US forward Joe Pavelski (left) and goalie Jonathan Quick greet each other following their loss to Finland in the men’s Bronze Medal hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 22. Finland defeated the US, 5-0.Courtesy of MCTIt wasn’t supposed to end this way, was it?That’s the question every U.S. hockey fan was asking themselves after the men’s team was shut out by Canada Friday and then Finland Saturday to depart Sochi empty-handed.After three awesome performances in Group A of the Olympic Games — highlighted by a shootout win over host Russia — the Americans overpowered the Czech Republic to reach the semifinals against the Canadians. Everything was going according to plan.Then it all changed: two losses, no goals scored and an overwhelming sense of unfulfilled expectations.First came the frustration of Friday’s game against Canada, where those pesky neighbors to the north played a nearly flawless game, nullifying that esteemed American attack to win 1-0. Less than 24 hours later, with the disappointment of the semifinal defeat still clear for all to see, the U.S. sleepwalked through a 5-0 loss against Finland in the bronze medal game.A promising Olympic adventure ended in failure, with not even a consolation prize to help ease the pain. The chance was there. They just couldn’t take it.All of this seems that much more dispiriting because of the team’s incredible run four years ago in Vancouver, one that seemed like a seminal moment in U.S. hockey. Here was a youthful American team standing toe-to-toe with everyone it faced, even beating Canada in group play before losing to the same opponents in the gold medal game. Those silver medals the players received were more than just a reward for their efforts, they represented the growth of the American player in the NHL, a talented player on par with those produced in any other country.Naturally, many people saw this year’s games as another stepping stone in the United States’ ascent to the top of the international hockey mountain.This was supposed to be another memorable journey — and for the most part it was — but the margin between success and victory at the top level proved to be thin, and instead of the heroic exploits of 2010, it was the thwarted glory of 2014.Though, when viewed through the lens of history, the fourth place finish isn’t entirely surprising. Team USA men’s hockey team has only won two gold medals (1960, 1980) and hasn’t made it to the Olympic podium in consecutive Olympics since that win in Squaw Valley in 1960. The entire men’s ice hockey competition is also somewhat unpredictable, with Finland being the only country to medal in it each of the last three Olympics (Sochi, Vancouver and Turin).But none of those facts makes the reversal in fortunes of this year’s American team any harder to swallow. Neither does seeing Canada breeze past Sweden to win back-to-back gold medals.In the end, Team USA was still a misplayed puck or a goaltending error away from the gold medal game, but the reality is that they didn’t do enough to get there.Hopefully we will look back on Sochi as an anomaly, a time when things just didn’t click into place for the Americans. Or we could see it as indicative of the improvement Team USA still needs to make. Either way, expectations will once again be high when the men in red, white and blue take to the ice in PyeongChang, South Korea, in four years time.I see no reason as to why things won’t be better, but the uncertain nature of Olympic hockey makes me hesitant to make any predictions. All I know is that if you see someone watching the games with a look of pained anticipation, it will be me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett waits for the snap during a game against Cincinnati on Sept. 27 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 50-28, behind 409 yards of total offense from Barrett.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorWhen senior quarterback Braxton Miller went down with an injury during fall camp, the Ohio State football team turned to a redshirt-freshman who hadn’t taken a meaningful snap since high school.While there have been bumps in the road, that young quarterback — J.T. Barrett — has already accomplished things Miller never did for the Scarlet and Gray. Miller’s name could nearly fill its own record book, but Barrett ranks ahead of the veteran on multiple fronts just four games into his career.OSU coach Urban Meyer left some credit for the coaching staff when it comes to Barrett’s quick improvement, but also praised the signal caller’s ability to learn.“I think (I’m) not surprised by his development,” Meyer said after OSU’s 50-28 win against Cincinnati on Saturday. “I think (co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman) is an excellent coach and he’s a very good student.”Barrett tied the school record for touchdown passes in a game when he threw six against Kent State — and had more than 300 yards in the air — before adding to his accomplishments with another record-setting night against Cincinnati. The Wichita Falls, Texas, native threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns and added 79 yards on the ground.That makes two consecutive games Barrett has thrown for more than 300 yards — something Miller hasn’t done in three seasons. Barrett’s 409 yards of total offense rank as the second-best in school history behind Art Schlichter’s 412 yards gained against Florida State in 1981. He also led the OSU offense to a school-record 45 first downs and the third best total output in OSU history of 710 yards.After his record-setting night, Barrett saved more of the praise for his offensive line, which gave him time in the pocket to complete 26 passes out of 36 attempts.“All the credit goes to the offensive line,” he said after the game. “They got it started for us and that’s what coach Meyer always talks about in relying on them to keep the offensive going.”Barrett said he still has a room for improvement, but recognized the strides he has made since first taking the field against Navy on Aug. 30.“I think coming into Navy I was trying to make sure everything was right,” he said after the Cincinnati game. “Knowing I make mistakes and then just learning from them throughout the game.”He went on to say he’s more worried about trusting his instincts instead of worrying about making mistakes, something Herman said he wanted the quarterback to focus on in practice before taking on the Bearcats.“Trusting what you see and pulling the trigger, it’s better to be early than to be late,” Herman said after the game. “I thought he did — just from my vantage point — better, (but) still could probably get better at that.”Barrett set personal career-highs for passing attempts, pass completions and passing yards in the game, and did it all without throwing an interception for the first time in his career.Regardless of those numbers, Herman said Barrett can improve on making quicker decisions, but added he saw a “vast improvement” in another part of the quarterback’s game.Herman said given Barrett’s 6-foot-1 frame, the signal-caller needs to hang back in the pocket more in order to be able to see over the line and make the correct decisions.“So we really worked on keeping him a little bit deeper in the pocket on some of our drop-back throws and I thought he did that tonight,” Herman said.Despite his big day, Barrett said he recognized the spots where he needs to improve, and added he is ready to get back to work to keep getting better.“There’s certain things that you know you need to execute on during the game and so you think about those more than the big plays,” he said. “Definitely going in (to practice Sunday) trying to correct the mistakes we made.”Through four games, Barrett has completed 70 passes out of 110 attempts for 1,087 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s thrown five interceptions — three of which came against Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 — and gained another 205 yards on the ground with one additional touchdown.After a bye week before the Cincinnati game, the Buckeyes are set for a typical game week before taking the field again. OSU is scheduled to play Maryland next Saturday in College Park, Md., and kickoff is set for noon.
I sincerely hope you and all of yours have a fantastic holiday season. I’m very excited about 2015. If you haven’t seen my 25% guarantee, you’ll want to take a look at it. I’ve upped the ante here at Casey Research with this offer: if you don’t make at least 25% on this one stock by Thanksgiving of 2015 (November 26), you’ll get 100% of your money back—no questions asked. That’s a bold move, yes. I’ve personally put a lot of money on this one, and I think it’s a must-own stock for any serious speculator. Before I get started, on behalf of everyone at Casey Research, I’d like to wish all of you a happy holiday season. This is the last Casey Daily Dispatch of the year—it will return next Friday, January 2, with another thought-provoking subject from Paul Rosenberg. We thank you for reading and sharing these columns. Whenever some big news involving Russia or Putin hits the wires, I get media requests from around the world. This past week was exactly that, and one particular interview stood out in my mind. I was interviewed by someone I’ve never been interviewed by before—and David Knight did a fantastic job. He did his homework, hit me with some tough questions, and the end result is one of the best interviews I’ve done.