September 2019

How Tom Brady Became The King Of Comebacks

When you’re playing the Patriots in the postseason, there is no comfort in win probability. New England is vying for its sixth Super Bowl championship courtesy of another double-digit fourth-quarter comeback — this time against the league-leading Jacksonville defense. And the Patriots are defending the title they won against impossible odds in coming back from 25 points down against the Falcons — including a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter. It’s gotten to the point where the only thing worse than falling behind early to the Patriots is having a big lead late, when Tom Brady turns into Captain Comeback. But while football fans and opponents may expect miracle rebounds, this is only a recent transformation by arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. Through 2013 in both the regular season and the playoffs, Brady’s ability to lead the Patriots back from a fourth-quarter deficit of up to two scores was nothing special.In the regular season from 2001 through 2013, Brady had an 83.8 passer rating and 6.95 yards per attempt when trailing by up to two scores in the fourth quarter. That compares with the league average of 74.8 and 6.72, meaning that Brady was good relative to average in these situations but certainly nothing superhuman.In the postseason during that same period — when the Patriots went 18-8, including 9-8 from 2005 through 2013 — Brady was subpar when trailing late by some key measures. His rating was 66.6 with a paltry 5.57 yards per attempt. (NFL postseason averages in the period were 73.4 and 7.17.) The magic we have seen recently simply wasn’t there. Take New England’s most infamous loss: the 18-0 team that was stunned by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. After Eli Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the eventual game-winning touchdown, the Patriots still received the ball with roughly 30 seconds and all three timeouts, needing only 35 or so yards to get into Stephen Gostkowski’s range for a game-tying kick. If that exact scenario unfolded this season, would anyone be surprised if Brady were able to steer his team across midfield? Of course, on that February 2008 day, he threw three incompletions and took a back-breaking sack.But since the start of the 2014 postseason, something has clicked inside Brady. The Patriots rallied past the Ravens in the fourth quarter of the divisional round that year when Brady tossed a 25-yard TD to Brandon LaFell with less than six minutes left. And in Super Bowl XLIX, Seattle led 24-14 in the fourth — and had a 94 percent win probability after the Patriots punted at the start of the fourth quarter — before Brady connected on consecutive touchdowns to Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. (Sure, Malcolm Butler’s game-sealing interception helped.) Including these two games, the Patriots have a 4-1 postseason record when trailing by up to two scores in the fourth since 2014. Brady is quite simply carrying them on his back with supernatural efficiency, even with defenses knowing he has to pass on nearly every play — posting 7.97 yards per attempt vs. the 6.99 NFL playoff average (including Brady himself) and a 123.0 passer rating compared with 82.4 for all NFL passers in this span. Of course, it needs to be noted that Brady is helping to set the stage for his playoff comebacks by playing rather ordinarily earlier in games. His passer rating, for example, is barely above average in the first three quarters of postseason games since 2014 — 91.7 compared with 88.2 for all QBs. It’s almost as if Brady is holding something in reserve for when it’s most needed.How he’s finding such high-leverage ways to improve so dramatically is one of football’s greatest mysteries. The most obvious explanation is that the 40-year-old has already been in almost every scenario before and simply knows what to do. Or maybe it’s just the salmon, electrolytes, compression sleeves, 8:30 p.m. bedtime and recovery pajamas? Or is it simply that great players can express their greatness at any time and make the spectacular seem routine? Know this: If the Eagles are lucky enough to have a seemingly secure fourth-quarter lead come Super Bowl LII, no one on the Philadelphia sideline will feel safe.Check out our latest NFL predictions. read more

These Players Crash the Wimbledon Party the Hard Way

Jimmy Wang doesn’t have Roger Federer’s seven Wimbledon titles; Wang doesn’t even have five wins in the Wimbledon main draw. But the Taiwanese tennis player has accomplished something Federer won’t ever touch: Five times over the past decade, Wang has qualified for Wimbledon.The four Grand Slam tournaments are the tentpoles of the tennis calendar, the times when casual fans notice the sport and its stars. Before each Grand Slam, there is another tournament, giving players whose ranking isn’t high enough to make it directly into the draw another way in. They play before tens or hundreds of spectators who usually get in free, not thousands of paying fans. Wimbledon’s qualifying tournament isn’t even at Wimbledon; it’s at the Bank of England Sports Centre in Roehampton, another southwest London neighborhood 3 miles away.Most young players see qualifiers as a necessary but not fun rite of passage until they rise in the rankings and don’t need to get in the hard way. But some players, like Wang, find that injuries or other setbacks keep them on the sport’s periphery for most or all of their careers. Few keep coming back to qualifying tournaments for a decade. Still fewer are as successful as Wang at this second tier of Grand Slam tennis. They are the statistical outliers, the best strivers in major tennis. And they don’t all love the distinction.“This year, it feels great” to qualify, said Gilles Muller, a 31-year-old from Luxembourg, in an interview last week at Roehampton after qualifying for Wimbeldon, the fifth Grand Slam of his career, more than 10 years after the first time. Muller had to go through qualifying because he missed the last seven months of last year with an elbow injury, and his ranking slipped. “I hope it will be my last qualies,” he said.Repeatedly qualifying for Grand Slam tournaments, as Wang and a handful of others have done, is so rare because players who are good enough to qualify typically either don’t have to or are too good to have to keep doing it. Federer never qualified for a Grand Slam tournament. Neither did Rafael Nadal. Andy Murray did, once, and Novak Djokovic did three times. They last qualified in 2005, soon after each turned 18.Grand Slam qualifiers have to win three matches in a 128-player draw. The 16 who do usually are the ones whose rankings — based on the last 52 weeks of play — understate how good they are, perhaps because they missed time to injury or are too young to have played many events. Generally, their rankings will catch up with their level and they won’t need to qualify anymore.When it doesn’t, injury often is the reason. Wang had two surgeries after suffering an injury to his right wrist in 2006. He ended up missing three years at an age when most of his peers were climbing the rankings. “I almost stopped,” Wang said in an interview last week. “I realized life is short.”At age 29, he’s back to a level good enough to qualify, as he’s done for the past three years at Wimbledon. Wang has qualified for majors seven times overall, tied for 10th in the Open era, according to data provided by Jeff Sackmann of Tennis Abstract.After Wang’s win, well-wishers posed with him for dozens of photos — many of them next to the scoreboard, many selfies. One woman had been watching Wang try to qualify for Wimbledon since his very first successful attempt, in 2004. Wang said he was “very excited.” He had no idea this was No. 7 for him, but sees no shame in it. “One thousand players try to get into the top 100,” Wang said of pro tennis. “They have the same goal. They have the same dream.”Denis Kudla, one of the thousand, qualified later on Thursday, the fifth time he’d done so at a major. He is just 21 years old. “I’m proud of that,” Kudla said — it meant he’d earned his place. (He went on to win his first-round match at Wimbledon on Tuesday against Marsel Ilhan.)Kudla’s fellow American, Ryan Harrison, qualified with a win on the adjacent court. Harrison was proud, too. He said he enjoyed the “fantastic” feeling of qualifying and going into a tournament on a three-match winning streak. However, he added, “I’m very determined for this to be my last qualifying.” Three years ago, he got his ranking high enough to enter Grand Slams directly. Since then, his ranking has slipped. “To say I can’t do it at 22, when I did it at 19, is kind of crazy,” he said.Harrison admires players like Wang but sets himself apart from them. “You have a ton of respect for those guys. I’ve always believed success is relative to your God-given ability,” Harrison said. On the other hand, he added, “I’ve always had a ton of belief in my ability.” (Harrison lost in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday, after getting his usual tough draw.)He has a point about the top of the qualifying leaderboard. None of the nine Open-era players who qualified for more majors than Wang ever reached the top 25 in the rankings or played in a Grand Slam semifinal.If Wang doesn’t ever qualify for a Grand Slam again, he’ll hope it’s because he got his ranking into the top 100 and didn’t need to. He took the first step Monday: The five-time co-champion of Wimbledon’s annual pre-tournament tournament won just his fourth career main-draw match, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 over Alejandro Gonzalez. read more

Jacob Bosiokovics walkoff homer gives Ohio State baseball series win over Northwestern

OSU redshirt junior right fielder Jacob Bosiokovic connects on a walk-off two-run home run to beat Northwestern 5-4 on March 27 at Bill Davis Stadium.Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern reporterAfter dropping the first game of its three-game series against Northwestern to start out Big Ten play on Friday, the Ohio State baseball team bounced back to grab the final two games and take the series. It took some dramatics in Sunday’s matchup to win it, but regardless, OSU improved to 6-1 on its homestand and 14-7-1 overall.Game 3With the Big Ten opening series on the line in the bottom of the ninth inning, redshirt junior right fielder Jacob Bosiokovic hit a towering two-run walk-off home run to give OSU a 5-4 victory in the rubber match against Northwestern.The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead in the second inning when redshirt junior left fielder R.J. Watters, a Columbus native, hit a single to left, scoring third baseman Connor Lind. They would add two runs to their lead when senior first baseman Zach Jones grounded out to first and OSU senior first baseman Troy Kuhn overthrew the second-base bag trying to turn a double play. But the Buckeyes would not be held scoreless for long, as junior center fielder Troy Montgomery belted a home run to center field in the bottom of the third. OSU senior third baseman Nick Sergakis later hit a solo homer to left field to trim the Wildcats’ lead down to just one. After each team scored a run in the eight inning, the Buckeyes were down 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth. The first two batters of the inning were set down before Montgomery reached base on a two-out walk. Then on a 2-1 count, Bosiokovic sent the Buckeyes home victorious with his two-run shot over the left field wall.“I was trying to barrel up the pitch,” Bosiokovic said. “I think it was a changeup or a two-seam, something running in, so I was really just trying to put the barrel on the ball, and luckily it took off like that.”Prior to the series against Northwestern, Bosiokovic had missed the previous 10 games due to a nagging hamstring injury. OSU coach Greg Beals said he likes how strong the lineup looks now that Bosiokovic is able to stay in and bat second for his club.“It just means so much,” Beals said. “I mean, the dynamic of the top of that order is ridiculous. With the ability to run and hit that all three of those guys have, one through three, and then to have a senior that is hitting like Sergakis, that is cleaning up everything in that four hole. That is a very formidable four men in the top of that lineup.”OSU players celebrate redshirt junior right fielder Jacob Bosiokovic’s walk-off home run to beat Northwestern 5-4 on March 27 at Bill Davis Stadium.Credit: Giustino Bovenzi | Lantern reporterSenior left-handed pitcher John Havird once again provided solid pitching for the Buckeyes, tossing six innings while allowing three runs (two earned) on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts. In spite of his performance, the starter was unable to get credit for the win in this one. Bosiokovic praised Havird for his performance not only Sunday, but throughout the whole season. “He’s pitched well all year,” Bosiokovic said. “Some days you might not always get the hits for him or make the plays behind him.”Despite the slow start, the Buckeyes were able to battle back and come away with the win. For the seventh time this season, OSU found itself in a hole early and had to find a way to battle its way back and win the ball game. “We’re fighters,” Sergakis said.Added Bosiokovic: “We’re never out of the game. Never ever out of the game.”Game 2The Buckeyes did not require much of a comeback to get the win on Saturday against the Wildcats. The home team got its bats going early and came away with the 5-2 victory, its 2,500th all-time win.The Buckeyes allowed some scoring early, as Northwestern scored a run in the top of the first inning off a single by pitcher Matt Hopfner. Yet OSU would answer with a run scoring off an errant throw by the first baseman in a pickoff attempt.From that point on, this game was all Buckeyes. Senior shortstop Craig Nennig and Montgomery each contributed RBI hits in the second inning and redshirt sophomore right-hander Adam Niemeyer provided the Buckeyes with a strong pitching performance. Niemeyer threw seven innings, surrendering two runs (both earned) on nine hits, walking none and tying a career high with eight strikeouts. Part of what made Niemeyer so successful on Saturday was the adjustments he made after the third inning.“(Pitching coach Mike Stafford and I) made an adjustment because they were hunting fastballs early in the count, like first-pitch, second-pitch fastballs,” Niemeyer said. “So we started mixing it up a little more toward the end of the game, starting hitters off with changeups and sliders. I think that really made the difference because they were so aggressive early in the count, early in the game.”The next game for OSU is scheduled to come against Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The first pitch set to be thrown out at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The starter for OSU in that game is slated to be freshman right-hander Ryan Feltner. read more

Mens swimming Ohio State places second at Big Tens

Members of the Ohio State men’s swimming team break from a huddle after competition at the 2017 Big Ten Men’s Swimming Championships. Credit: Sydney McNulty | Lantern reporterThe Ohio State men’s swimming team tied with Michigan for second place at the Big Ten Championships with a final score of 1382 points. The Buckeyes were edged out by Indiana, who won its first team title since 2006 with 1504 points.The Buckeyes kicked off the weekend with two impressive showings in the 200-yard medley and 800-yard freestyle relays, finishing behind Michigan and Indiana in both events, respectively.The 200 medley relay made up of senior Matt McHugh, junior Jack Barone, freshman Noah Lense and sophomore Mossimo Chavez took home the bronze, and automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships, in a school record-breaking time of 1:24.15.In addition to the 200 medley relay, senior Josh Fleagle, junior Brayden Seal, junior Ching Lim and senior Andrew Appleby swam at record-breaking speed in the 800 freestyle relay (6.18.18), earning a spot at the national championship.Three Buckeyes earned points in the 200 yard individual medley, freshman Andrew Loy finished in ninth (1:44.71), followed by teammates Lim and Appleby, who finished 13th and 16th.In the distance events, junior Brayden Seal represented the Buckeyes, finishing sixth in the 500-yard freestyle behind several Big Ten standouts, including Michigan’s Felix Auboeck who won the event. Seal also scored for the Buckeyes in the mile, finishing third.In the 50-yard freestyle, Chavez finished the highest for Buckeyes placing sixth in a time of 19.45, followed by McHugh who took seventh place with a time of 19.50. Big Ten veteran Fleagle also scored, finishing ninth (19.71). Michigan’s Paul Powers won in a time of 19.26, setting a new Big Ten record, followed by Indiana sprinter Ali Khalafalla who finished 14 one-hundredths of a second behind Powers.Day Two of competition ended on a high note with the Buckeyes taking home the silver in the 400-yard medley relay. McHugh, Barone, Lense and Fleagle finished in a time of  3:04.13, qualifying for the national championships. Indiana’s squad, which including Olympian Blake Pieroni, won in record-setting fashion.McHugh took home the first Big Ten title for the Buckeyes, along with his third consecutive win in the 100-yard butterfly and setting a new Big Ten Championship record by finishing in a time of 44.91. OSU rookie Lense also finished in the top ten for Buckeyes, placing fifth with a time of 46.28.OSU’s Lim kept up the momentum by taking home the bronze in the 400-yard IM (3:46.89). In the 200-yard freestyle, Fleagle continued the speed finishing in second (1:33.25) behind Indiana’s Peroni (1:32.13).Indiana’s Ian Finnerty took home the title in the 100-yard breastroke in a record-breaking time of 51.38, followed by Michigan rookie Jacob Montague (52.08). OSU’s Barone finished third in an impressive swim, finding the wall at 52.26.One of OSU’s best events was the 100-yard backstroke, with four Buckeyes finishing in the top eight. McHugh finished in second in a time of 45.52, followed by junior Thomas Trace (46.53) in fourth then Appleby (47.30) and senior Mark Belanger (47.53) touching the wall in seventh and eighth, respectively.The second Big Ten title for the Buckeyes came on the last event of Friday evening, the 200 freestyle relay. Chavez, McHugh, Fleagle and Trace finished in a time 1:16.61 to seal yet another bid to the NCAAs for the Buckeyes, edging out two impressive squads in Indiana (1:16.72) and Michigan (1:17.58).Fleagle also added to his point collection, finishing sixth in the 100 freestyle at 42.55.OSU ended the week on a strong note with several Buckeyes bringing in points. Barone had a dominate performance in the 200-yard breastroke swimming one of the fastest times in OSU history, touching the wall fifth in a time of 1:54.61 and finishing yet another event in the top five.Trace took home the silver in the 200 backstroke, bringing in some major points for the Buckeyes, touching the wall in a time of 1:41.92, just getting edged out by Indiana’s Bob Glover. Appleby and freshman Brad Shannon also brought in points for the Buckeyes.OSU wrapped up its individual events with three top-ten finishes in the 200 butterfly with Lense winning the silver — setting an OSU school-record time at 1:41.44 — behind Indiana powerhouse Vinicius Lanza (1:40.97).  OSU sophomore Henrique Painhas finished fifth (1:44.31) and Salazar touched the wall seventh (1:45.38).In the final event of the Big Ten Championships, the 400-yard freestyle relay, McHugh, Chavez, Fleagle and Loy took home silver and set a new OSU school record in a time of 2:49.23.Next up, the Buckeyes will head to Indianapolis to compete in the NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming & Diving Championships on March 22-25. read more

Gibson declares for draft

Defensive end Thaddeus Gibson will forgo his senior season at Ohio State and enter the 2010 NFL Draft.The junior announced his decision today, just days after the Buckeyes’ 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl.“I am not leaving the Buckeye family,” Gibson said. “I wish the team the very best in the upcoming years and I thank all my teammates for all their support. I will keep in touch with my Buckeye family and I love them all. I will always bleed Scarlet and Gray.”Gibson, who finished with four tackles- two for loss- against the Ducks, said he considers the Rose Bowl victory one of his most memorable experiences.“I would like to thank Coach Tressel, Coach Fickell, Coach Heacock, Shelly Poe, and the entire Ohio State football staff, as well as my mother, brother and of course God, for helping me to have the opportunity to enter the draft, and for the support from my teammates, alumni, and Ohio State fans across the nation.”Gibson led Ohio State in 2009 with 13 tackles for loss, including four sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He finishes his Buckeye career with 82 tackles. read more

Ohio State offense needs identity check

In a Season Three episode of “The Office,” prankster Jim Halpert imitates rival Dwight Schrute’s appearance and antics for one day, mocking Dwight’s infatuation with bears and random facts. Dwight threatens Jim, saying, “Identity theft is not a joke, Jim. Millions of families suffer every year.” But to be a victim of identity theft, one needs an identity, something distinct, a desirable characteristic that can be captured and mimicked. No need to secure credit card information or Internet passwords — the Ohio State offense has no identity. Expectations have never been higher for the No. 2 Buckeyes. Many forecasters will be irked if they are forced to erase OSU, penciled into the BCS Championship game with Alabama by most, from their projections. Should the Crimson Tide reach college football’s summit, it will be on the shoulders of their running back tandem, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram and explosive sophomore Trent Richardson. The Buckeyes’ rushing duo, Dan “Boom” Herron and Brandon “Zoom” Saine, is under-used and far less talented. OSU breezed through its non-conference schedule, racking up 49.2 points per game in a 4-0 start. It piled up yardage through the air as quarterback Terrelle Pryor averaged nearly 27 passes per contest. So with Pryor in the locker room suffering from a quadriceps strain during Saturday’s 24-13 win over Illinois, what happened to the Buckeyes’ playbook? Coach Jim Tressel doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have the same trust in backup Joe Bauserman that he does in his Heisman-hopeful signal-caller. Therefore, OSU’s offense dried up like a prune. Even when Pryor returned under center after missing seven snaps, Tressel continued to call Herron’s number. OSU rushed on 11 straight plays at one point, and for good reason, with Pryor not feeling up to the task. “The worst thing was when I came back and the guys said I was all right and they were saying, ‘Come on, Terrelle, lead us,’” Pryor said. “It was hard because I knew I couldn’t do anything about it. There’s no way I could do anything about it, except to hand the ball off and get a couple passes. But it kind of hurt even dropping back.” No team can be fully dependent on one playmaker as its entire source of offense. The Buckeyes ran around like chickens with their heads cut off when Pryor was sidelined. Bauserman threw two passes — one completed for a 1-yard gain and the other completed to the wrong team. Last year, OSU relied heavily on its running game during the challenging conclusion to its Big Ten schedule. The Buckeyes piled up at least 225 rushing yards in five consecutive games — all wins. Before that commitment to smashmouth football, OSU flirted with the inconsistency that plagued it Saturday. Just ask Purdue what kind of offense it faced when it beat the Buckeyes last October. In the Boilermakers’ 26-18 upset, Pryor had a hand in 52 of OSU’s 59 plays. Saine carried the ball the other seven times, six of which came in the first half. Every team faces adversity. The Buckeyes dealt with their first road trip and their first conference test. They didn’t expect to lose the centerpiece of their offense at a critical juncture of the game. But it’s how teams adapt to such misfortunes that determines which squads are cut out for hardware at season’s end. Adaptation comes easier for teams with balance. Take a perennial 50-home run hitter out of a power-starved lineup and the club’s offense will struggle. Remove one of a lineup’s three 25-home run batters and the team shouldn’t skip a beat. The Buckeyes have that top-tier slugger. But they also have complements capable of contributing to the offense’s production. Tressel needs to strike a balance between a Pryor-centric approach and a Woody Hayes-esque, run-only style. Over-reliance on Pryor is a recipe for disaster. Yes, he can change the complexion of a game every time his number is called. But he becomes more effective when defenses have to worry about Herron and Saine as well. Dwight from “The Office” has attributes that are easily identifiable, namely, a mustard-colored shirt, beet-stained teeth and a fervent love of authority. Take a look at the OSU offense, and the only characteristics you’ll find are inconsistent and unidentifiable. read more

Leaders division looking for key replacements

The Big Ten Leaders division has been affected by graduation, players leaving for the NFL Draft and suspensions, leading to a whole new look for most of the teams. Members of the division spoke with media Wednesday in a teleconference about these replacements and the retooled Big Ten Conference. The Ohio State football team has completed eight practices this spring, and coach Jim Tressel said the coaching staff is pleased with the team’s effort so far. Tressel said the eight practices have been solid and there has been a lot of competition throughout the spring at multiple positions. Tressel addressed the progression of quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his participation in spring practice following foot surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left foot. “He’ll be back running around at the first of May and he can kind of stand still throwing the ball,” Tressel said. He said Pryor’s development as a quarterback should help him get drafted at the same position in the NFL draft, disagreeing with ESPN’s Mel Kiper, who said he thinks Pryor will be an NFL tight end. Tressel also spoke about the quarterback battle and said there is no pecking order for who will start for the Buckeyes in the first five games. Tressel said he wishes someone would jump out and take the job. “I kind of vacillate each day,” Tressel said of the choices at quarterback. Brewster said regardless of who starts at quarterback, the team’s play will not be affected. Junior linebacker Jonathan Newsome was expected to play a part in the Buckeye defense this season. However, Tressel said Newsome has been in his doghouse throughout the spring. “I don’t expect him to be in it long, but sometimes we have to do what we think will help a young person learn,” Tressel said. Brewster said this was one of the best springs he has been a part of at OSU and that the team is staying focused on spring ball and not paying attention to outside distractions. He has been working on making himself more of a complete player and has also been helping the younger guys on the team. “It’s been great to get back on the field and get the feeling back,” Brewster said. Tressel and players Pryor, Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas will serve a suspension for the first five games of the upcoming season. Indiana looking to compete under 1st-year coach Kevin Wilson was named Indiana’s new coach in December after spending nine seasons as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and tight ends and fullbacks coach. Former coach Bill Lynch was fired with one year left on his contract after earning a 19-30 record in his four seasons with the Hoosiers. Wilson said the Hoosiers will have to replace standout quarterback Ben Chappell from last year’s 5-7 team, but he expects them to be competitive. He said it is important for his players to start to have a more positive outlook and believe in themselves and their abilities for the upcoming season. “This team is right in the mix,” Wilson said. Senior offensive lineman Justin Pagán said he is excited for the new season and Wilson has helped bring a new attitude and a new culture to the team. “The expectation is, we’re going to be better,” Pagán said. “We’re gonna do the work that we haven’t done before.” Badgers looking for key replacements Wisconsin finished the 2010 season on a sour note, losing to TCU in the Rose Bowl. However, it earned a share of the Big Ten title under coach Bret Bielema. Bielema and his Badgers have to replace some key players, but they are still expected to compete in the Leaders division. “I’m really excited for the buildup and race to the championship game,” Bielema said. The Badgers must replace Scott Tolzien at quarterback after two years as the starter, and Bielema said they are looking toward sophomore Jon Budmayr as the replacement. Budmayr is in his third spring with the team, and Bielema said his experience in the past has been beneficial to his progression. The Badgers also lost defensive end J.J. Watt to the NFL Draft, and senior free safety Aaron Henry said that although they will miss Watt’s production, the defense should compete under new defensive coordinator Chris Ash. Henry will look to be a spokesman of the defense this season. “It’s still a work in progress,” Henry said. “I’m still learning and I think I have some really good characteristics of becoming a leader.” Henry also said he expects the secondary to become more involved in the blitz with Ash at his new position. Young Penn State team looks to rebound Joe Paterno has been on the Penn State coaching staff for 60 years, but it is unlikely that he has ever seen the magnitude of off-the-field problems in college football that we are seeing today. “Well, I don’t know if it’s out of control,” Paterno said of the college game. “I do think, obviously, we’ve got some problems. How many, or whether they’ve been made to appear worse than they are because of the media exposure, I don’t know.” But Paterno said he thinks the college game is as good as it ever has been on the field. The Nittany Lions cycled through quarterbacks last season, and Paterno said he has been pleased with the quarterback situation this spring. He said junior Matt McGloin and sophomore Rob Bolden both have shown they have great ability. “We’ll be in great hands with whoever coach decides to pick,” senior wide receiver Derek Moye said. Paterno said he does not think he did a particularly good job last year, but he said his team’s success starts with the head coach and how much effort he puts into it. “If it appears to the kids that I am working harder at it, then good, I’m glad to hear that,” Paterno said. “I hope I’m doing a better job than I did last year.” Moye has to sit out this spring because of a concussion but said he hopes to be back by Saturday’s spring game. He said the rest of the receivers, including junior Justin Brown, have been progressing well throughout spring. Moye said he looks forward to the chance to play in the first Big Ten championship game, and it makes him work that much harder because it is his senior season. Boilermakers escape spring without injuries Purdue, unlike other Big Ten squads, wrapped up its spring practice on Saturday as it held its spring game. Coach Danny Hope said he has seen improvements in all three aspects of his team’s game. “I feel like we improved a lot as a football team in a lot of key areas,” Hope said. “We had a lot of fun and did a good job of keeping our team healthy.” Health was a concern for the Boilermakers, as they lost senior quarterback Robert Marve to injury last season and junior running back Ralph Bolden to injury last spring. Neither played in Saturday’s spring game, but both are expected back in the fall. In Marve’s absence, sophomore quarterback Rob Henry earned the No. 1 quarterback spot at the beginning of spring and kept it until the end. “He has really improved a lot since last year,” Hope said. “We’re encouraged about him.” Henry said he has used this spring to help improve his overall game as a quarterback. “I’m just trying to improve as a quarterback and being able to sit back and throw and then escaping and making plays with my legs,” Henry said. Henry said he has been doing everything he can to get his team to a bowl game and he has been really impressed this spring. Bolden was held out of contact drills this spring, but Hope said Bolden’s return is huge for the team and that he looked good catching the ball and running during practice. Illinois looking for new offensive identity Illini coach Ron Zook said his team has been doing something a bit different this spring. The team has practiced in the morning to accommodate the different school schedules. Zook said the players have enjoyed getting up and going to practice so that they can worry about being college kids when they are finished. The Illini return their starting quarterback from last season, sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase, but they lost leading rusher Mikel Leshoure to the NFL Draft. Scheelhaase will take on a much larger role this season with the loss of the team’s star running back. “He’s been able to take a little bit at a time and he’s gotten better every day,” Zook said. Leshoure led the Big Ten in rushing yards in 2010, with 1,697, the third-best total in the nation. Senior running back Jason Ford, who had 480 yards in 2010, will look to fill in for Leshoure. Illinois will look to improve its passing game this season, meaning Scheelhaase will need to throw more in 2011 than he did in his freshman season. “As a quarterback, I really feel like I can make strides in the passing game,” Scheelhaase said. “If we make some big strides in the passing game, I think our offense can really do some damage this year.” read more

Spring football practice like Christmas for players

After having his players put on their pads Saturday morning for the first time this spring, saying that Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer has placed an emphasis on competition might be somewhat of an understatement. After the two-hour practice, Meyer had his offense, players and coaches running sprints from sideline to sideline while the defense moved off the field for Gatorades and post-stretch. Harsh, perhaps. But in the culture that Meyer is establishing at OSU, winners are rewarded and losers punished. In this particular case, the offense lost a scrimmage drill against the defense toward the end of practice. And redshirt senior linebacker Etienne Sabino did his best to drive home that point. “Defense won today, make sure you all got that,” he said playfully, albeit seemingly proud.  Maybe it was because, for Sabino, Saturday was “like Christmas.”  “It was so fun. You got six weeks of running around here, around cones and stuff, and you’re finally able to hit somebody,” he said. “It’s fun, everything’s fast paced, it’s real competitive and we’re having a great time.” For OSU, it’s the first spring under Meyer and another reminder of how much things have changed for the Buckeyes in the past year. Aside from not even being a year removed from former coach Jim Tressel’s scandal-induced resignation, Meyer’s ultra-competitive philosophy coupled with an new additions to the coaching staff suggests his players have had a lot to adjust to. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said while his offense is “not even close” to what they want it to be, it’s a normal progression. “I think once you get to Day 3 (of practice), it gets to be a little bit overwhelming, and that’s kind of the plan,” he said. Herman said the staff wants to throw as much as they can at them and in about a week go back and re-teach the finer points of the offense. It’s part of the reason why he thinks sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is struggling a bit. “The mental part of the game is just getting to him right now,” Herman said. A reserved, borderline shy Miller said he’s trying to get better everyday. “What I really want to improve on is knowing where everybody’s at, (what) everybody’s doing,” he said. “I just feel good about the whole game plan right now.” Herman said Miller grasping the offense is critical in getting him to be the coach on the field they need him to be. But having started last season has helped prepare him to be a leader, Miller said. “I feel heavier,” he said. “I feel like I know I got my first year under me and just keeping working hard and progressing.” Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier, who came on strong for OSU toward the end of the season, said adjusting to all the changes has been a fresh start. “It’s the same team, we just have a new beginning,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason.” Similarly, the struggle adjusting to change isn’t limited to the players. Luke Fickell, who served as the Buckeyes head coach in 2011 before taking the roles of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under Meyer, said it’s good the coaches have differing opinions in terms of putting things together for next season. The key, he said, is coming together and figuring out what’s best for the program. “You can’t get anything better than having a little bit of different perspectives at times,” he said. “None of us like change at times, but it’s good. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, like coach (Meyer) will tell you, change is uncomfortable, but it’s really good. It’s good to help you grow.” read more

Indiana overpowers Ohio State basketball 8168

A tough week ended somber for the Ohio State men’s basketball team. A sold-out crowd, some of which had been camping out since Wednesday, witnessed the No. 10 Buckeyes fall to the top-ranked Indiana Hoosiers Sunday, 81-68. Deshaun Thomas’ 26 points weren’t enough to equal a trio of Indiana offensive weapons who combined for 70 points and stifled every run OSU threw at them. Junior guard Victor Oladipo matched Thomas’ effort with 26 points of his own, sophomore center Cody Zeller scored 24 and senior forward Christian Watford added 20. “We couldn’t gain that momentum,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “Unfortunately we didn’t guard them at the level we needed to guard them.” Both teams came into the game trying to avoid back-to back conference losses that could all but bury a team in the ultra-competitive Big Ten title race this season. OSU was coming off an overtime loss to Michigan Tuesday and Indiana lost at the buzzer against Illinois Thursday. Indiana made it clear early they wanted their preseason all-American, Zeller, to get his touches. The 7-foot sophomore shot just six times in Indiana’s road loss to Illinois Thursday, but the Hoosiers fed the ball into the post early and often. Zeller scored the game’s first bucket and had 12 points on eight shots in the first half. OSU coach Thad Matta rotated his three big men on Zeller, bumping and bruising Indiana’s star, but the three Buckeyes combined for five fouls in the first half and 10 for the game. “We really needed to get the ball in the paint,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “It was very important that the ball hit the paint because our statistics are very high percentage wise.” But Indiana’s best early option was Oladipo, who scored 14 first half points. In the first half’s waning minutes, the junior guard converted back-to-back acrobatic buckets, the last of which was a high flying two-handed slam to give Indiana an eight-point advantage. The Buckeyes took their first lead, 13-11, when Thomas connected on a 3-pointer from the wing eliciting a roar from the sold-out crowd at the Schottenstein Center. Thomas scored 13 points in the opening period, but the Hoosiers dominated the half’s last five minutes to take a 41-33 lead into the locker room. Thomas drew OSU within four early in the second half after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt and making all three free throws, but Oladipo quieted what was a surging crowd with a jumper from the elbow and a 3-pointer on the next possession to extend the lead to nine. That was the theme of the second half. Whenever OSU had a run, the Hoosiers had an answer, silencing the crowd with their depth. Indiana shot 59 percent in the second half and 53 percent from the game. “We’d make a run and they’d make a 5-0 back at us and kept their composure,” junior guard Aaron Craft said. Watford took his turns as well, hitting four 3-pointers in the game including two in the second half that gave his team a five-possession lead. Thomas exploited Indiana’s defense all day, but OSU’s lack of other scorers doomed any chance of a comeback. With the game about out of reach, Craft scored seven straight points late in the game on his way to 16 for the game. Craft later joined senior forward Evan Ravenel in fouling out of the contest. The loss drops OSU to 17-6 and 7-4 in the Big Ten, two games behind the conference leading Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2).   The Buckeyes next take on Northwestern at home Thursday. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m. read more

Buckeyes prepare for tough Iowa run defense

Junior quarterback Braxton Miller (5) hands off the ball to senior running back Carlos Hyde (34) during a game against Northwestern Oct. 5. OSU won, 40-30. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorFresh off its first bye week of the 2013 season, the Ohio State football team (6-0, 2-0) is preparing for a battle this Saturday against Iowa (4-2, 1-1).The Hawkeyes are tied with Oklahoma for the nation’s 12th-best defense in terms of points against (16.8 average per game), doing so by thwarting the rushing attacks of their opponents. The team has yet to allow a rushing score.OSU coach Urban Meyer is well aware of this fact, and was even more impressed by something he learned while scouting his team’s week eight opponent.“They haven’t (played) goal-line defense (yet),” Meyer said.But don’t expect the Buckeyes, who are 11th in the nation in rushing, to become pass-happy for a week.“We’re not going to change our game plan. We’re going to do what Ohio State does, and that’s run the ball,” said senior running back Carlos Hyde.Hyde is determined to crack Iowa’s highly-touted defensive line for large gains the way he did in OSU’s 40-30 win against Northwestern Oct. 5. Against the Wildcats, Hyde tallied 168 yards and three touchdowns.“I run determined not to be stopped … It’’s going to take the whole defense to tackle me,” Hyde said. “That’s my mindset.”Redshirt-senior center Corey Linsley said in a game like Saturday’s, running the ball successfully is essential for the team to come out on top.“We’re (going to) have to play an extremely good game in terms of rushing the football, and our tempo is definitely going to dictate that,” Linsley said.Starting junior quarterback Braxton Miller said the Hawkeye defense is probably the best the Buckeye offense has seen so on film so far this year. Miller, who fumbled twice against Northwestern, said ball security will be key, and is something he has been working on in practice.“Watching film, I really wasn’t holding the ball correctly … I wasn’t holding the ball real tight,” Miller said.The coaching staff had the quarterback hold onto a ball during team stretches in practice this week, Miller said.Although the Hawkeyes are OSU’s first unranked opponent since Florida A&M, the team knows every game during Big Ten play poses a stiff test.“The weeks that we have taken off, those are the weeks that we’ve gotten beat. The weeks that we’ve treated those teams as what the (AP poll) treats them as, what the rest of the country treats them as, as non-ranked, blow-off opponents, those are the weeks that we get beat,” Linsley said. “We’ve kind of learned from history, and we’re not taking this week lightly.”Iowa is scheduled to visit Ohio Stadium for OSU’s homecoming game Saturday at 3:30 p.m. read more