Welcome back, friends. In case you’re new to the Grumpy Old Buckeye, this column aims to be the voice of negativity, even when things are generally pretty great. I’ll point out the things from each game that make me want to walk out onto my lawn in my bathrobe and yell at people about it.
This week, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, we’re talking Ohio State vs. Rutgers.
I had to wait until 3:37 p.m. to get a look at the Buckeyes because something called a “Purdue” was busy giving up a late, game-winning field goal to a directional MAC school. Whatever a Purdue is, it delayed my Saturday dose of gratification by multiple minutes, and for that, those Boilers should drive their choo-choo right into a wall. Then again, maybe they already did and that wall was called Eastern Michigan.
More Punt Return Wackiness
We saw Demario McCall on punt returns right away this week and maybe we shouldn’t have. McCall muffed his first attempt. He had another issue fielding a punt a bit later in the game before giving way to C.J. Saunders. McCall is a dynamic player, but if he can’t catch punts, he shouldn’t be returning them. Saunders had trouble with his first one because he was interfered with. Again. When Saunders finally got an opportunity to field one, he had a nice 20-yard return that nearly went to the house. I’m OK with Saunders being the returner if he’s got the better hands. Yes, I want to see McCall more too, but the punt returner’s priority is to catch the dang ball.
Sack Shutout Ends
The Buckeyes’ offensive line finally allowed a sack. Thayer Munford was beaten inside and J.K. Dobbins didn’t pick up his blitzer on the play. That’s a bad combination. Dwayne Haskins can only do Dwayne Haskins things if he’s upright in the backfield. The line play has been pretty good this season (so far) but the competition level isn’t nearly as high as it will get in the weeks to come.
Forward > Backward
Interceptions are great, but they are less great when the defender who makes the play decides to run backward to try to make a hero play (then fails to do so). Kendall Sheffield’s interception in the second quarter was a fine play but then he lost yards on the return. Ohio State got a bit conservative with the field position and failed to pick up a first down on the ensuing drive. Sure, the game was lopsided by then, but this situation could arise again down the line against better competition. Better field position gives coaches more confidence to call any play in the book.
Sheffield also dropped an easy interception in the third quarter. More on that later.
Young Player Makes Young Mistakes
After two offside calls in the opener (while looking down the line of scrimmage at the ball), Chase Young took with another dumb penalty in the second quarter when he spiked the ball after his strip sack of Art Sitkowski. It was pretty weak as spikes go, but it was an unsportsmanlike penalty call and it didn’t have to happen.
The officials made me twice as grumpy on the play by not noticing that Sitkowski was lucky to have his skull, let alone the ball, at the end of the play. Despite the ball being dislodged, apparently there wasn’t enough video evidence to overturn the call. To make matters worse, Sitkowski got destroyed by Bosa a couple of plays later and was injured. That unfortunate situation could have been prevented had the fumble been called correctly because the Rutgers offense would have been off the field.
To make matters even worse than that, Young got another silly penalty for running onto the field to celebrate Shaun Wade’s interception in the fourth quarter. That was his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the game and he was ejected for two easily preventable mistakes.
Cracking the Goose Egg
Ohio State’s shutout streak of more than three games against Rutgers came to an end on the Scarlet Knights’ first drive of the second half. Rutgers had a backup quarterback in the game and the defense either let up or came out of the locker room flat for the second straight week. I’m not sure which is more irritating but both are bad. The aforementioned dropped pick by Sheffield prevented the Buckeyes from prolonging that streak, as the field goal came just a few plays after Sheffield’s drop.
McCall had a chance to make up for his punt return issues when he returned a kickoff in the third quarter. He made a nice move and a burst of speed to get by most of the coverage team, and with only the kicker to beat…he didn’t. Let me say that again: Demario McCall allowed the kicker to tackle him in the open field. SMH.
That’s what stood out to me in the Buckeyes’ romp against Rutgers. Obviously the good outweighed the bad by a mile, including Tate Martell’s amazing run, the bombs to Johnnie Dixon, and plenty of Nick Bosa destruction.
Things get a bit tougher now and I might be a bit grumpier after next week’s matchup with TCU.