Buckeyes already move on

Published 12:57 am Monday, September 12, 2011

COLUMBUS (AP) — No. 17 Ohio State has already moved on from Saturday’s close call against Toledo.

Next up is a date with a program that has gone through a lot of the same trials and tribulations as the Buckeyes — Miami.

Interim coach Luke Fickell stressed that his team wouldn’t take a lot of time to reflect on the 27-22 victory — a last-ditch drive by the Rockets died at the Buckeyes 17 with 48 seconds left — before shifting the focus to Saturday’s major road test against the Hurricanes.

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“We have about a 17-hour incubation period, or whatever you want to call it, that we can reflect on what (the Toledo game) was all about and how things went,” Fickell said after the squeaker against the Rockets.

Lucky for the Buckeyes, they’ll have a lot more than 17 hours to address the things that didn’t go well.

The bottom line, of course, is that the Buckeyes (2-0) survived against a good team. But there were troubling aspects of the game that could shadow the team for the rest of the season.

Toledo played on even terms on both lines, passed for 100 more yards and matched the Buckeyes in intensity. Equality with a Mid-American Conference team is a new concept for the Buckeyes, who improved to 18-0 all-time against the MAC — usually by huge margins.

Yes, the Rockets played well. And the Buckeyes not only were without seven suspended players but lost two other starters (defensive lineman Nathan Williams and receiver Corey “Philly” Brown) to injuries. Ohio State’s coaches and players don’t know if either will be back for the game against the Hurricanes.

Besides being short-handed, there were other problem areas. The Buckeyes netted just 112 yards on the ground, quarterback Joe Bauserman was major mistake-free but largely ineffective (16 of 30 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown) and the defense frequently found itself chasing Toledo’s standout wide-out Eric Page along with tailback Adonis Thomas.

“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes,” said receiver Chris Fields, who flipped the game around by bringing back a 69-yard punt return just before the half. “It took us a while to warm up a bit. The defense stepped up in the second half. The offense, we need to look at the film to see what we can do better.”

The Hurricanes might not be able to learn much from watching video of the Buckeyes. Ohio State dominated throughout in a 42-0 win over overmatched Akron in the opener, then looked lost and out of synch for much of the Toledo game. Which Buckeyes team will show up on Saturday?

Miami coach Al Golden, whose team opened with a 32-24 loss to Maryland before getting last weekend off, lamented that his team “had to show every card we had” to the Buckeyes in the game with the Terrapins.

“Ohio State didn’t have to show too much” in a season-opening win over Akron, Golden said. And he suspected the same would hold true with the film from the Toledo game.

“We really don’t have any material to go on,” Golden said Friday when asked if having a bye week to get ready for Ohio State would be an advantage for Miami. “We don’t know what they’re doing. They obviously have some suspensions they’re trying to work through too.”

The Buckeyes will be without four prominent players suspended for the first five games for taking cash and other improper benefits, and likely will not have three other top players who the NCAA has held out of the first two games. Before Saturday’s game, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he was “not confident” that the three players — tailback Jordan Hall, cornerback Travis Howard and safety Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown — would be cleared to make the road trip.

Fickell was asked if his team felt crippled by all the missing players.

“We’re not going to dwell on it. We’re not going to look at that,” he said. “We never feel sorry for ourselves. We’re not looking for pity. The next guy’s got to step up. That’s what we said on the sideline. Adversity’s going to happen whether it’s a situation off the field or on the field.”

Miami has also been hammered by NCAA suspensions after revelations that former booster and convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro doled out gifts to players. A dozen players had to make charitable donations after the NCAA and the university determined they had taken money or gifts from Shapiro. Five players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris, were suspended for the Hurricanes’ opener but will be available when the Buckeyes come to town. Three other players will not be eligible again until October.

None of the Buckeyes expect Miami to be any less aggressive, intimidating or confident because of the scandal that’s rocked the program. After all, Ohio State — perhaps more than anyone — knows what the Hurricanes have been going through.

“Miami will give us their best shot. They’re not going to sit there,” tailback Carlos Hyde said. “They’re going to hit us. We’ve got to be ready.”