Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller recovers his own fumble during the third quarter of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Miami. Miami defeated Ohio State 24-6.
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COLUMBUS -- Three days after the Buckeyes saw their passing game grounded in a convincing defeat at Miami, there is still no decision, no consensus on what to do next.
Ohio State hosts Colorado on Saturday, and head coach Luke Fickell said more caucusing and deliberating will take place before he decides whether senior Joe Bauserman or freshman Braxton Miller will sit first in the pilot's seat against the Buffaloes, and how the playing time will be divided.
"We don't know what the plan is just yet," Fickell said yesterday at his weekly news conference. "Until we see them compete in practice, see how guys handle situations and roles and different things like that, we're not going to make a complete judgment just yet."
A negative verdict was pretty easy to reach after the Hurricanes humbled the Buckeyes 24-6, limiting Ohio State to just two field goals. Bauserman started the game and shared the snaps with Miller, and the pair combined to go just 4-of-18 passing for 35 yards, with an interception.
Ohio State's young receiving corps -two sophomores, one redshirt freshman and two true freshmen - had zero receptions in the game and several dropped balls. The Buckeyes' two tight ends, both experienced juniors, also had zero receptions against Miami.
"We know we need to get better," Fickell said. "We had a hard time throwing the football. We had some younger guys out there, but that's no excuse."
Fickell said improving the quarterback play is just one of many areas where the Buckeyes need to advance as they prepare for their final non-conference game. He voiced the opinion that the team's performance in Miami demonstrated many issues, but that the inept passing attack gets the spotlight.
Ohio State quarterback Joe Bauserman drops back to pass during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Miami, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Miami.
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Trailing 17-6 at the half, Ohio State was 1-of-9 passing for just four yards with one pass intercepted. The Buckeyes used two short yardage completions in the frantic final 30 seconds of the game to double their completion output for the night.
"It all works together, but I know when you focus on just one single part of it, it becomes a lot more obvious," Fickell said. "You look at the stats, what your completions are, how many yards you threw for, and it becomes obvious."
Fickell said that despite the troubles experienced by Bauserman and Miller against the Hurricanes, he never considered going to redshirt freshman Taylor Graham or sophomore Kenny Guiton, two other quarterbacks that Fickell had said were competing for the starting job when fall practice began.
"Who we went with all week, who practiced . . . that's who we were going with," he said, adding that the OSU coaches did not think Guiton or Graham could give the Buckeyes something Bauserman and Miller could not.
"It wasn't something that we thought those guys weren't doing," Fickell said. "It was a combination of everything."
Junior fullback Zach Boren said he doesn't blame either Bauserman or Miller for the offense's floundering in Miami, and that the team still has confidence in both.
"I feel like whenever we're out in the offensive huddle, whoever is out there, we're going to support them and we're pushing for them," Boren said. "We're hoping whichever quarterback is out there, they make the smart plays. It's not that we're leaning one way or another. We just hope whoever is out there is out there making plays."
Boren said that what the Buckeyes need is an individual player, not necessarily the quarterbacks, to provide the spark that will get the Ohio State offense moving.
"I definitely think a lot of guys are capable of taking over that role," Boren said. "Right now, especially after this week, after the loss, someone needs to step up and take that role. I think we have the fastest team I've ever been a part of here at Ohio State. We definitely have that capability , for guys to be that play maker. Someone just needs to step up and do it."
Fickell indicated that he'll stick with the either/or approach at quarterback unless the performance of Bauserman or Miller convinces him to do otherwise. He shied away from being any more specific about Ohio State's plans to make significant improvement in the passing game before facing the Buffaloes.
"I don't have the crystal ball," Fickell said. "We know what we think. We're going to continue to see them battle and work at it. We're going to focus on day to day getting better. I think the most important thing -- whether we're talking about the quarterback position, whether it's offense or defense - we've got to find a way to get our best 11 on the field."
Boren said patience was important, since the Ohio State offense was hit hard by graduation losses, suspensions and early departures. Seven Buckeyes on offense entered the 2011 season as first-time starters.
"Like years in the past, even when we've had our full squad, it's taken us a couple games," Boren said. "Our personality is definitely evolving still, and we'll see what comes out Saturday."
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @MattMarkey.
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