Eye on the Bucks: OSU tweaks defense for bowl game

ORANGES generally are sweet, and a win over the Clemson Tigers tonight in the Discover Orange Bowl would be a sweet topping to the bowl season for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Malcolm S. Forbes was a businessman, not a football coach, but he once noted, “Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.”

If OSU is victorious tonight, that’s probably how the Buckeyes will feel, because it had the longest winning streak in the nation until it tasted defeat Dec. 7 when the team faced Michigan State.

OSU junior quarterback Braxton Miller recently said that losing to Michigan State was a tough loss but also pointed out that “we’ll bounce back.”

It’s no secret that Miller, who had been in the running for the Heisman Trophy, is OSU’s best offensive player, and the good news is that he’s gotten better, according to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jim Herman.

Early this week, Herman said, “I think he (Miller) needs to continue improving. I mean, he’s certainly not perfect and wasn’t perfect in the middle of the season … He’s gotten better these last three weeks, absolutely.”

Among the Tigers being faced tonight by the Buckeyes is quarterback Tajh Boyd, who holds virtually every passing mark at Clemson.

The Clemson quarterback’s first name is pronounced the same as that in the Taj Mahal, sometimes regarded as one of the eight wonders of the world. Boyd doesn’t have quite that rating, but his record at Clemson is outstanding.

“He’s set the standard, he really has,” said Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney. “When you look up every record in the book at Clemson, it says Tajh Boyd. And it’s not all about that, it’s also about how he has represented this program, how he has embraced being the face and voice of the program and has taken pride in that.”

Miller said he had never met Boyd, but they had talked on the telephone. “I watched a couple games this year, and he can definitely run and pass at the same time. That’s a little different from some of the quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Going against myself and Kenny (Guiton) in practice, I feel our defense will be ready for that,” Miller added.

Noting that Clemson has a great offense, OSU head football coach Urban Meyer said, “Their defense … We’re going to have to play our tails off to move the ball against them. They have some very good personnel. A couple of those games they haven’t given up much yardage at all. It’s going to be a war.”

The Buckeyes have been working to overcome their difficulties regarding defense. As Meyer commented in late December about tweaking the defense: “Obviously we didn’t play very well the last two games, and the one we are (about) to play is real. I mean, real real. Tweaks might be an appropriate word, and we’re still working through that.”

Miller said the Clemson defense never gives up and fights to the end, but such competitive teams help him to play better.

This is OSU’s ninth BCS bowl appearance, and the Buckeyes are tied with Oklahma for the most appearances all-time in the BCS era. OSU also is tied with USC and Florida for the most BCS bowl wins with each having five.

Tonight’s game will be the Buckeyes’ second appearance in the Discover Orange Bowl; the other was after the 1976 season when Woody Hayes’ Big Ten champion Buckeyes defeated the Big Eight champion Colorado Buffalos, 27-10.

It will be the fifth time for Clemson to participate in the Orange Bowl, and their record in that bowl is 2-2.

Coach Swinney, speaking at the Head Coaches Press Conference Thursday morning, faced questions about the team’s 2012 Orange Bowl appearance when it lost to the West Virginia Mountaineers, who had 70 points to Clemson’s 33.

Since that time, however, the Tigers have had a 21-4 record.

For the 2013 season, their record is 10-2, and their BCS rating is No. 12, compared to the Buckeyes, who ended the season, 12-1, and is No. 7 BCS.

Swinney is emphasizing the need for the Tigers to take care of the football tonight, especially since they turned it over four times when playing the Mountaineers.

“That ball is 12 ounces of gold, man. When you put it on the ground, it affects everything,” said Clemson coach.

He also pointed out that when a team loses a bowl game, “you’ve got to live with it for eight months. And when you play in a BCS bowl game and lose it, you want to get back and have another opportunity.”

Tonight’s game will be the second time that the two teams have faced each other. They were in the 1978 Gator Bowl, which Clemson won 17-15.

OSU’s teams for 2012 and 2013 established a school record for the longest winning streak – 24 games. Not only did it set a school record, but it was the longest winning streak in the Big Ten in 64 years.

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.