Welcome back to the Grumpy Old Buckeye, the column that aims to be the voice of negativity, even when things are going great. It’s where I 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 we’re talking Ohio State at Maryland.
My apologies for the length, but yesterday’s game made me particularly grumpy.
Gashed Early, Often
Ohio State’s defense fell for the oldest trick in the book on the game’s second play. Maryland ran an extra offensive lineman off to the right side and then went in motion that way. My immediate thought was that it looked like a trick and it was. Damon Arnette got caught cheating inside to the strong side and Anthony McFarland had the easiest 81-yard run in the history of 81-yard runs. I’ve never played college football and I’ve never coached it, but it’s sad that I saw that coming and no one on the field did. It was the first long run out of several.
Ohio State was so shook by the long run that the Buckeyes decided not to bother covering up the ensuing kickoff — more of a pooch than an onside effort — and gave Maryland the ball right back. Kudos to Maryland for finding an opening in the kickoff coverage area but the Buckeyes have to do better there. Thankfully, Maryland gave the ball right back on the next play.
Be Better, ABC/ESPN
Early in the game, the ABC/ESPN broadcast crew, led by play-by-play announcer Dave Pasch, gave a national television platform Brett McMurphy’s irresponsible, garbage story from early in the week. I’m not going into specifics here about the way McMurphy butchered journalistic standards or giving him a link, but if you’ve been following this site or Ohio State news, you heard about it and the program’s reaction to it. Giving it any air time at all is just as irresponsible as the original piece.
My Kingdom for Some Tackles
Brendon White, who had improved Ohio State’s safety play over the past two weeks, had a free shot but completely whiffed in the hole on McFarland on the third Maryland drive and, as a result, the Terps took their second explosion play to the house in three possessions. Safeties with a free shot can not miss that badly and a defense shouldn’t be reliant on one man to make a play or else it’s a touchdown. Bad scheme, bad execution, and bad football.
More Pre-snap Penalties
The Buckeyes continue to be undisciplined, committing two false starts on the first two drives. The first was on Thayer Munford and the second was Michael Jordan on third and short. These are the kinds of penalties that a good team would have typically eliminated by this point in the season. Ohio State also got away with what would have been a delay of game after a Maryland kickoff because a timeout was called. There were a couple more instances later in the game. I don’t know what’s going on with this team and apparently no one else does either.
The short side of the field was full of joy for Maryland throughout the first half. The Buckeyes could do nothing to stop running plays on the short side of the field. Time and time again the running back had to either make one man miss, break one tackle, or else went untouched when running that direction. The problem with waiting until halftime to make adjustments is that you can be way too far behind for it to do any good. Credit to the Ohio State offense for climbing back into the game but the defense has to make some adjustments on the fly instead of waiting until the half in that situation.
K’Vaughan Pope added another dumb play in a first half full of them when he slammed Javon Leake to the turf a good five yards out of bounds on a kickoff. Following J.K. Dobbins’ touchdown, Ohio State should have had Maryland pinned deep inside its own territory due to a block in the back, with two timeouts and just over three minutes to play in the half. Instead, the Buckeyes bailed out Maryland, pushing the ball back out beyond the 20. This is a double grump because Tuf Borland had a golden opportunity to fall on a fumble deep in Maryland territory on the next play. He seemed to have pulled it in but it somehow squirted away from him and the runner fell on it to retain possession. The Buckeyes eventually got their stop and came down the field anyway, but then the next item in today’s list happened.
Dobby Taketh, Dobby Giveth Away
Ohio State had an excellent opportunity to tie the game before the half with the ball inside the 10 with more than half a minute to play in the second quarter. Dobbins ran off tackle and lost the ball. Although his knee may have touched before the ball came out, it was ruled a fumble on the field and no camera angle showed any clear evidence to the contrary. This is a another double grump because it’s 2018 and there is no camera angle from the other side of the field, which would likely have shown definitively whether the ball was out early or after the knee touched. Either way, it kept the Buckeyes from tying it up with the knowledge they would get the ball first in the second half.
Not the Drive You’re Looking For
Ohio State came out in the second half and ran just two plays on offense before the seven-point lead became a 14-point lead. Dwayne Haskins tried to fit a ball into a tight window. The ball was tipped by the excellently named Darnell Savage, Jr. and intercepted by RaVon Davis, who scored. Maryland’s pass defense has been opportunistic all year and Haskins shouldn’t have taken that chance, especially after staring down his receiver.
Not the Drive You’re Looking For II
Ohio State again had the ball with a chance to tie the game and this time it was Haskins fumbling on a quarterback draw on third and short. First, that is a terrible play call if it wasn’t an improvisation. The running game had been strong all day. Second, Haskins somehow didn’t see the very large Demetrius Knox in front of him and slammed into the offensive guard, dislodging the ball and giving it away.
Fake Punt Shenanigans
Ohio State forced an apparent punt in the fourth quarter but didn’t get the ball back due to a successful fake punt. On the fake, Maryland’s Tino Ellis (or Dontay Demus — I’m not sure which No, 7 plays on the Terrapins’ punt team) clearly held Jaylen Harris or Josh Proctor (again, I’m not sure which one plays on Ohio State’s punt return team) out on the edge, giving Taivon Jacobs enough room to pick up a crucial first down. The Terps went on to score a touchdown three plays later. Bonus grump: Kendall Sheffield was in perfect position to knock the ball away on the touchdown, but only deflected it to Jeshaun Jones for the score. I can’t remember a player in this program’s history who stays closer to receivers and yet allows so many catches — many of them of the “big play” variety.
The primary job of the cornerback is to cover his assigned receiver. Arnette did not do that at a pivotal point in the game. Haskins had just tied the game on a one-yard touchdown run and Maryland nearly scored on the first play of its next possession. Although Maryland had run the ball all game long, it seems to me like a cornerback should play pass first and run second. The Terps were able to regain a touchdown advantage thanks to the next item on my list.
It’s Not Uncatchable…for DC Comic Heroes
The same Arnette that allowed the big play down to Ohio State’s goal line committed a pass interference penalty on the same series. The thing is, however, that pass interference is supposed to be waved off if the pass is uncatchable. The game officials apparently think that Maryland’s Jones is from Krypton, wears capes, and fights crime in a colorful suit. No human was elevating high enough to catch that pass, which would have gone through the uprights if it had been thrown more toward the middle of the field. Before you let me know that Maryland was also victimized by a bogus PI call, I will remind you that RaVon Davis was called for holding K.J. Hill, which is not wiped out by an uncatchable pass. If they’d called Arnette for holding, I would not be grumping about it now.
Fumbling is Actually Good
With the game on the line for the OSU defense, the Buckeyes thought they got a third-down stop when they tackled McFarland for no gain at the 1-yard line. The Maryland freshman reached out and lost the ball, which bounced into the end zone, where Chigoziem Okonkwo fell on it. By rule, and a very stupid rule at that, the Terps were rewarded for fumbling because it is a touchdown. It’s considered a scoring play only because it wasn’t on fourth down or a try for point. It’s officially the dumbest rule in college football, regardless of what you think of fumbles into the end zone for touchbacks or fair catches on kickoffs.
That’s what stood out to me in the Buckeyes’ nail biter at College Park. I’d have probably added a section for not reviewing the overtime touchdown by Tayon Fleet-Davis that appeared short, but the Terps failed on the ensuing two-point attempt to give the game to Ohio State, so I’m cool with it.
Which of the above bugged you the most? You could mention other things that bothered you if I haven’t used up the entire internet on this column. On to The Game!