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Ohio State spun out of AP Top 25 Poll after Miami loss

Thomas Bradley / Campus editor

Under the direction of first-year head coach Luke Fickell, Ohio State football entered 2011 touting the slogan “Shock the world.” The biggest shock of the season so far was the Buckeyes’ Saturday loss and the accompanying uncertainty they now face.

OSU began the season with an impressive Week 1 win against Akron, bolstering the lofty expectations of some in Buckeye Nation. The follow-up performance was a too-close-for-comfort win against in-state rival Toledo.

And then came Saturday’s game against the Miami Hurricanes.

The unranked Hurricanes took control of the battle of embattled programs in the first quarter as senior quarterback Jacory Harris completed two three-yard touchdown passes to sophomore wide receiver Allen Hurns to give Miami a 14-0 lead, and eventually a 24-6 win.

The Miami defense held the then-No. 17-ranked OSU offense down throughout the game, limiting redshirt senior quarterback Joe Bauserman and true freshman quarterback Braxton Miller to 4-of-18 passing for 35 yards and 209 total yards of offense.

Junior running back Jordan Hall featured on OSU’s first scoring drive of the game, carrying seven times on a 16-play drive that sophomore Drew Basil capped with a 22-yard field goal.

Hall, along with sophomore defensive back Corey Brown and junior defensive back Travis Howard, were each suspended for the Buckeyes’ first two games for receiving white envelopes containing $200 from a university booster at a Feb. 19 charity event in Cleveland.

Daniel Herron, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas will remain suspended until the team’s Oct. 8 game at Nebraska for selling OSU football memorabilia and receiving improper benefits in the form of tattoos.

The mock hurricane siren that called fans to cheer throughout the game at Sun Life Stadium was, perhaps, a harbinger for the Buckeyes.

“(Miami) kept making plays … and we didn’t execute,” linebacker and game captain Tyler Moeller said. “You can never get too high or never get too low. I know I’m going to fight and I know my teammates are going to fight. We’re not going to give up.”

Bauserman agreed.

“Plain and simple, we didn’t execute,” he said. “We didn’t finish. It was frustrating for everybody.”

Equally shocking to Saturday’s result was the Sunday revelation that OSU had fallen from the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll for the first time in nearly seven years.

Few would have predicted that after the Akron win.

The Buckeyes managed a convincing 42-0 win against the Zips at Ohio Stadium to open their season despite the offseason suspensions and distractions. Junior tight end Jake Stoneburner snagged three touchdowns receptions in the game — a modern-day record for an OSU tight end.

Miller made his debut in Scarlet and Gray, and tossed his first career touchdown pass to fellow freshman Devin Smith.

The Buckeyes ascended to the No. 15 spot in the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll the following week, and all appeared to be right in Buckeye Nation.

But the team’s steady regression began.

Week 2 saw the Buckeyes battle Mid-American Conference favorite, Toledo. OSU hung on for a 27-22 victory, but only just — John Simon keyed a last-minute defensive stop as the Rockets came to within 16 yards of what would have been the game winning score.

“We knew we had to stop them or they were going to win the game,” Simon said. “The secondary did a great job in coverage and getting me some extra time to get back there.”

Simon hurried sophomore Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens on fourth down, forcing an incomplete pass and a turnover on downs with 48 seconds remaining to clinch the win.

“We knew it was going to be a challenge,” Fickell said after the game. “We’re excited about how the guys fought, how they battled and how they kept their chins up.”

There was no excitement in Columbus, or in the Buckeyes’ locker room, after Saturday’s game against Miami, though.

To be sure, Fickell was always going to be hard-pressed to fill the shoes of former coach Jim Tressel. However, Fickell has contributed to the uncertainty that now surrounds the team.

After beating Akron, Fickell declared that OSU would continue to utilize both Bauserman and Miller at quarterback. One week later, Miller did not play a single down against Toledo, a decision which Fickell said was a “gut feeling.”

Fickell then said that sophomore running back Carlos Hyde was the team’s starter after narrowly defeating Toledo, though Hall ended up with the start against Miami.

The Buckeyes now face a new challenge: responding to defeat.

“You really find out what kind of character you have from a loss,” Fickell said. “We’re not going to sit here and point fingers at anyone in particular. We know we have to get a lot better. We’ve got to get a lot better as a team.”

The Buckeyes’ (2-1) character will be tested again on Saturday as it closes the non-conference portion of its schedule against Colorado at the ‘Shoe. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by ABC.

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