Buckeyes welcome open week as they prepare for Badgers

Published 1:20 am Thursday, October 20, 2011

COLUMBUS(AP) — Things are quiet around Ohio State these days. That’s a good thing.

For a change, the Buckeyes have had only light practices in their bye week. And there were no uncomfortable NCAA questions, no talk about suspensions, no reminders of their three painful losses.

Instead, the Buckeyes took time to heal their many bumps and bruises — the physical ones accumulated through seven games and the emotional ones from a year of turmoil and change.

Email newsletter signup

They also reflected on where they’ve been and where they’re headed.

“You’ve always got to look at yourself. That’s what you do when you have some extra time,” interim coach Luke Fickell said. “You do those evaluations of yourself and what you’ve done in the first few games. We have a good assessment of that, but sometimes when you really step back and go back and watch it you get a different feel.”

After some self-analysis, the Buckeyes (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) begin looking ahead to a mammoth showdown with No. 4 Wisconsin on Oct. 29 that can make or break their season.

“We’ll take this off week and heal up our bodies a little bit,” linebacker Storm Klein said. “Then we’re getting right after Wisconsin.”

The Badgers are light years from having a week off. They’ve got a trip to No. 15 Michigan State — the only team to beat them in the regular season last fall — on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are still basking in their biggest win of the season, a 17-7 victory at No. 16 Illinois on Saturday. In that game, the defense did its job and the offense stole a page from the Ohio State teams of the 1950s and ‘60s. Of the Buckeyes’ 55 plays, they passed on just four, completing one.

That proportion was just fine with the guys at the non-skill positions on offense.

“As an offensive line, you like that a lot — when you’re running the ball and (the defense) knows it,” said Mike Adams, a left tackle who made his second appearance of the season after sitting out the first five games for accepting cash and discounted or free tattoos that kicked off a lengthy NCAA investigation.

“You kind of just go out there and say, ‘Well, stop me.’ We always say football is a game of momentum and that’s definitely a way to get momentum on your side, to run the ball all over a defense.”

Fullback Zach Boren was as surprised as anyone when the coaches just kept sending in running play after running play.

“Going into it, during the week, we were throwing the ball a lot and spreading it out and stuff like that,” Boren said. “It’s one of the those things that when you get into the game the plays keep getting called and we were running the ball so we just kept at it. It’s getting into the game flow and feeling what you’re most comfortable with and just going with it.”

Fickell made no apologies for the ground assault against the previously unbeaten Illini.

“I’m excited we got the win and we got it any way we could,” he said, citing his team adapting to the strong winds that buffeted Memorial Stadium. “Whether it was the weather conditions, or how the game was going, that’s what we stuck with.”

Still, he recognizes that the Buckeyes cannot continue to hand the ball off every play. Eventually a defense will put enough people in the right positions to shut down the running game. Then Ohio State will be forced to pass.

“Obviously, we’ve got to get more balance and we’ll do a better job at that,” he said. “There were more passes called and there were some situations that obviously didn’t end up being a pass, but we know there’s got to be more balance but we’re excited about the result. And that’s the most important thing.”


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .