B1G wrong in Ward targeting; kickoffs still an issue

Kevin Noon, Publisher
Buckeye Grove
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Scott Stuart

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Tuesday afternoon on the Big Ten teleconference was the first chance that the media had a chance to talk to Urban Meyer after Monday's press conference was called off due to Meyer attending to some private team business involving the family of a player.

The memory of Ohio State's 62-14 win over Maryland is still fresh in the minds of those who follow Ohio State football closely and one of the most memorable moments of that game came from a targeting call against Denzel Ward in the first half that led to his ejection from the game.

There has been great debate since that call was made and how it was confirmed from the replay booth. Meyer touched upon the process since then with his team and the Big Ten office.

"What you do is you turn it in each week and we will have a guy on our staff call the head of Big Ten officiating and the report back was that on the field it is a snap judgment but the replay official was in error," Meyer said. "We are going to reward Denzel Ward today at practice for a caused fumble and he should not have been ejected. It was a mistake."

A second targeting penalty was called in the game against Damon Arnette in the second half and that one was a clear case of targeting and that will cost Arnette the first half of the Nebraska game as he serves the rest of his penalty.

But if the replay booth, with all of its television angles and time on its side in a quiet booth still could botch the call, are there concerns that this could happen again when the stakes are higher or a game is on the line?

"Concerned, irate, all of the above," Meyer said. "And it is not the person on the field, those are snap judgments. I still to this day don't understand how that happens. That is for the higher-ups to figure out. Of course. Concern is probably not strong enough."

Sorting out issues

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Scott Stuart

Saturday's game was a litany of special teams errors for the Buckeyes and if the game were against a more evenly matched opponent, the Buckeyes could have been in real trouble.

One of the most concerning issues, one that has carried over longer than just the last 60 minutes of football is kickoffs. The Buckeyes had a 100-yard kickoff taken back against them to cut a lead in half to 14-7 when the kicker was unable to place the ball in the corner like Meyer preaches in practice.

The kick instead went to the middle of the field with most of the Ohio State defenders loaded on one side and few left home to defend the wide side of the field.

Is it as easy as just making the decision to kick it deep instead of trying to pin teams deep on a return?

"We are always thinking. We have trouble kicking it through the end zone too," Meyer said. "If it was that simple, I would do that. It is more complicated than that. Absolutely, we are always constantly… you don’t fit a square peg in a round hole. You do what you can do. We are still figuring out what we can do."

Neither Blake Haubeil nor Sean Nuernberger have had success kicking it where Meyer wants it and there is no word who will get the duties this weekend against Nebraska. The position is considered open.

Another position that is open is the right guard position, vacated by Branden Bowen when a leg injury shut down Bowen's season and surgery was performed on late Saturday night.

Matt Burrell stepped into the position on Saturday and had a solid game. But he has not done enough as of yet to lock the position down.

"It is open. It is wide open," Meyer said. "There are three people right now in the running for it. Malcolm Pridgeon, Matt Burrell and Demetrius Knox."

A new wrinkle

With two new members on the offensive coaching staff it should come as no surprise that the Buckeyes have tried some things out during this year. The latest is a move to put the tight end in the backfield, almost as if he were a blocking fullback.

62 points and 584 yards of offense later, whatever they did seemed to work. Granted, that formation was not used on every single offensive play but it is something new for the Buckeyes and something that other teams will have to look at.

"We are always looking for ways to make things better," Meyer said. "We studied a couple of offenses and obviously Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day brought this to my attention and what I thought. We ran it 20 times in the game."

They installed it for one game and now the task is to add to it.

"We are still working on it, it is a new play and obviously once you have a play you have to build off of it," Meyer said. "The play-action passing, etc. but it was very effective and we are going to continue it."

Home sweet home?

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Tyler Krecklow

Everyone wants to have home games and usually there is an advantage when you are playing in your own stadium and in front of your own fans. That has not exactly been the case for the Nebraska Cornhuskers who are 1-2 at home this season.

The Huskers lost as a home underdog last week to the Wisconsin Badgers in a 38-17 bludgeoning where the Badgers ran for 353 yards and beat the Huskers into submission for 60 minutes. The second loss was more surprising to Northern Illinois out of the MAC in a game where the Huskers were their own worst enemy with three interceptions and allowing the eventual game winning touchdown midway through the 4th quarter with no real answer as two of those interceptions happened in the ensuing drives.

Now the Huskers welcome the Buckeyes to town, as another home underdog, but this time by more than a three-touchdown margin.

Things are not getting any easier for Mike Riley's team this week.

"It is good to play at home for us," Riley said. "This is a team with a veteran quarterback that is hitting on all cylinders, is very talented and well-coached. It is a particular challenge."

Nebraska saw a streak of 20-straight night home game wins snapped last week against the Badgers and the Buckeyes are looking to make it a two-game losing streak in as many weeks.

The schedule makers did the Huskers no favors but you can only play the teams as they appear on the schedule.

"We played a good team last week and got beat by Wisconsin," Riley said. "So, this will be another step up and another great group of athletes and a great challenge for the Huskers."

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