Jeff Hafley Shoulders Blame
Following Ohio State’s fifth touchdown of the game late in the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Cincinnati, Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley told starting cornerback Damon Arnette that his day was done.
Leading 35-0, it was finally okay to sit the starters down and bring in the backups.
Arnette unbuckled his shoulder pads and was beginning the process of winding down. And then his replacement — sophomore Sevyn Banks — was injured on the OSU kickoff and Arnette had to run back onto the field and get ready to play again.
On first down, UC quarterback Desmond Ridder went deep to receiver Alec Pierce with Arnette in coverage. Arnette was there and looking back for the ball. He got a hand in, but the ball placement was perfect and Pierce hauled in the pass for a 46-yard gain. It was the Bearcats’ longest gain of the day and it put a blemish on what had been a very good day for Arnette.
After the game, Hafley spoke with reporters and quickly wanted to address that very play.
“You guys have all been really good to me,” he began. “I want to make sure that I say this, is you guys saw Damon Arnette got hit on that go ball at the end of the game. And I know he was frustrated. I had told Damon he was done for the game. Damon actually had unbuckled his shoulder pads, Sevyn Banks was going in, Sevyn got hurt on the kickoff. So Damon ran on the field, unfortunately.
“I’m not using that as an excuse for Damon by any means. But I credit him for going in. And as a coach, I take responsibility for that. I told the player he was out. So I admit my mistake. So I just want to have Damon’s back on that, so everybody understands that. I credit him for going in. But I felt bad for that. So I won’t talk about that again. But I want to say that that’s on me. And I respect Damon and I thought Damon played a really good game.”
Shutouts Are Always Fun
With the help of that completion to Alec Pierce, the Bearcats drove down to the Ohio State 4-yard line. The shutout was preserved that time due to a pass breakup by Shaun Wade and a subsequent interception by linebacker Tuf Borland.
Late in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati was threatening again. Running back Tavion Thomas took a hand-off and was going to reach the end zone before being tackled. Before he reached the goal line, however, sophomore linebacker Dallas Gant forced the fumble and it was recovered by junior defensive back Marcus Williamson.
Once again, the shutout was saved, and this time for good.
Jeff Hafley celebrated just like everybody else on the Ohio State sideline.
“I did. A shutout, to me, at any level, is so hard to get,” he said. “And I think for the staff and for the players, I think it’s special. It’s hard to shutout anybody and I think that’s a good offense. It’s a good football team. It’s well coached. They have a good scheme, a really sound scheme, they’ve been scoring on everybody.
“The quarterback’s a good player, so it’s special. And it’s hard to do. Gosh, I mean, the end of the game, I’m like all right, and then there we go, we got the ball out. But that just shows that those guys fought until the end, so to strain to get the ball out there, credit to the players. It’s awesome.”
As with all shutouts, it took an entire team effort and a winning plan.
“I think our scheme’s very sound,” Hafley said. “I think our D line and linebackers and corners and safeties tackled well again. Guys were in the right fits. I think they were coached well all week by our staff. Our guys came to play. Our guys were tough today, they tackled today. And I think when we turn on the film, you’re gonna see it. Our guys are playing with an edge to them right now and it’s going to be hard to block them.”
Al Washington Is Busy, Thank You
There was plenty of buzz in the Ohio State postgame media room regarding Michigan’s double-overtime win against Army.
While reporters waited for coaches and players, eyes were fixed on phones, watching the drama unfold.
Michigan eventually held on, which wasn’t a huge surprise. But it did make for a topic of conversation with former Michigan assistant Al Washington, who is now Ohio State’s linebackers coach.
“Honest to God, I’m not just telling you this, like I am so consumed with what we’re doing on a day to day basis, I haven’t watched,” he said of his old team. “I’m not making this up. I don’t know what’s going on at other places. I don’t know, game scores. My focus is really on us. I’m not just saying that.
“I think the team up north is rated because they’re a hell of a team. They got a lot of talent. Well coached. It doesn’t matter. You know, like today, you got to show up today. You know, that team we played today’s a good team. It’s hard to win. So you really can’t focus on that stuff, I feel like, and be as productive as you can be in the moment. And that’s our whole objective.
“I think people get into it, but if you’re in it, it’s hard to because every day you get people’s best. So my focus, like all the kids’ focus and the coaches, is us being the best we can be. And that’s it. We gotta recharge tomorrow and then erase it and start new.”