COLUMBUS — The final six minutes and 30 seconds made a huge impact on the perception of the way Ohio State played in its season opener against Navy on Saturday.Leading 29-14 with 6:30 remaining in the game, the Buckeyes went for it on fourth-and-two at the Navy 15-yard line. If the Buckeyes would have picked up the first down, they certainly would have come away with at least a field goal. In the very least, Ohio State would have a 33-14 lead with around four minutes to play.
At that point it looked liked the Buckeyes had the game in hand. Navy was scrappy, but OSU was clearly the more talented team. All-in-all, it was shaping up to be a solid first game with a lot of positives to build on going into this week’s showdown with USC.
However, the wheels came flying off in the closing minutes. The Buckeyes were stuffed on the fourth-and-two call and then Navy hit an 85-yard pass play for a touchdown.
Terrelle Pryor then made his one mistake of the day, an interception that Navy returned to the 33-yard line. Three plays later, Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs rushed for a 24-yard touchdown that cut the OSU lead to 29-27.
Brian Rolle saved the day for the Buckeyes when he picked off Dobbs on the two-point conversion and raced all the way to the end zone to ice the win.
The near disastrous finish has sent many OSU fans to the ledge. “We only beat Navy by four points” and “there is no way we can hang with USC” were the common themes of message board posts on various OSU Web sites Saturday night and Sunday.
Yes, it’s true USC is very good again. The Trojans have weapons all over the field. If Ohio State doesn’t play well and USC does, it could be a long night in the Horseshoe on Saturday.
But to think Ohio State doesn’t have a chance based on the final six minutes and change against Navy is reading too much into what happened on a handful of plays at the end of the game.
For a good chunk of Saturday’s game, Ohio State’s rebuilt defense — one that lost Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman to the NFL draft — did a solid job of slowing down Navy’s triple option offense. Navy has led the country in rushing five years in a row. The Midshipmen have run the ball well against a lot of good teams.
Offensively, Pryor showed the improvement he has made in the passing game. Running backs Boom Herron and Brandon Saine had some good moments in their effort to replace Beanie Wells.
True freshman wide receiver Duron Carter, son of OSU legend Cris Carter, made a stellar debut and looks like a future star.
The fact is this is a young and inexperienced Ohio State team. They showed some of the growing pains you would expect out of such a squad, but there was a lot of promise as well.
A poor performance at the end against Navy isn’t reason to hit the panic button. Now if Ohio State gets bullied again on Saturday, it may be a different story.