Saturday, August 1, 2009

Slugfest in the 'Shoe

Everyone knew this would be a tough on to win. no one had any illusions about that. But just how resilient the Trojans could be - well, no one quite understood until now. USC gave the Buckeyes all they could handle, and almost more than they could handle, but the Buckeyes proved too tough at home, and pulled out the narrow 17-14 victory.

USC came out tough early, forcing consecutive fumbles in the first two Buckeye possessions, and recovering both. The Buckeye defense held firm, but when preseason Thorpe nominee Kurt Coleman missed a tackle, USC's Joe McKnight made the Buckeyes pay dearly. Coleman had little to say about it after the game. He simply said "It won't happen again," and walked away. The Trojans missed the extra point, but led 6-0.

After watching their offense fumble on consecutive possessions, and their defense give up a big play reminiscent of last year's thrashing in the Coliseum, Buckeye fans might have felt as if they were in for another big Trojan victory, but the team had something else in mind. The Buckeye offense drove the length of the field and capped the drive with a TD on a pitch play to Sophomore Boom Herron. Senior Aaron Pettrey added the point after, and the Buckeyes led 7-6.

The third quarter passes as the defenses tried to control field position, but the Buckeyes were able to add a field goal as the quarter closed, making the score 10-6.

The fourth quarter of this game was something no football fan should ever miss. The defenses slugged it out, gaining and losing yards as if locked in a game of tug-of-war. Southern Cal would make a play, and the Buckeyes would counter with one of their own. But the play of the game happened just after the Buckeyes managed to drive to the five yard line of USC. Boom Herron manged to break a big run late, but he couldn't outrun Senior All-American Free Safety Taylor Mays. It was OSU's ball on the USC five yard line.

The Buckeyes were stuffed on the next two plays, gaining only two yards total. And then it happened. In a clutch situation, star players make big plays. Coach Griffin called the play-action pass on third and goal, the defense sold out on the blitz, and Terrelle Pryor showed us all just how great he might become as he hit the wide open man - (RS)FR TE Jake Stoneburner - in the end zone to put the Buckeyes up 17-6.

With only 2:15 remaining, everyone thought the game was over. But USC wouldn't go away so easily. Quarterback Aaron Corp led the Trojans on a quick drive down the field, but was knocked out of the game by Junior defensive end Cameron Heyward, who racked up three sacks in the game. Backup QB Mitch Mustain hit Junior wideout David Ausberry for a seven yard score with 49 seconds left, and after adding the two-point conversion, the Trojans had a chance. Ohio State 17, USC 14.

On the ensuing onside kick, junior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, who all say has the best hands on the team, recovered the high bouce and fell on it to secure possession and the win.

Or so we thought ...

It was just a simple pitch play. The Buckeyes have run it thousands of times. But this time, sophomore defensive end Malik Jackson did something none of us have ever seen before. He stole the pitch. It happened so fast, the camera guys even missed it. Were it not for the heads-up play of running back Brandon Saine, Jackson might have scored the game-winner.

But the Buckeye defense held firm yet again, and the Trojans were not able to advance into field goal position in time. The game ended with the Buckeyes winning 17-14, but it was a nerve-wracking game right to the end. It was a great one, but the Buckeyes might not schedule the Trojans again for a few years.