Sept. 2 - A damn conspiracy, all of it. Those fools at the NCAA, that bitter teaching assistant with an agenda, and every critic with a cause. This is what happens when you win the national title — everybody’s out to get you. Even the Columbus police department, which, incredulously, demanded that the traditional Saturday morning “kegs and eggs” tailgating not include multiple open containers of Wild Turkey or, seriously, they’d have to start doing something about it.
THANK GOD FOR Craig Krenzel. After months of perceived persecution, there is sanity and serenity at Ohio State again. Krenzel, a squeaky clean quarterback majoring in molecular genetics, has the Buckeyes back on track. Only this year, the plan has changed from asking Krenzel weekly to not screw up to, well, splitting the atom and reinventing the Buckeyes’ boring offense with a newfound passing game.
This Ohio State team is better than last year’s national champion — even with lingering effects of a tumultuous offseason — because Krenzel is now a complete quarterback.
Forget about running back Maurice Clarett and his ongoing soap opera. By the time January rolls around, the story will be that Krenzel is the best quarterback ever to play at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes could be the first team to repeat as national champion since Nebraska in 1994-95.
“He never got enough credit for what happened last year,” tight end Ben Hartsock says. That’s because the college football world was focused on Clarett, the big enigma with the big game. But it was Krenzel who threw game-saving touchdown passes against Purdue and Illinois. It was Krenzel who confounded Miami in the Fiesta Bowl with his grit and guile. And it was Krenzel who sent this not-so-subtle message in Ohio State’s 28-9 season-opening victory over Washington: The Bucks are more dangerous this year because the offense is more balanced and because he — not Clarett — is the focal point.
The defense is as stingy as ever. The special teams are flawless again. And Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross are more-than-adequate running backs filling in for Clarett, who could be suspended for as many as six games for lying to NCAA investigators. Then there’s Krenzel, who seemingly muddles along with his 16-1 record as a starter and a style that NFL scouts and their computer formulas would scoff at. He just does everything right, which is why Ohio State hasn’t lost since the 2002 Outback Bowl.
“We knew what we had,” senior wide receiver Michael Jenkins says. “We saw Craig in practice every day. Maybe back then, the coaches had to be convinced.”
Now, it’s the rest of the nation, which still perceives Ohio State as a team desperate for the return of Clarett, a team that just manages to get by on offense, a team that gets lucky and gets breaks and wins close games. At some point, we all need to step back and accept that the Buckeyes have an exceptional quarterback.
That’s why Ohio State decided on a drastic change this offseason, focusing nearly the entire spring practice on the passing game.
It’s not surprising then, that the first play of the 2003 season was a deep ball for speedy wide receiver Drew Carter that was just overthrown. Or that five of the Buckeyes’ first six plays were passes. A series later, Krenzel threw deep again to Carter, this time connecting for a 37-yard gain — one of his 15 completions for 203 yards. That pass also opened lanes underneath the rest of the game.
Washington’s game plan was to use a spy, usually linebacker Greg Carothers, on Krenzel to keep him from breaking containment on scrambles. That strategy quickly ended when it became clear Ohio State was throwing early and often, and the Huskies had to account for four or more receivers in passing situations.
By the third series, Washington was backpedaling and focusing on coverage. So naturally, it ended with a 23-yard touchdown scramble by Krenzel. With the first half winding down, Krenzel did it again, scrambling for an 11-yard score and a 21-0 lead. By the end of the game, Krenzel had outplayed standout Washington quarterback Cody Pickett, and the Buckeyes had won again.
The season couldn’t have arrived soon enough for Ohio State, needing a reprieve from all the offseason commotion. Have no fear, Bucks fans. Krenzel is ready to save the day again.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
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HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
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