The final score last Saturday evening in Madison, Wisconsin, was like an uppercut to the jaw for the thousands of Buckeye fans who actually made the trip to Camp Randall Stadium to watch the Ohio State University football team lose to the University of Wisconsin Badgers. Even worse had to be the disappointment of the throngs of OSU fans watching the game on television in their homes, many of whom had declared that both head coach Jim Tressel and starting quarterback to be overrated once again. Tressel has taken a lot of heat from the fans and media alike the last several years for what they term as his inability to win the big game. Two consecutive national championship game losses followed by losses to the University of Southern California in back to back seasons is likely to earn any big name coach that reputation, not just Jim Tressel. And the Buckeyes' victory in the Rose Bowl over Oregon this past January many of the doubters had thought Tressel had finally gotten that monkey off his back. Yet the loss to Wisconsin has once again brought the boo birds back in full effect. However, looking at this game objectively, did Ohio State lose to Wisconsin because they played Tresselball, or was it because for one of the very few times in Jim Tressel's career as head coach of OSU, his team was unprepared for its opponent? Looking back at the gameplan Tressel had devised Saturday, and how Wisconsin reacted to that gameplan, it would certainly seem that way.
Offensively it seemed that the Buckeyes were never really in sync. Tressel could not really be chastized for going ultra conservative, as the Buckeyes went to the air early, albeit with limited success. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had been making plays all season to this point with his arm, and Tressel believed against Wisconsin would be no different. Yet it was only when Pryor tucked the ball under his arm and ran in the first half that Ohio State would gain any first downs, yet Tressel would still try to air it out. Down 21-3 at halftime, Tressel knew he would have to find another way to beat Wisky, so he then went to the ground. Ohio State would eventually cut the lead to 21-18, but a Terrelle Pryor interception late in the fourth quarter would seal the upset for the Badgers. But for a brief moment it seemed that running Pryor would have been there all day had Tressel called it. Kinda makes one wonder if Tressel held on too tightly to the offensive script because he felt he would have been blasted if he didn't.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ohio State knew what was coming, yet they were unable to stop it. Everyone, the Buckeyes' defense included, knew the Badgers' bread and butter was their running game led by tailbacks John Clay and James White, nicknamed 'thunder and lightning.' Yet the Buckeyes seemed unable to stop either one all day, sort of reminiscient of the nc game against Florida, when, inside the Buckeyes' 20, the defense knew Tim Tebow was going to run the ball out of the shotgun yet could not stop him. Obviously Tressel has less to do with the defense, as defensive coordinator Jim Heacock runs that side of the ball, but one would think that after Wisconsin marched down the field on their second possession of the game (on mostly runs) to take a 14-0 lead, those two would have had a chat on what needed to be done to stop their running game. Of course this may be why Tressel should step down as OC, but that might be a topic for another discussion. At the end of the day, while all week long prior to the game Tressel said his team was unconcerned about its number one ranking, and more concerned about the Badgers, his team's lack of focus, especially on the defensive side, would indicate otherwise.
This bellyaching about Tressel's shortcomings is nothing new. What is alarming, however, is that it comes against an opponent that the Buckeyes should have beat. Sure John Clay is an impressive athlete, but he did not have near the speed of a Beanie Wells, and Ohio State has shutdown much more prolific offenses in the past year(the aforementioned Rose Bowl vs Oregon comes to mind.) And with all the weapons that the offense has at its disposal, it still seems Jim Tressel does not understand how to properly utilize his star quarterback. Sure the only way Pryor is going to become a better quarterback is by passing the ball more, but sometimes in order to win one has to scrap the gameplan he wants for the one that will win. But all is not lost. Let all Buckeye fans hope that this once again serves as a wakeup call for the "Senator", and the Ohio State football team rolls its way into January like it did after a similar wakeup call last year against Purdue.