Buckeyes certainly showing signs of progress on offense

COLUMBUS – It’s truly hard to fathom.

Regardless of how big of an Ohio State fan you may be, it’s just hard to believe that the Buckeyes – who’ve struggled mightily at times this season – are right in the thick of the Big 10 race in the Leaders Division.

After Saturday night’s thrilling, come-from-behind 33-29 victory against Wisconsin before the seventh largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history, the Buckeyes find themselves with a legitimate chance at earning a trip to Indianapolis for the inaugural Big 10 Championship Game.

However, as Buckeye fans have learned several times this season, don’t put the cart before the horse as an entire month of play remains.

But, back-to-back victories against ranked opponents following two difficult defeats should go a long way in providing a lift for the final four weeks, which includes a meeting with Penn State on Nov. 19 in the home finale.

“This is what Ohio State is about,” said a satisfied OSU head coach Luke Fickell. “We don’t look at ourselves as underdogs. This is for the program and what we expect. It’s all about confidence and momentum.

Getting victories is paramount the rest of the way if Ohio State hopes to turn its mid-season charge into a late-season surge. And to continue the momentum, the offense must continue to take steps toward improvement.

We’re not sure anyone who follows Ohio State football on a weekly basis is expecting this team to score points at will and move the ball up and down field like a video game, but a little more consistency and converting opportunities presented by a very talented defense is a must.

Having said all that, the Buckeyes showed signs of that throughout the game, but it was game-winning drive that showed this team is growing up, maturing and improving before our very eyes.

Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for three touchdowns, including an impressive 44-yard run and then obviously his signature play of the season, and his brief career, was the 40-yard game-winning touchdown pass to fellow frosh Devin Smith.

“We know we can’t afford to lose anymore games,” Miller said. “We just have to keep pushing. We’ve practiced hard and prepared hard. We did what we had to do.”

Regardless of the level of football you’re watching, the quarterback is the most important position. Miller showed poise and leadership and reaffirmed to Fickell before heading onto the field that everything was under control with a wink.

“It’s a confidence thing,” Fickell said. “We know he can do a lot of different things. It’s just understanding what we want him to do and having the confidence and doing it.”

Fickell admitted he liked that Miller finally displayed the confidence needed with one of the most talked-about winks in OSU history.

“That’s what you need,” Fickell said. “That’s a lot different than you saw five or six weeks ago, maybe even at Miami. And you can see that (confidence) kind of growing in him.”

As the confidence grows, there could still be some learning curve involved, but Miller and the offense showed a glimpse of what could be in store for this coming month and the next several years.

But, again, with the way this season has transpired, baby steps are the best remedy, but I think we saw a huge step Saturday night.

However, we’re guessing, that OSU and its fans hope the cliche about one step forward and two steps back doesn’t come to fruition. With Indiana coming to Columbus this week, we’re fairly confident it won’t.

SETH’S SCOOPS

  • PERSONALLY, I had an issue with the Ohio State students racing onto the field as the game went final. I get that it was an exciting victory, but come on! We’re talking about Ohio State University, which is still one of the top 10 football programs in the country. If a top 10 program beats Wisconsin, which was ranked 16th and had lost a week prior, it’s not worth charging the field. Enjoy the victory on High Street or Lane Avenue, but stay off the field. It’s embarrassing.
  • THE BUCKEYES wore their Nike Combat uniforms Saturday night, commemorating the 1961 Ohio State Buckeye National Championship team.
  • THAT 1961 team was recognized at halftime Saturday night. Several local products were on that squad. Included were Bob Butts (Benwood Union), Bob Bruney (Martins Ferry), Robert Ingram (Bellaire), Charles Mamula (Martins Ferry) and Robert Vogel (Brilliant).
  • ALSO RECOGNIZED was Eddie George, who won the 1995 Heisman Trophy. He was presented his plaque for being inducted to the National College Football Hall of Fame.
  • UNTIL THE Buckeyes pulled out the victory, the loudest ovation came when former Buckeye A.J. Hawk was announced to the crowd.
  • ST. CLAIRSVILLE High School senior Jesse Machovina, who has verbally committed to the Buckeyes’ softball program, was on a visit at the game Saturday night. She was in the press box prior to the kickoff.
  • THE BLOCKED punt for the Buckeyes was their first since Oct. 30 of last season against Minnesota.
  • THE BUCKEYES have improved offensively and that’s evident through the fact that they have scored on their last seven trips into the red zone.
  • TBDBITL turned in another outstanding performance, which included pyrotechnics at halftime as it celebrated the 75th anniversary of the incomparable “Script Ohio.”
  • OHIO STATE plays its next-to-last home game this Saturday when struggling Indiana invades for a noon kickoff.

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com