Unbeaten Buckeyes seeking answers after latest win


Unbeaten Buckeyes seeking answers after latest win

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Urban Meyer could look at Ohio State's record and see perfection.

He knows better.

The man with two national championship rings and a resume full of winning seasons understands better than anyone that if the No. 8 Buckeyes are going to keep winning, they must figure out how to close out games.

``I have to get more involved and find out what the issues are,'' the coach said after the Buckeyes' latest great escape, a 52-49 victory at Indiana on Saturday. ``I know injuries are an issue. When you take your starting fullback and start him at inside linebacker, you have a little problem. I don't think you can pinpoint any one thing right now. I have got to find out. I am going to increase my involvement with the defense.''

Offensively, the Buckeyes look fine.

Quarterback Braxton Miller delivered another masterful performance against the Hoosiers, rushing for 149 yards, scoring on a 67-yard scamper and throwing TD passes of 60 and 46 yards. It was Miller's third straight 100-yard game, and he was equally efficient through the air, completing 13 of 24 passes for 211 yards.

As a team, the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten) ran for more than 350 yards for the second straight week - finishing with 353.

Defensively, though, Ohio State was not itself with starting linebacker Etienne Sabino out of the lineup.

Indiana (2-4, 0-3) ran 24 times for 129 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and threw for 352 yards while producing a school-record points total against the Buckeyes. The previous mark was 41 points in 1988 - the Hoosiers' last win against the Buckeyes.

With Sabino expected to miss another three weeks because of a fractured bone in his right leg, the Buckeyes must find some way to get more defensive stops before they get another heart-stopping scare.

Already, they have held off California, then-No. 20 Michigan State and now Indiana, winning the three games by a combined total of 11 points and nearly blowing an 18-point lead in the final two minutes against the Hoosiers.

``We're trying to get away from that and we're not trying to have close games every time or stuff like that,'' right tackle Reid Fragel said. ``But as an offensive unit, we know we can get the job done when it matters, and I think we've shown that pretty well the past couple of games.''

Nobody expected the Buckeyes to have this much trouble against Indiana, which has lost 11 straight conference games and 21 in a row against Big Ten teams from outside Indiana.

The most stunning part: How quickly Ohio State wasted much of a seemingly safe lead.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson inserted backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld with 3:58 left in the game, figuring he could use the snaps in a 52-34 game.

But Sudfeld got hot, connecting with Duwyce Wilson on a 12-yard TD pass with 1:40 to go and, after the Hoosiers recovered an onside kick, Sudfeld quickly found Stephen Houston for a 25-yard score just 35 seconds later. When Cody Latimer scooted around the right side for the 2-point conversion, Indiana was down just a field goal and an onside kick away from perhaps beating the Buckeyes or forcing overtime.

Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Corey Brown, the only player around the bouncing kick, secured it at the Ohio State 31.

With the victory, Ohio State is the first ranked team with seven wins, despite being ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA infractions.

But this is no way to finish games. What's wrong?

``We're a legitimate top 10 team and we can hang in and play with anybody,'' cornerback Bradley Roby said. ``But we play to our opponents' skill level and that's something we have to learn and mature as a team.''

Overconfidence could have been a problem, too.

Receiver Jake Stoneburner acknowledged that the Buckeyes may have underestimated the Hoosiers offense coming into the game, and Roby, who recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first half, thought the defense let up after getting the big lead.

``Our offense got up two or three scores and as a defense, we just rely on that we won the game,'' he said. ``Just joking on the sidelines. I just feel like we have to stay focused for all 60 minutes. We were supposed to win the game, but a win doesn't really feel good. It's definitely better than losing the game, but I don't feel too good right now. I feel like I left some plays on the field, along with everybody else.''

As Meyer knows, that's not championship football.

So it's a good bet Meyer will spend most of this week working out the kinks and getting the hearts and minds of the Buckeyes refocused on what they must do before Purdue comes calling next weekend.

``Spread offenses right now are really exposing us right now,'' Meyer said. ``We have got to get something fixed.''

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.


Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.


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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came only 2:30 into the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby.

On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life.

The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.