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Sports Today: Big questions for Bengals, Buckeyes after latest flops

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 10:04 AM

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05:  Jaydon Mickens #85 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scores a touchdown on a 63-yard punt return in the second half of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)
Logan Bowles/Getty Images
JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05: Jaydon Mickens #85 of the Jacksonville Jaguars scores a touchdown on a 63-yard punt return in the second half of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)(Logan Bowles/Getty Images)

Well, we just finished a long and terrible weekend for football in Ohio — and the Browns didn’t even play! 

I figured the Cincinnati Bengals didn’t have much chance to win in Jacksonville, but their 23-7 loss was still disappointing

On the bright side, I don’t see that being possible again this season because all expectations for success are officially gone. 

This is a lost season for a flawed team that seems to have no direction. I doubt they are going to win as many games as the raw ability on the roster says they should. 

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There seems to be little doubt sometime between now and January, Marvin Lewis will cease being the Bengals’ coach, although it’s also fair to wonder if anyone was coaching them Sunday anyway. 

Jay Morrison pointed out Cincinnati has been badly outplayed after halftime this season, and frankly I’m surprised the point disparity isn’t worse. 

What a coaching change will mean for Andy Dalton is certainly intriguing, too. 

The Bengals ran the fewest plays in a game in franchise history, and Pro Football Weekly pointed out the record broken was set by an offense being run by replacement players. 

Does that mean Dalton is worse than three nobodies? 

He might as well be at this point. 

Of course he’s in a terrible situation with the offensive line, but Dalton’s toothless response continues to leave a lot to be desired considering his status on the team. 

He is doing nothing at this point to resemble a franchise quarterback. 

At least A.J. Green cares. 

Somebody needs to tell the Bengals’ best player not to punch someone wearing a helmet, but that was a pretty impressive takedown move he pulled on Jalen Ramsey. 

Of course, a veteran guy like that needs to keep his cool. There’s no excuse for fighting, and he deserved to be ejected. So did Ramsey, who I’m sure knows as well as anybody a punch is one of the likely responses to pushing someone like that. 

He started it. Green finished it. Now we’ll see what the league thinks about whether or not either of them should play next week. 

The Bengals would certainly miss Green if they had a competent offense. Fortunately, wins and losses don’t matter from here on out anyway… 

If you are still in disbelief Iowa whipped Ohio State so badly Saturday, you’re not alone. 

As much as there is to question about the Buckeyes’ performance, the Hawkeyes played an outstanding game in all three phases. 

I feel comfortable saying Iowa won’t play that well again for about another 50 years. The Hawkeyes might have beaten anybody in the country the way all cylinders were firing from the start. 

RELATED: Iowa shocks Ohio State in Iowa

Ohio State gave them some big boosts, though, beginning with the decision to drop J.T. Barrett back to pass on first down. 

No matter how well he played a week earlier, Barrett is not a drop-back passer. 

Ohio State is supposed to be a run-oriented team. Urban Meyer’s insistence on changing that despite his personnel has practically crippled the program

That is not hyperbole. The misguided offensive approach for the last 2 3/4 seasons has set up the whole team for failure now multiple times since the Buckeyes used a dominant running game and defense to steamroll to the 2014 national championship. 

And, yes, I realize the defense stunk on Saturday, too. 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: 5 takeaways from Week 10

That side of the ball hasn’t been the same for the majority of the Meyer era, either. 

Remember how it was bad for like half of 2012, all of 2013 and even the first part of ’14? 

I know, it’s easy to forget. 

That unit is young and rebuilding for the second year in a row. Some bumps in the road are understandable, although you’d like to think they would be in the past by now. 

Iowa was not the team anybody would have picked to tear them apart the way they did Saturday, but in today’s college football what the Hawkeyes do is unique and not something Ohio State had seen much of. 

Iowa exploited those advantages to the Nth degree, something Meyer teams used to be known for rather than simply out-talenting people, which is generally all they do now. 

What’s the answer in Columbus? 

Lots has changed over the past few years, but the same problems persist. 

The guy in charge obviously still knows how to set up a program. He’s not forgotten his ability to put a good culture in place — even if the Buckeyes weren’t ready mentally on Saturday, the fact is sometimes that just happens with human beings, especially teenagers — but he’s not getting the production he needs from some of those people who work for him. 

Some of that is probably his fault. All of it falls back on him. 

Can he get it fixed?… 

Our local big schools took some lumps in the high school football playoffs, too. 

In Division I, Wayne, Fairmont and Northmont all lost to suburban Columbus schools while top seed Centerville cruised into round two. 

In Division II, Sidney took out Belmont in a high-scoring affair and gets three-time defending state champ La Salle while Trotwood-Madison and Dunbar will square off in Division III… 

Hey, at least basketball provided some positive vibes.

Dayton sold out an exhibition game for the second year in a row, and the Flyers beat Ohio Dominican 79-61 in fans’ first chance to see Anthony Grant’s team against a live opponent. 

That fan turnout is obviously pretty impressive. 

So, too, is Kostas Antetokounmpo’s athletic ability, but that’s not a big surprise. 

It’s hard to draw too much from one game — especially an exhibition against a lower-division opponent — but we know the Flyers are big and athletic. 

They had a positive assist/turnover ratio but shot only 27 percent from three-point range. 

I suspect those will be key stats to watch this season. 

Ohio State took care of business easily, too, with an exhibition win over Wooster in Chris Holtmann’s first game of any sort leading the Buckeyes. 

Four Buckeyes scored in double figures, including Keita Bates-Diop, who had 17 to lead the way. 

A breakout campaign from Diop, a former five-star recruit who has never put it together in Columbus and was hurt last year, could change the profile of this season significantly for Ohio State much like getting four-star recruit Antetokounmpo on the floor after he had to sit out last season might mean big things for the Flyers. 

Maybe winter a surprisingly fun winter can make up for this disappointing fall. 

Cowboys rule starting safety Jeff Heath out with concussion against Eagles

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 12:20 PM

Dallas Cowboys safety Jeff Heath is the latest starter ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, according to a report from Clarence Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Heath has been in the NFL’s concussion protocol since leaving last week’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons. The Cowboys medical staff tried to get Heath back in time for this week’s game critical matchup.

The Cowboys are three games behind the Eagles in the NFC East and they’ve already lost to Philadelphia once. If they lose Sunday night’s contest, they’ll effectively be five games back with six games to play due to the tiebreaker.

Already without running back Ezekiel Elliott (suspension) and left tackle Tyron Smith ( groin), the Eagles now go down another starter without Heath. However, Heath had struggled at times during the year and rookie Xavier Woods has been earning more and more playing time, creating an interesting opportunity.

Woods will get starting reps and if he plays well and can help lead the Cowboys to an upset victory over the Eagles, he could claim the job as his own and force Heath to beat him out to earn back the job. Still, the Cowboys’ depth takes a hit and that’s not a good sign heading into what is expected to be an uphill battle.

College Basketball: WSU coach benches struggling point guard Mitchell

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 12:16 PM


            Wright State’s Justin Mitchell dribbles the ball during their game Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Millett Hall on the Miami University Campus in Oxford. The Miami University Redhawks basketball team defeated the Wright State Raiders 73-67 in overtime. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Wright State’s Justin Mitchell dribbles the ball during their game Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Millett Hall on the Miami University Campus in Oxford. The Miami University Redhawks basketball team defeated the Wright State Raiders 73-67 in overtime. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Wright State coach Scott Nagy believes star point guard Justin Mitchell can get back to playing how he did last year — not trying to do too much, but scoring without forcing shots and impacting a game in a multitude of ways.

But that’s not going to happen when the Raiders host Murray State at 7 p.m. Saturday. Nagy is benching Mitchell for the game after holding him out after the first half of an overtime loss at Miami on Tuesday .

»PREVIEW: Murray State at Wright State

Nagy declined to discuss his decision, but he did say the 6-foot-4 senior has struggled to mesh with essentially a completely new lineup around him.

The Raiders lost Mark Alstork, Steven Davis and Mike La Tulip, who averaged a combined 41 points last season. And the only other returning starter, Grant Benzinger, missed almost the entire preseason because of hernia surgery.

“He doesn’t have a 20-point scorer (Alstork) to his right. He doesn’t have an experienced post player, where last year he had Steven, who could shoot it. He has guys around him trying to figure out their roles, where last year he didn’t. And, so, there was less pressure on him to score due to those kinds of things. Now, he’s kind of feeling that,” Nagy said.

»ARCHDEACON: WSU’s Mitchell rebounds on the court, in life

Mitchell averaged 11.5 points last season and was second in the Horizon League in rebounds (8.3), tied for fourth in assists (4.0), eighth in field-goal percentage (53.4) and 11th in assist-turnover ratio (1.2-1.0).

Other Raiders scored more, but Nagy called Mitchell the team’s most valuable player.

Though it’s early, his numbers have dipped to 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, and he has eight turnovers and six assists in two games.

“He and I talked, and I just need him to score in the flow of the offense instead of trying to score extra. … Justin has all these other things going on around him (with newcomers to the lineup) that he can’t control, and I think he feels the pressure to be the guy. When you’re tense, you just can’t play well,” Nagy said.

Taking Mitchell’s place in the lineup is 5-11 junior Tye Wilburn, who’s been a major surprise as a walk-on. He had nine points and nine rebounds against Miami, and he’s had five assists and no turnovers while playing a combined 42 minutes in the first two games.

“It’s hard to believe, but he’s one of, if not THE best rebounder on our team,” Nagy said. He’s incredibly strong. He doesn’t look at it, but he’s tough and has a good nose for the ball.”

Nagy, though, has bemoaned his lack of depth and proven scorers. He went only three players deep into his bench against the RedHawks, and opponents have figured out the Raiders’ only two consistent outside threats are Benzinger and Mark Hughes.

“We don’t have enough offense out there,” he said. “We went 1-for-8 in overtime (against Miami), and it’s hard to win that way. We pretty much have two guys who can shoot the basketball. We had others guys on the perimeter they flat-out weren’t guarding, so it’s hard to throw the ball in. And our guys were gassed by playing that many minutes.”

Help is on the way, though. Jaylon Hall, a 6-5 freshman from Houston, has been sidelined with injuries but will see his first college action against the Racers.

“He’s got to go from about zero to 100 right now,” Nagy said. “He handles (the ball) and shoots it well. But it’s his first college game, so how’s he going to respond?”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Murray State at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN3, 106.5

Ohio State football: Can Buckeyes avoid emotional letdown or looking ahead to The Game?

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 12:11 PM

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

The guess here is that Urban Meyer’s almost maniacal emphasis on the task at hand this week is going to pay off and Ohio State won’t waste much time disposing of Illinois. But the question is certainly valid because there are plenty of potential reasons why the Buckeyes may come out a little slow from the gates on Saturday afternoon at the Horseshoe.

First of all, the senior day festivities throw a wrinkle into the normal routine for everybody. The whole pregame clock has to be adjusted, and that goes for more than just the veterans getting a well-deserved curtain call. On top of that, the emotions of coming out of that locker room, receiving a standing ovation from the fans in Ohio Stadium and the realization that it’s the last time are bound to have some impact on the players ― and even Meyer and the coaching staff.

Secondly, there’s the potential distraction of looking ahead to The Game. Illinois hasn’t won a game in the Big Ten all season, so it’s only natural that Ohio State would have started gearing itself up physically and mentally for Michigan instead of worrying as much as it normally would about any other opponent. Additionally, if the Buckeyes have been worrying about College Football Playoff scenarios, there’s the possibility it may be pressing to run up the score and rack up style points, which generally isn’t the best approach to playing up to a team’s potential.

Then there’s the weather. The current forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday afternoon, and most people don’t get all that hyped up to go play in adverse conditions for four quarters. As an aside, if it gets challenging to throw a wet football, that could certainly change the game plan. And while Ohio State can score just as easily by running the football from start to finish, running that clock could shorten the game and maybe ― just maybe ― keep the score lower than it might be otherwise.

So, am I crazy for listing all these reasons and thinking that the Buckeyes can fight them all off? Maybe so. But I really feel like this team has embraced the message about laser-like focus on the Illini, ignoring Michigan and the rankings and honoring the seniors by making sure they get one last win. And I expect Ohio State will take care of its business quickly and decisively.

Read more answers about the Ohio State Buckeyes here

Ohio State football: Can Buckeyes avoid emotional letdown or looking ahead to The Game?

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 12:11 PM

All week long, our Land of 10 reporters following the Buckeyes will address pressing questions on the minds of the Ohio State fan base with our new daily feature. To ask Austin Ward a question, follow along on Twitter and suggest a topic right here. Check back Monday through Friday as we dive into the Ohio State Question of the Day. Go here to see all of our previous answers.

The guess here is that Urban Meyer’s almost maniacal emphasis on the task at hand this week is going to pay off and Ohio State won’t waste much time disposing of Illinois. But the question is certainly valid because there are plenty of potential reasons why the Buckeyes may come out a little slow from the gates on Saturday afternoon at the Horseshoe.

First of all, the senior day festivities throw a wrinkle into the normal routine for everybody. The whole pregame clock has to be adjusted, and that goes for more than just the veterans getting a well-deserved curtain call. On top of that, the emotions of coming out of that locker room, receiving a standing ovation from the fans in Ohio Stadium and the realization that it’s the last time are bound to have some impact on the players ― and even Meyer and the coaching staff.

Secondly, there’s the potential distraction of looking ahead to The Game. Illinois hasn’t won a game in the Big Ten all season, so it’s only natural that Ohio State would have started gearing itself up physically and mentally for Michigan instead of worrying as much as it normally would about any other opponent. Additionally, if the Buckeyes have been worrying about College Football Playoff scenarios, there’s the possibility it may be pressing to run up the score and rack up style points, which generally isn’t the best approach to playing up to a team’s potential.

Then there’s the weather. The current forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of rain Saturday afternoon, and most people don’t get all that hyped up to go play in adverse conditions for four quarters. As an aside, if it gets challenging to throw a wet football, that could certainly change the game plan. And while Ohio State can score just as easily by running the football from start to finish, running that clock could shorten the game and maybe ― just maybe ― keep the score lower than it might be otherwise.

So, am I crazy for listing all these reasons and thinking that the Buckeyes can fight them all off? Maybe so. But I really feel like this team has embraced the message about laser-like focus on the Illini, ignoring Michigan and the rankings and honoring the seniors by making sure they get one last win. And I expect Ohio State will take care of its business quickly and decisively.

Read more answers about the Ohio State Buckeyes here