When Talk Isn’t Cheap

Come the start of daylight savings time, there are going to be a lot of Buckeyes wishing they could turn back the clock…to the Virginia Tech game.

Everything about the way Ohio State has played since, and everything about the way Virginia Tech has played since, suggests a rematch would result in an entirely different outcome than the 35-21 loss OSU suffered September 6.

The scab was picked last night when the Hokies fell to the Miami Hurricanes 30-6. So today might best be spent thinking about the balm that has been the play of quarterback JT Barrett.

It also might be worth questioning whether Barrett’s present performance would be possible without that past adversity.

The redshirt freshman threw 3 interceptions and was sacked 7 times that evening. In the games that have followed, he’s completed 72 percent of his passes, thrown 17 touchdowns to just one pick, and averaged 293 passing yards a contest.

Plus, he’s taken the reigns of the team.

His teammates really noticed that when Barrett gave a speech before playing Kent State.

“He kind of put the offense on his back and took responsibility for the offense,” said H-back Jalin Marshall. “He told us that he’s got us, no matter what. I think that really sunk in to everybody on the offensive side, especially me. Being young, being in the same class as him, it meant a lot to me to feel he really had my back, because I really had his.”

“You could just tell he wanted everyone’s attention, and that’s what he got,” added running back Rod Smith. “He pumped everybody up, and we went out there and executed and have just been rolling.”

The address to the team was, in and of itself, nothing new. In fact, wide receivers coach Zach Smith said he noticed some of his players, wide-eyed and mouthing “Wow!” after Barrett’s pep talk before the season opener against Navy.

This speech, following a tough loss to the Hokies, though, carried an even deeper resonance.

“Him getting hit as many times as he did against Virginia Tech, and keep getting up and going, that was when he started to earn my respect,” explained head coach Urban Meyer. “I think for someone to stand up and to give a speech or whatever, it just depends on who’s standing up and what has he shown. And I think everybody, including Buckeye nation, saw a tough nut that got hit a bunch against Virginia Tech and kept swinging.”

Expect another speech from Barrett before tomorrow’s game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions have an even stingier defense (15.2 points/game) than the Hokies unit (21.3 points/game) that caused Ohio State such problems.

And senior Nick Vannett, who’s assuredly heard his share of pregame talks is looking forward to it. “Just to see the emotion from him gets you kind of riled up as an offense,” he said of Barrett. “He gets after it. It’s probably as good I’ve seen, honestly. So if football doesn’t work out for him, he’s got a backup plan.”

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About To Head Into The Nittany Lions’ Den

Pat Elflein details what they’ve done to get ready for the crowd noise and for the defense that will blitz more than any other they’ve faced.

A very, very confident Nick Vannett talks about heading to Happy Valley. Did we mention he seemed pretty confident?

And, you can watch it if you want, but if you’re Kerry Coombs, you really should see the end of Doran “Batman” Grant’s interview.

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Meyer’s Midweek Update

Urban Meyer tells us how preparations for the Penn State game are going.

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Excited to Invade Happy Valley

There’s a lot to like in this interviews with Ohio State football players Joshua Perry, Evan Spencer and Jalin Marshall.

Perry discusses the Buckeye defense starting to acquire a swagger. Also, how much does he watch an opposing quarterback’s body language to see if he’s knocked the swagger out of him?

Spencer talks about how his now famous grab made for a perfect birthday present for someone.

And don’t miss Marshall admitting the Buckeye wide receiving corp does feature a diva or two. His description of his teammates personalites takes you inside the locker room.

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Get to Know: Penn State

A native son of the Midwest goes to college, where he plays football and graduates with a degree in psychology. Soon after, he enters the coaching profession, works his way up the ranks (spending a lot of this time instructing wide receivers), before ending up in the mighty SEC.

And now? Well, now he’s bringing an SEC flavor to the Big Ten.

Insert the name of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer or Penn State’s James Franklin. Either way, the biography still works.

Their teams, however, are headed in opposite directions.

The Nittany Lions started the season well enough, with wins over Central Florida, Akron, Rutgers, and UMass. What followed, though, were losses to Northwestern and Michigan. (Fixed for typo. Thanks, Michael!)

In those loses, Penn State combined for 19 points and 480 yards of offense (376 passing, 104 rushing). They had three turnovers. Most tellingly, they allowed ten sacks. That two-game total equals the number of sacks they gave up in their previous four victories.

If you look at just their Big Ten games, they are giving up an average of 5 sacks a contest.

Blame it on the fact that the Nittany Lions have four first-year starters on the line. Blame it on the fact that they are working with 64 healthy scholarship players and there are 16 are true freshman looking to redshirt this season.

Whatever the cause, the problems up front have bled into other areas of their game. At least one Penn State beat reporter describes quarterback Christian Hackenberg as having bad body language, looking “mopey” and “disgusted.” Hackenberg has 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions this season.

Partly because the receivers have to get open quickly, the team is only averaging 12.1 yards/catch, which puts them 65th nationally in that category. Also two of the Lions top four receivers, right behind DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, are a running back, Bill Belton, and a 6’7″ tight end, Jesse James.

Belton is also their leading rusher, but unfortunately for him, that’s not saying all that much. Penn State is averaging 2.8 yards/carry. The number drops to 1.73 yards/carry the last two games. And the club is ranked 121st nationally in rushing yards.

On the other side of the ball, however, Penn State has put up some truly impressive numbers. The team that is dead last in the Big Ten in terms of scoring offense, is also the league’s top scoring defense (and 6th in the nation). They are only giving up 15.2 points/game.

How are they getting that done?

They aren’t forcing a lot of turnovers, only 9 total comprising of 2 fumbles and 7 interceptions, which puts them 84th in the country. They’re sort of middling when it comes to tackles-for-loss, as they rank 45th there. They aren’t even one of the top teams at getting off the field on third down. There are 32 other teams which are better.

Where they do excel in a big way is in the red zone. Opponents have made it into the Nittany Lions red zone 19 times this season, and they’ve only come away with 7 touchdowns, just one of which was the result of a pass.

Pacing the Penn State D is Canonsburg, PA native, and senior middle linebacker Mike Hull. He averages 10.7 tackles a game. The team’s next most prolific tackler is also a Pennsylvania native linebacker in Nyeem Wartman. Following him is safety Ryan Keiser, who also has an interception on his resume. Not to sound like a broken record, but he, too, is a Pennsylvania kid.

Defensive tackle Anthony Zettel has 7 tackles-for-loss this season. Defensive end Deion Barnes has added five more.

When the Penn State defense has cracked, it has tended to be in the fourth quarter. They have given up 41 points then, 20 more than they have given up in any other quarter. Meanwhile, the Penn State offense has been least productive in the fourth quarter.

All four quarters of action will air on 97.1 The Fan this Saturday. Kick off is at 8:00 p.m.

UPDATE: The fine folks at Buckeye Battle Cry wanted me to point out that Penn State hasn’t faced any world-beaters offensively. And so I’ve granted them that the top offense they’ve faced so far is ranked 66th nationally in points for. However, I’ve asked them to grant me that their opponents’ combined points/game average is 24.6 and Penn State is giving up 15.2 per. In the end, good points were made by all…expect Penn State’s opponents, that is.

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Ohio State Players Preview Rutgers

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Meyer and Barrett Preview Battle With Rutgers

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