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Published: Monday, 10/29/2001

Chill, OSU fans; Buckeyes are doing their best

Pardon me for stating the obvious, but Jim Tressel's Ohio State Buckeyes aren't having a real good year.

Not that anyone outside Columbus pegged the Buckeyes for Pasadena, but Ohio State is going to have to put this season on layaway and wait until 2002 for more positive results.

People take Ohio State football seriously. Too seriously at times. The Buckeyes have a proud tradition. What happened Saturday at Penn State wasn't bragging rights material.

After OSU's frustrating 29-27 loss, I started mulling over the Buckeyes' good points and came to a quick conclusion. OSU's bad points far outnumber the good ones.

I'd like to offer a few suggestions to Buckeye fans, the first and most sensible one being to take a few deep breaths and steady your nerves. The season isn't as terrible as it seems. If you still have your health, you really don't have anything to complain about.

I know you're upset with Tressel, OSU's first-year coach, and furious with senior quarterback Steve Bellisari. But before you start throwing sharp objects at the TV and kicking the dog, remember this:

They're doing the best they can.

I know you don't want to hear that. I realize you had your heart all set on planning some trips to the Rose Bowl now that John Cooper is gone.

So instead of concentrating on what the Buckeyes haven't accomplished, let's take a look at what they do well.

They have a solid, respectable defense. Well, at least they did until Penn State ripped them for 531 total yards, including 251 yards on the ground.

The Buckeyes also run the ball fairly well. The Buckeyes rushed for 203 yards Saturday. Jonathan Wells carried 19 times for 143 yards.

But those numbers aren't totally positive upon realizing the Buckeyes' ground game failed to produce in pressure situations.

On first-and-goal at the 1 late in the first half, Wells and Lydell Ross combined to lose one yard. On third down, Bellisari stumbled as he rolled left (rumored to be his strong side) and threw the ball away, forcing Ohio State to settle for a field goal and a 13-9 lead.

In the third quarter, Ross fumbled at the Penn State 34 - the first fumble by an OSU running back all year.

Notice I didn't mention the quarterback as being a team strength.

The quarterback is supposed to be the leader of the team, especially a veteran like Bellisari.

Bellisari was respectable against Penn State. He passed for 209 yards, including an explosive 66-yard touchdown bomb to Michael Jenkins on the Buckeyes' first offensive play.

But OSU isn't a 4-3 football team by accident. If you're looking for someone to blame, it's always safe to point a finger at the quarterback when things go wrong.

On first down deep in Penn State territory late in the contest, Bellisari took a sack when he should have thrown the ball away or pulled it down and run. Anything but a sack. Those are the type of plays that stunt a team's momentum and confidence. After the sack, Ohio State's try for a field goal and a 30-29 lead was blocked.

We're seven games into the season, and this is what we know about the Buckeyes:

They're doing the best they can.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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