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Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Ohio State offense picking up the pieces

By Adam Rittenberg

Mike Brewster's vision for his senior season at Ohio State included snapping the ball to Terrelle Pryor and receiving guidance from Jim Tressel.

It certainly didn't include games like last Saturday's 24-6 loss at Miami.

Like the other Buckeyes seniors, Brewster isn't accustomed to losing. He certainly isn't used to being blown out by an unranked opponent.

Although Ohio State's offense has had its hiccups during Brewster's first three years as the starting center, the unit never performed as poorly as it did in the Miami game.

Mike Brewster
This season has not gotten off to the start Mike Brewster (50) had hoped for.
"I haven't really gone through a game like that here," he told ESPN.com. "I'm definitely being tested right now in a way I didn't think I would ever be."

Ohio State coach Luke Fickell repeatedly talked Tuesday about getting the team's best 11 on the field on both offense and defense. Brewster, a leading Rimington Trophy candidate, certainly is among that best 11.

He's not the problem, but he wants to be part of the solution.

"I can really only help control so much," Brewster said. "What I'm going to do is make sure this line keeps grinding away. It's a great group of guys up front. If we give the backs holes and the quarterbacks time, I think things will go in the right direction."

Despite Fickell's best efforts to deflect criticism from the quarterbacks, it's not hard to isolate Ohio State's primary problem on offense.

The Buckeyes rushed for 174 yards against Miami, and running back Jordan Hall had a nice performance in his season debut. Miami recorded only two tackles for loss.

"I thought we did a great job of giving the quarterbacks time and giving the backs holes," Brewster said.

But the quarterbacks, senior Joe Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller, combined to complete just 4 of 18 pass attempts for 35 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Bauserman completed just 2 of 14 attempts for 13 yards, while Miller threw the pick and also lost a fumble.

While three key offensive reinforcements -- running back Dan Herron, wideout DeVier Posey and left tackle Mike Adams -- are on the way back for the Oct. 8 game at Nebraska, Ohio State will go forward with what it has under center.

Fickell remains undecided on a starter for this week's game against Colorado, although he seemed to lean a bit more in Miller's direction.

Asked if he saw an overwhelming upside with Miller ahead of Bauserman, Fickell replied, "We could. If he could go out and make some plays on the football, we will."

Fickell on Tuesday stressed the need for more big plays. Ohio State has recorded only 11 offensive plays of 20 yards or longer (nine pass, two rush) through the first three games, and none came against Miami.

"All the running backs are capable of doing that," fullback Zach Boren said. "Even out wide, the young [receivers]. I think we have the fastest team I've ever been a part of here at Ohio State. We definitely have that capability of guys to be able to make big plays, be that playmaker.

"Someone just needs to step up and do it."

Brewster won't be throwing passes or breaking off long runs, but he'll continue his role as the nucleus of the line and enhance his role as a leader as Ohio State prepares for its final nonconference game Saturday against Colorado.

"I know guys are looking to me, and I just have to stay confident," Brewster said. "That's something I learned from coach Tress. When things were going bad or we'd hit a rough spot, he kept his head up and stayed confident.

"There's a lot to play for still. I know people on the outside looking in think it's bad, but I'm pretty confident we'll fix things."