For about 35 minutes of game action — or close to two hours in real time — Buckeye Nation had a nervous feeling Thursday night when No. 2-ranked Ohio State fell behind Indiana.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, it takes 60 minutes to decide the outcome of a football game, and by the end of their nearly four-hour season opener at Indiana, IU’s rowdy crowd had long trickled off into the night and all was right again in Urban Meyer’s world.
It’s always easy to read the stress on Meyer’s face when he paces the sidelines, but the Hoosiers gave him plenty of reasons for it Thursday. With a receiving corps making one great catch after another and a quarterback confident enough to give them the opportunities, IU had the Buckeyes on the ropes into the third quarter.
Then, the game turned in a few seconds, or as long as it took Parris Campbell to burn 79 yards and put OSU up for good, although it took a little longer for the Buckeyes’ relentlessly fast defense to finally wear out Indiana, and for the offense to step on the gas and speed away.
Fans can never be sure if it’s adjustments or simply better talent winning out, and it might have been both Thursday. There’s probably not a better coordinator combo in the nation as OSU’s Kevin Wilson (offense) and Greg Schiano (defense), and the blue-chip Buckeyes turned it on in the second half.
Even though it had three starters leave for the NFL as first-round draftees, the OSU secondary has the next waves coming on. It took perfect passes and catches to beat the DBs early on, but Schiano switched up some coverages and, if not stopped, slowed the Hoosier aerial assault featuring NFL-caliber receivers and a QB with a shot at Sundays, too.
Then again, I don’t think anyone worries about the OSU defense, no matter how much talent graduates. Speed knows no age, and the Buckeyes in the back end can all fly. With the pass rush rolling out fresh bodies with no drop-off all night, opposing QBs can only be successful if they get the ball out quickly.
Most of the angst, as usual, was generated by Ohio State’s offense, which had trouble generating much of anything for its opening half of the season.
More specifically, J.T. Barrett, the most-maligned QB with the most records maybe in NCAA history.
Again, we don’t know how much of the blame when the team struggles should go to Barrett. I didn’t see many open receivers in the first half Thursday.
What I did see was a breakout star in running back J.K. Dobbins, who certainly lived up to his preseason hype in his first game.
At quarterback, Barrett is never going to be a gunslinger, and that might be what Meyer likes best about him. Yeah, he missed some throws, but he missed throwing any interceptions, too.
OSU’s offense, with Wilson calling the shots, will be an evolving thing. With the Buckeyes’ defense, it can afford to be.
The bottom line, though, is that Ohio State went on the road, in a Big Ten game against a dangerous opponent in front of a fairly hostile crowd, and won by four touchdowns.
It was a challenging change from the usual cupcake, and a test the Buckeyes passed.
Best of all, it was the game they needed to get ready for this Saturday, when Oklahoma comes to Columbus with revenge on its mind.
? The Indians haven’t just treaded water during an August that had more regulars out of the lineup than in it, they’ve played great baseball. They haven’t just won 10 games in a row after whipping the Tigers again Saturday, they’ve dominated.
Earlier this season, when the Tribe was playing below its talent, I wondered if Tito Francona and his coaching staff were having trouble motivating a team that was one run from winning it all last year. Those troubles, real or not, are far, far away.
The dog days of August are gone. So are the Indians from the rest of the AL Central, and now the question for management is going to be who to leave on and off the postseason roster. There will be plenty of options.
? None of the cuts the Browns made should surprise us, even if I did think John Greco was the ideal backup at both guard and center.
They’ll now scour the waiver wire to secure the back of the 53-man roster, then get ready for Pittsburgh off an unbeaten preseason and with just three players age 30 or over. That’s awfully young to win in the NFL.
? The Steelers aren’t the ideal opening opponent. But, the expectations aren’t high, and Browns fans, even desperate for any glimmer of hope, are smart enough to know that improvement might not show on the scoreboard right away. They’re also smart enough to know if it shows on the field, and Big Ben & Co. will at least provide a barometer for the Browns’ chances of competing in the AFC North, which is where it all has to start anyway.
It’s been a sad week for The College of Wooster athletic community, and in particular for the Scots’ baseball program, with the sudden death of Rob Piscetta last Sunday at the age of just 51.
Piscetta, who lived with his wife and college-age daughters in Wadsworth, pitched for the Scots from 1984-87, and by the time he graduated, was considered one of the best in school history, going 24-8 and winning half of those as a senior when he went 12-2 and was named North Coast Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, as well as a third-team All-American.
He then became the rare Wooster player to be drafted, and the 27th-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers spent four years in their chain. He was just as successful after joining Wilson Sporting Goods, recently becoming a vice president.
Piscetta’s passing undoubtedly hit Tim Pettorini, the longtime Scots baseball coach, extra hard. Piscetta’s pitching was a cornerstone of the program’s rise to prominence, one yet to taper off 30 years later.
"He’s one of the all-time greats here," said Pettorini back in 2007, upon Piscetta’s induction into the "W" Association Hall of Fame for Wooster athletics. "He was the first great pitcher that I really recruited, so I have a special feeling for that. He was part of my second recruiting class, and that’s the one that really kind of got us going."
Piscetta wound up with a 24-8 career record, 3.64 ERA, and 196 strikeouts, nearly an average of one every inning (212.2 innings), and is still in the top 10 in four pitching categories.
His Black & Old Gold ties ran deep, too. For the last 33 years, Piscetta and a group of ex-Scot baseball players comprise a fantasy baseball league, and get together every year for a draft.
"Rob was a very funny guy," said Kevin Ruple (COW, 1982), the longtime Sports Information Director at Baldwin-Wallace. "At our Fantasy draft, he always came with (85 grad) Mike O’Brien and had plenty of cigars and his flask.
"It was a great opportunity for us to get together a few times each year to talk about Wooster memories and our families and while drafting players," added Ruple, listing Duane Sunagel (’82) and ’85 grads Bruce Benedict, Brad Toman and Jon Schmittgen as other league members.
Piscetta leaves a wife, Colleen, and daughters Madeline, a graduate student in marine conservation, and Kate, a junior at Denison. As Colleen McCauley, Piscetta’s wife, a 1989 COW grad, was a track All-American and basketball player.
At Wilson, Piscetta was responsible for luring Matt Sherrieb, who began as a freshman baseball player and student at Wooster the fall after Piscetta’s 1987 graduation, out of the lucrative position of Daily Record sports writer to a job with the sporting goods company. O’Brien, a Wooster native and standout in both baseball and basketball, joined Wilson a few years ago.
Himself, Piscetta was promoted to National Sales Manager in 2016 and, only four days before his death, was elevated to a sales vice presidency.
"On the business side, Rob had the uncanny ability to blend professionalism with his wit to build strong, lasting relationships," said Sherrieb, who has stayed in the Wooster area after graduation. "As a friend, he was a vault and always found a way to make your day better.
"As a brother, he was always beside you and supported your efforts. Rob was something to a lot of people and asked for nothing in return. He was a great person."
The Scots baseball program is truly its own family, and lost a brother last Sunday. A wife lost her husband, two daughters a father, and parents lost a son.
But as all of those, plus everything else he achieved in a life cut tragically short, Piscetta left an imprint that will last beyond a lifetime.
... 25 OR LESS ...
... Having a veteran quarterback, like the Scots have in Gary Muntean, makes a huge difference ...
... Although Waynedale grad Nick Strausbaugh got him for six, Wooster High alum Kobe Russell was a presence at corner for Bluffton Saturday, with two pass break-ups ...
ONE MORE THING — People, and PA announcers, should get off of Drew Sarachman for wanting his Triway football team to be "The Toughest Team In Ohio" (TTTIO). The Titans wear decals with that acronym on the back of their helmets.
Sarachman’s not calling his team that, it’s the goal he expects his players to strive for. Not that toughness is a measurable — like the old adage about good art, you just know it when you see it.
He’s merely trying to mold the Titans into that image, through hard work. I don’t see a thing wrong with that.