough to stop Oregon next year with so many stars coming back, and it took one of the best defenses in America, and the best game of Pryor’s career, to pull off the Rose Bowl win, but let this game be a lesson on what to do, at least in theory.
1) The defensive tackles have to get penetration and keep the quarterback from taking off. 2) The linebackers have to be disciplined enough to not overpursue, just like they were defending the wishbone or a Georgia Tech/Navy offense. 3) The offense has GOT to keep the chains moving. Time of possession might be an overblown stat, especially because so many teams can strike quickly, but being able to hang on to the ball is a must. 4) Have safeties who can sniff out the tight ends going down the seam. This can only happen if the linebackers are good enough to hold their own on the outside.
This is all easier said than done, and as Jimmy Johnson said when asked how to stop it, you simply need to have talented, athletic defenders.
Think of it this way; it took EVERYTHING to work perfectly for a team as good as Ohio State to beat an Oregon team that never got into a groove. The Buckeyes might have won, but if it’s possible, Oregon was every bit as scary in defeat. The possibilities are endless going into 2010 … for both teams.
Did the nation just witness the coming-out party for Terrelle Pryor as a complete package behind center?
Maligned as a passer during his sophomore season, Pryor delivered one of the best games of his two-year career, repeatedly hurting Oregon with his legs and really making strides as a thrower. Called many things since arriving from Jeanette, Penn., he’ll forever be known as a Rose Bowl-winning quarterback. And there aren’t many Buckeyes who can boast that label.
It’s old news that Pryor is a freakishly good athlete for a player of his size, but his strength may be the most overrated aspect of his game. How many times did he spin free from a possible tackle or stiff-arm a Duck in order to pick up more yards? It had to be at least a half-dozen times, and each one left the Oregon players feeling helpless and frustrated. Pryor the passer, however, was the biggest surprise for those who’ve followed his career. By going 23-of-37 for 266 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick, he set all kinds of personal highs through the air, but it was the final scoring drive that could wind up being a turning point in his career.
Up by two with about eight minutes left, Ohio State did not want to give the ball back to Jeremiah Masoli with the game on the line. The Buckeyes had seen enough of his late-game heroics on film. Pryor’s answer? He calmly led his team down the field, culminating a back-breaking drive with a beautiful 17-yard touchdown pass to DeVier Posey. And just like that a star was reborn. Is Pryor exactly where he needs to be as a quarterback? Not yet, but he certainly took a giant step in that direction Friday evening in Pasadena.
1) Maybe, just maybe, we can put the Jim Tressel bashing to bed. Forever.
No coach with more success has been bagged on throughout the past nine seasons than Mister Sweater Vest. You can argue with his choices at times, and you can say that his quarterback coaching failed to hit the mark for portions of the 2009 season. But with the sole exceptions of Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops, no man won more conference titles in the just-ended decade than Tressel, a model of consistency each and every year.
Why has that consistency emerged, you might ask? Well, for one thing, Tressel – like any successful coach – is a first-rate leader who knows his personnel and owns an acute feel for the personality of his ballclub. Ohio State’s main strength – in almost every season (2006 would be an exception) – is its combination of defense and kicking, and so it has been both sound and wise for Tressel to lean on those pillars in the crucible of gameday competition. The TresselBall formula has so often been assailed in recent years, and while the pigskin portraits created by Ohio State teams have not been aesthetically pleasing, they’ve regularly produced Big Ten championships and BCS bowls.
And now, that TresselBall recipe has cooked up a strong and convincing Rose Bowl win that validated Mr. Sweater Vest’s football philosophy.
Ohio State’s field goal kicking produced 12 points while Oregon’s Morgan Flint – not trusted by a nervous Chip Kelly in the first three quarters – unsurprisingly missed his crucial late kick. The Bucks’ defense thoroughly contained Oregon’s offense, holding a Pac-10 juggernaut – the same one that threw down 47 points against USC, 44 against Arizona, and 37 against Oregon State – to a mere 17 points. Sure, some of the Ducks’ miscues were unforced, but that does nothing to diminish the intelligence of the Tressel Way and its compatibility with this Ohio State program in its current structure and form.
Terrelle Pryor did play much better in this game, and the Buckeyes were certainly more aggressive with No. 2 than they had been in the regular season, but let’s not think that Tressel re-invented the wheel on the first day of 2010. Short passing and – in the fourth quarter – a repeated use of a simple play, a designed rollout keeper, were enough to give Pryor the safety zone he needed as a signal caller. This wasn’t a pyrotechnic display from the Bucks against the Ducks. OSU scored just two touchdowns and still struggled in the red zone. Pryor put a number of balls up for grabs, and was bailed out by tight end Jake Ballard on a crucial catch in the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, because Ohio State limited its mistakes while the nervous and sloppy Ducks repeatedly misfired, the old-school Big Ten coach outschemed and outmaneuvered the guru of the spread option and an up-tempo attack that got slowed down in Pasadena.
The body of work attached to Jim Tressel’s name is formidable and prodigious, a grand portfolio that 110 FBS programs would kill for. As has been said so many times over the past few years, the coaches that deserve to be ripped – eviscerated and castigated – are the coaches at programs who can never even get to a BCS bowl or win a single conference title. Tressel – like Bob Stoops, another high-level winner of the first order – is not the kind of cat who should be clawed at by the Fourth Estate. Maybe this defining and oh-so-sweet triumph will keep the vultures away from Columbus for a very long time to come.
2) There’s no need to shy from it. There’s no point in trying to deny it any longer: While many bowl games shouldn't be seen as definitive measurements of a conference, the 2010 Rose Bowl most certainly was a referendum on the Pac-10, and the results didn’t measure up for West Coast football advocates.
Oregon – disjointed, sweaty-palmed and just plain pee-in-the-pants nervous in its first BCS bowl game, a sharp contrast to an Ohio State crew that regularly plays in these kinds of environments – failed to deliver the goods. The Ducks got overpowered at times, and Jeremiah Masoli was much more like the uncertain field general last seen in early September. Chip Kelly lost his customary boldness when he didn’t go for a first down on 4th and 1 late in the fourth quarter. A stack of silly penalties prolonged multiple Ohio State drives, and LeGarrette Blount lost focus on the fumble that towered over every other snap in the shadows of the San Gabriel Mountains. In the Pac-10, this UO offense was a juggernaut, but against the beef and brawn of the Bucks, Oregon flinched.
It’s harsh, and it’s probably not entirely fair to say so, but it’s still USC and the nine dwarfs out West… at least when it comes to main-event January battles when all the cameras in the Western Hemisphere are trained on one solitary gridiron. This game should make people appreciate just how impressive Pete Carroll’s New Year’s Day accomplishments have been over the past several years. Meanwhile, the Pac-10 cannot be considered the best conference in college football in 2009.