September 24th – at Ohio State Ohio State 37, Colorado 17
On a beautiful fall day in Columbus, Ohio, the Buckeye fans found their quarterback of the future … while Colorado fans continued to be haunted by their past.
True freshman quarterback Braxton Miller made his first career start for Ohio State, and did just enough to lead the Buckeyes to a 37-17 victory before a crowd of 105,096. Miller completed only five of 13 passes for 83 yards, but had two touchdowns passes on the day. Miller also contributed 83 yards rushing, making life difficult for a Colorado defense forced into pressure situations all afternoon.
“We have a long way to go as a program,” first-year coach Jon Embree said. “We have a long way to go from the standpoint of getting to where we are competing and not hoping to upset an Ohio State.”
For Colorado, senior quarterback Tyler Hansen went 22-of-39 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, and the Buffs were close to the Buckeyes in total yards, 336-314, but the numbers belie the fact that the Buffs were never in the game.
The afternoon started off poorly for the Buffs … and then went downhill. A 45-yard kickoff return by Jordan Hall on the opening kickoff was offset by a penalty, but the starting position of the 40-yard line was indicative of how the day would go for the Ohio State offense. On the day, the Buckeyes average starting field position for their drives was the Colorado 47-yard line.
The Colorado defense held on the Buckeyes’ first possession, but the Colorado offense needed only 21 seconds to throw three incompletions and return the ball to Ohio State.
Then, the play of the game (or at least as close to a play of the game as you can get in a rout) … Colorado freshman punter Darragh O’Neill punted rugby style, with the punt going only a short distance before hitting an Ohio State player. While the play of the game in the Colorado State game had resulted in a Buff fumble recovery, in Columbus the ball was recovered by Ohio State.
Taking over at the Colorado 43-yard line, Ohio State needed only seven plays to take the lead for good. The Buckeyes, who completed only four passes the previous week in a 24-6 loss to Miami, didn’t need to throw the ball even once on the drive, pushing the Colorado defense backward, culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Jordan Hall midway through the first quarter. Ohio State 7, Colorado 0.
On the Buffs’ next possession, the Colorado offense did something it hadn’t done in nine quarters of play … turn the ball over. A mixup between quarterback Tyler Hansen and running back Rodney Stewart resulted in a fumble at the Colorado 22-yard line.
The Colorado defense, aided by a sack by linebacker Josh Hartigan, held, forcing Ohio State to settle for a 28-yard field goal. Still, a two score advantage was gained by the Buckeyes with 4:49 still to play in the first quarter. Ohio State 10, Colorado 0.
Another three-and-out for the Colorado offense punctuated another frustrating first quarter for the Colorado offense. At the end of the stanza, the Ohio State offense had the ball and ten points, while the Colorado offense had yet to earn a first down.
Before Colorado earned its first first down, the score was up to 17-0. The Buckeyes’ third scoring drive covered only 46 yards, with quarterback Braxton Miller picking up his first touchdown pass of the day, this one covering 32 yards to Devin Smith. Ohio State 17, Colorado 0.
Down three scores, the Colorado offense finally came to life. The Buffs put together a ten-play, 83-yard drive, highlighted by 19-yard pass from Hansen to Paul Richardson and a 24-yard pass from Hansen to senior tight end Ryan Deehan. On fourth-and-one at the Ohio State 11-yard line, Colorado head coach Jon Embree eschewed a field goal attempt, deciding to go for a first down. Rather than try and cover a yard on the ground, the Buffs opted to try a pass. A scrambling Tyler Hansen lofted the ball into the Ohio State endzone, finding senior wide receiver Toney Clemons for an 11-yard score and some new life for the Buffs. Ohio State 17, Colorado 7.
After the Buffs kicked the ensuing kickoff out-of-bounds (for the fourth time in four games), Ohio State took over at their 40-yard line with 2:44 to play before halftime. A 15-yard illegal block penalty kept the Buckeyes from progressing further, and it was the Buffs who called time out, with 37 seconds to play, as the Buckeyes lined up for a punt.
The Ben Buchanan punt went 38 yards. Senior Rodney Stewart, playing before a hometown crowd, made a bad decision. Instead of letting the ball go into the endzone (even if the ball had been downed inside the Colorado five, the Buffs could have run out the clock with no further damage), Stewart attempted a fair catch. Stewart fumbled, with Ohio State recovering at the Colorado 11 yard line.
The Colorado defense held, but a chip shot field goal of 18 yards on the last play from scrimmage before the half took away any momentum the Buffs may have generated.
Halftime score: Ohio State 20, Colorado 7.
Any lingering doubts as to the outcome of the Colorado/Ohio State football game were erased in the first two possessions of the second half. If the Buffs had had new life instilled in them in the second quarter touchdown drive, it didn’t show. The Colorado offense, after a penalty on the kickoff forced them to start at the nine yard line, quickly went three-and-out. Taking over at midfield after a 33-yard punt by Darragh O’Neill, Buckeye running back Jordan Hall carried the ball on five successive plays, taking the ball down to the Colorado 17-yard line. Poised for yet another Hall run, the Colorado defense was not ready for a Braxton Miller pass. A 17-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith was all too easy, and the Buckeyes were on cruise control. Ohio State 27, Colorado 7.
A decent drive by the Colorado offense ensued, with the Buffs driving 60 yards in eight plays, highlighted by a 21 yard pass from Tyler Hansen to Ryan Deehan followed by a 27 yard run by Rodney Stewart. The drive stalled, though, after a holding penalty, and Colorado had to settle for a 47-yard field goal by Will Oliver. Ohio State 27, Colorado 10.
A flicker of hope for the Buff Nation? Down 17 points, but there remained almost 20 minutes of game clock …
Enter the Colorado special teams.
In one of the worst performances by a special teams unit in recent memory – and the Buffs struggled on special teams throughout the Dan Hawkins’ era – Will Oliver’s kick was returned 90 yards by Jordan Hall, finally caught by Terrel Smith at the Colorado five yard line. The five yard run by Carlos Hyde for a touchdown on the next play was inevitable. Ohio State 34, Colorado 10.
Many from the Buckeye Nation were already back at their tailgate parties, discussing the upcoming Michigan State game, when Ohio State kicker Drew Basil matched his Colorado counterpart with a 47-yard field goal of his own. A season-long 91-yard drive by the Buffs later in the quarter did little other than to pad the stats and prevent further carnage. A 14-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Hansen to freshman Tyler McCulloch made the score 37-17.
Only the kindness of Ohio State first-year head coach Luke Fickell prevented a more lopsided score, as the game ended with Ohio State with a first-and-goal at the Colorado six yard line.
Final score: Ohio State 37, Colorado 17.
“We have been awful starting games,” understated Colorado head coach Jon Embree, whose team posted three points total in the first quarter in the first four games of his tenure. “We script plays and we go through it and we give them the looks and we practice it. We do everything. But, for whatever reason, when the lights go on whether it’s a drop, whether it’s a missed block, whether it’s a fumble, we continually struggle starting games.”
The other obvious shortcoming for the Buffs against Ohio State came in special teams. From the opening kickoff, in which the Buffs surrendered a 45-yard return, to the 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, to the kickoff out-of-bounds, to the fair catches inside of the ten yard line (which directly led to ten points for the Buckeyes), to penalties on kickoffs, which forced the offense to continually start inside its own 20-yard line … “We spend 35 minutes at practice on special teams”, said Embree. “We play young guys but there are no excuses. They are out there and we expect them to execute. We just keep emphasizing what we need to do to make it better.”
How bad were the Colorado special teams? On the day, Ohio State never had to start a drive from inside its own 20-yard line. Conversely, the Colorado offense started eight-of-twelve drives inside its own 20-yard line. The Buckeyes started six of their 12 drives on the Colorado side of the field; the best the CU offense was offered on the day was the Buff 37.
Armed with these numbers, it was not really all that surprising that Colorado almost matched Ohio State in total yards, 336-314 … the Buckeye offense didn’t have that far to travel to score. Ohio State had seven scoring drives on the day, none covered over 50 yards. Colorado had three scoring drives on the afternoon, the shortest drive covering 60 yards.
Tyler Hansen put up decent numbers – 22-of-39 for 238 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions – but once again the Colorado rushing attack was non-existent. The Buffs had only 16 carries for 76 yards against Ohio State, with Rodney Stewart getting 11 touches for 55 yards (but, discounting one 27 yard run, the numbers don’t look so encouraging – ten carries for 28 yards).
“Everything we want to accomplish is still ahead,” said Hansen. “This game doesn’t count towards our goal of winning the Pac-12. We’re still motivated. It hurts to lose, but we’re going to keep fighting. We have a big game against Washington State next week.”
The Cougars, 2-10 in 2010, had a bye week to watch the Colorado/Ohio State game, heading off to Boulder with a 2-1 record, and an offense averaging 49 points per game.
Game Notes –
– For the first time in seven years, the Ohio State defense surrendered over 300 yards in three consecutive games. That stat carries little relevance to Buff fans, who watched the CU offense go three-and-out three times, gaining only 18 total yards, in a 10-0 first quarter when the game was still in doubt.
– With the loss, Colorado fell to 7-22 all-time in games played in the eastern time zone, including nine straight losses. The last victory came in the “Miracle in Michigan” in September, 1994. (The last victory east of the Mississippi came in 1995, in Rick Neuheisel’s first game as the CU head coach, a 43-7 romp over Wisconsin).
– The 105,096 in attendance at the Horseshoe represented the third-largest crowd ever to see Colorado play. The two larger crowds were both at Michigan (1994 and 1997), with the only other 100,000+ crowd to watch the Buffs coming in a tough loss at Texas in 2009.
– Freshman Tyler McCulloch posted his first career touchdown as a Buff against Ohio State, with the 14-yard touchdown coming in his fifth career catch.
– Senior tight end Ryan Deehan had a career-high in receiving yards, with three catches for 71 yards. His previous high for yards (70) came against Baylor in 2010.
– Senior running back Rodney Stewart continued his slow march up the career charts. With 55 yards rushing, Stewart’s new total became 3,022 yards, passing Bobby Purify (3,016; 2000-04) for third place on the all-time rushing list. Up next: Rashaan Salaam, at 3,057.
– Stewart also had five catches for 27 yards, moving him into second place in career receptions by a running back (71) and career receiving yards by a running back 702. Against Ohio State, Stewart moved past Cortlen Johnson (691; 1998-2001) and Lee Rouson (699; 1980-84) on the all-time receptions list.
Injury Update –
– Sophmore defensive back Parker Orms, who missed all but three plays of the 2010 season with a torn ACL, suffered a leg injury against Ohio State. Orms’ status for future games was not immediately available.
– Senior running back Rodney Stewart suffered a shoulder bruise against the Buckeyes, but was expected to be available for the Washington State game.