It’s the B1G Championship Game edition of the Grumpy Old Buckeye, the column that represents 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 about a meeting with the Northwestern Wildcats in Indianapolis.
Let’s Get This Out of the Way Early
The referees truly set the tone for the game early. Isaiah Prince pancaked his man and then flopped on top of him, just like you’re taught, to finish your block and erase the opponent from the play. Doing his job cost him 15 yards and established that one team’s players might be in for a long night. Meanwhile, the other team’s players were given a much longer leash. Northwestern’s long touchdown run was filled with violations of college football rules by the offense but none of those were called. Perhaps the referees just couldn’t decide to call the hold or the facemask on this?
— "You Can Call Me Al” Borland (@AJBorland) December 2, 2018
The final tally: Ohio State was flagged nine times for 90 yards to Northwestern’s three flags for 15 yards. I’m sure the Buckeyes got away with a few fouls that weren’t called, but I’m even more sure that the Wildcats got away with several. FOX showed a replay where Parris Campbell was obviously held trying to come out of his break and analyst Joel Klatt soft played it, saying “Northwestern may have gotten away with a little bit of a hold.” It was not an isolated incident. I don’t like to discuss the referees and wish I didn’t have to here, but when the Wildcats could have four extra guys on the field and the officials needed to go to video review to see it, you know there’s a problem.
Dre’Mont Jones jumped offside twice, Michael Jordan forgot to snap the ball, and the Buckeyes continue to have pre-snap issues. I will never fault the referees for calling those. Those are obvious and have to be called and it’s on Ohio State to fix that. They haven’t fixed it all year and it’s unlikely to change now.
Another Ridiculously Long Touchdown
The defense gave up another long running touchdown when John Moten went 77 yards early on the aforementioned missed holding/facemask call. As Northwestern violated Kendall Sheffield, Moten took off down the sideline and scored. Which was the worst part? The missed call? The bad angle from Brendon White? The missed tackle at the line? I can’t decide. Moten finished with 76 yards on four carries after going 77 on his first, so…there’s that, at least.
What Are They Doing?
The play calling was curiously bad and some of the worst we’ve seen all season. One thing that this coaching staff absolutely will not do is take a shot down field after the defense creates a turnover. It’s almost always a running play and has been such all season. Mike Weber had a short run up the middle after Chase Young forced a fumble and that entire drive was all runs by Weber until the final play, which was a 5-yard pass to Weber on third-and-13. It fizzled out and the Buckeyes kicked a field goal.
The Buckeyes also continued to call bash runs all night even though they generally lost from three to five yards every time. One such run lost yards on second-and-18. Whatever they saw on film never emerged during the game and the coaching staff didn’t throw that one out after several examples of it not working. There were also too many run plays for Dwayne Haskins. The man threw for nearly 500 yards and didn’t seem too bothered by Northwestern despite a few sacks. Maybe let the Heisman candidate make some more plays?
An Old “Friend” Returns
Northwestern seemed content to fair catch all kickoffs by Ohio State on the evening, so it was a bit perplexing that Blake Haubeil kicked two of them out of bounds. It was an unwelcome return of something that plagued the team in recent years. Maybe it was just a tribute to the classes that had come before, but it was just dumb when the Wildcats had no desire to even try to return one.
Sometimes Binjimen Victor can’t catch. Sometimes he holds to wipe out a nice play. There’s so much raw athletic ability in that young man but he’s having difficulty putting it all together consistently. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s strong, and he has long arms. He should be able to block and catch but his play sometimes leaves you wanting much more. The ball that he dropped would have been a tough catch — and was originally called one — but it’s a play he needs to make, coming back to his quarterback, to help his team. Hopefully he’ll put it all together next year.
Weber fumbled just a few plays after Damon Arnette’s interception. Haskins threw an interception shortly after Shaun Wade’s pick. The Buckeyes had to settle for a field goal after the fumble. That’s three points off of three turnovers and it’s the kind of thing that helps average teams hang around, which Northwestern did. Another thing that helps a team hang around is missing a chip shot field goal. Haubeil had one partially blocked at a critical junction of the game but thankfully the Buckeyes were able to put the game away.
I’ll admit that it wasn’t easy for me to write this one. I’m generally a pretty happy dude when the Buckeyes win the Big Ten championship. And I always write these after the game, so it’s really difficult to get my grump on when I’m in a great mood. But hopefully you’ll all remember the huge nights by Haskins, Young, and Johnnie Dixon.
Which of the above items gave you the most grief? What else stuck in your craw? Let it all out in the comments section and we’ll do this one more time this season.