There is good and bad in every game.
Some games have more good than bad, and some games have more bad than good.
This feature is about acknowledging both the bad and good, or whichever stood out to us most.
Borrowing from Ohio State’s practice of handing out Buckeye leaves for good plays, we will do the same. But unlike OSU, we are also going to include some peeves.
If a peeve was a sticker, it would have a picture on it of a wolverine with a smirk. And there’s no way you want too many of those on your helmet.
So we — staff, contributors, and hangers-on — are handing out some leaves and peeves following Ohio State’s 34-10 win over Michigan State.
My Buckeye leaf goes to Justin Fields. When the offense was struggling in the first quarter he kept his poise and figured out a new way to get things done. He started executing on a high level and got things moving on the ground. For the first time he showed that he can handle adversity when it is thrown his way. He also still put up numbers against a top defense. It wasn’t his best performance but it says a lot about what he can do.
My peeve is Jordan Fuller’s interception return for a touchdown being called back. Selfishly, I had a great video that could have been more of a hit on Twitter if the touchdown had actually counted. Also, that would have made the score 41-10… so you know what that means. [Editor’s Note: Caroline’s staff pick was 41-14.]
I’m giving my leaf to Master Teague. Others may have contributed more to Ohio State’s victory, but using Teague’s physicality against a worn-down defensive front in the fourth quarter helped the Buckeyes grind out the clock without putting the ball in harm’s way or forcing Justin Fields to take more contact. As he showed against Sparty, Teague is going to absolutely punish tired defenses and he can take it to the house on any play because if he gets into the secondary, he’ll force defenders to make business decisions. Remember, he’s not just a pretty good Teague. He’s a Master Teague.
The peeve goes to the referee who threw the flag on Baron Browning. There’s letter of the law and spirit of the law. Just like you can call holding on every single play from scrimmage, you can call a blindside hit on just about every play because would-be tacklers are locked in on the ball carrier and are not looking at the blockers. Browning put nobody in danger, did not injure or attempt to injure anyone, and honestly threw as gentle a block as a linebacker can reasonably expected to make on essentially a shoulder-to-shoulder nudge. Taking away Jordan Fuller’s pick six made me hate everything.
This week’s Leaf goes to wide receiver Binjimen Victor, who was the central character in a mini redemption play in the first half.
Victor got behind MSU corner Kalon Gervin and Justin Fields hit him right in the hands for what should have been an easy catch-and-run. But Victor dropped it. It was one of the crucial missed opportunities from a frustrating start to the game.
But Victor got another opportunity in the second quarter, catching a short pass from Fields along the sideline, juking a defender, and then diving to beat another Spartan to the pylon for a touchdown.
It was an impressive catch-and-run, made better by the fact that the Buckeyes believed in Victor enough to go back to him, and that he made the most of it.
For home night games, I am allowing myself three Buckeye leaves. The first goes to JK Dobbins who continues to be everything he looked like he would be as a true freshman. He is faster, stronger, and runs harder than ever, which is exactly what Ryan Day wanted to see. Dobbins put up 172 yards rushing against a defense that was allowing just 55.8 yards rushing per game.
My second leaf goes to Chase Young, who was only credited with 0.5 sacks and no forced fumble, but created much more havoc than that. He consistently had MSU quarterback Brian Lewerke leaving the pocket. His presence allowed Baron Browning to run in untouched on a blitz for a sack, and he also caused Michigan State’s fumble on the option pitch by simply being near enough to terrify everyone.
My third leaf goes to the Ohio State offensive line because I never saw Michigan State giving up 323 yards rushing. It was the most rushing yards allowed by the Spartans since they give up 335 yards on the ground to the 2017 Buckeyes. But trust me, it’s a lot more rare than Ohio State makes it seem.
If I must give out a peeve, I’ll hand it to myself because I ran out of leaves before I gave one to Binjimen Victor who looks faster and shiftier than I’ve ever seen him.
Leaves for J.K. Dobbins on another terrific performance against a Michigan State defense that was giving up less than 60 yards per game. Dobbins’ long touchdown run was what eventually broke the game open for Ohio State. It is tremendously reassuring that Ohio State can run the ball when they have to, which is not something Ohio State could have said last season at this time.
Peeves for the official who threw the penalty flag on Baron Browning that negated Jordan Fuller’s interception for a touchdown. I am always in favor of player safety, but to call that play a “dangerous blindside block” was preposterous.
Before you get too worked up, MSU is a quality team. Will they be in the top 10 at the end of the year? No. But don’t act like they are not a darn good team and Saturday night wasn’t hard. Yes, OSU looked bad at times. No, they’re not bad, that’s because they played a team with more than just a faint pulse.
My leaf this week goes to a man with a rightfully-so very covered helmet — Chase Young. We all know he’s having a season for the record books. But when you can, go rewatch the game and watch what this man does when he isn’t making highlight plays. He fights to keep contain so stretch plays don’t turn upfield into big plays. He takes on 2 or 3 O-Linemen so his teammates can make plays. He hustles, ALWAYS. We all know he’s good. Most of the fan base doesn’t honestly know just how good he is.
My peeve this week again is with Tuf Borland being on the field as much as he is. I love the guy. I don’t know if he’s still hurt or if he’s actually permanently injured. But he should not be on the field as much as he is, even as a captain. And I know, I KNOW…there are going to be people here in the comments about how “I’m not at all the practices and weight rooms” etc., but watch Tuf play and you’ll see it too. When you show me a game where he plays better than Browning has played, I’ll stop being peeved. Until then, it’ll continue to be Tuf to change it *rimshot*. [Editor’s note: Tuf Borland finished with 5 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Baron Browning finished with two tackles and a sack.]
I think we all can agree the peeve this week is Tony winning staff picks. That’s like the boss having a raffle and winning the grand prize. Clearly it’s rigged and he went back in and edited the article.