As I watched Ohio State snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on Saturday night, I was struck by a thought. Winning the National Championship in 2002 may have been the worst thing that could have happened to Ohio State fans. I say this because I believe that game cemented "Tressel Ball" into the mind of their head coach forever. Penn State fans know the formula all too well: Play tough defense, run the ball, play conservative, and hope you can hang on for the win. It's a formula that will win you a lot of football games against lesser teams where your talent is good enough to overcome anything. But against teams that can match up with you man-for-man, it's usually a recipe for disappointment. Though once in a blue moon it works to perfection and you pull off a miracle like Ohio State did in 2002 and Penn State did in 1986.
Congratulations, Ohio State. You have a five star quarterback that can't read defenses. He stares down his receivers, throws off his back foot, and forces passes he has no business throwing. On top of that, he's an inarticulate headcase who doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut leaving one to suspect he has some self esteem issues he's trying to mask. Your head coach has put all his eggs in said quarterback's basket. He knows the deficiencies, but he also knows it's too late to switch horses in this race. He's afraid to take chances, like when he didn't want to even try a 52 yard field goal just before halftime. Or when he opted later in the game to kick a field goal on fourth and goal to put the game in the hands of his defense rather than try to drive the dagger home.
I know all too well what it's like to have the ball in the hands of your five star quarterback with a minute to go and the game on the line and watch him fail. It must have been a helpless feeling to watch your five-star quarterback melt the game away in futile play after futile play. An intentional grounding, a scramble that didn't get out of bounds, a four yard pass, and a helpless Hail Mary that falls to the turf. Game over.
Congratulations, Ohio State. You are now Penn State circa 2006, and your quarterback is Anthony Morelli.