The Buckeyes and Wildcats met in Evanston on a Friday night in a rematch of last year’s Big Ten Championship Game, so you just knew this was going to be a good one, right? Well…
The Buckeyes did their usual rope-a-dope, taking just a 7-3 lead into the second quarter and then exploding like they’ve done all season, ultimately running away with a 52-3 win over Northwestern on the road. The Wildcats gave up two and a half times their usual 20 points allowed per game and Ohio State was not troubled much in this one. So, surely the Grumpy Old Buckeye must have nothing to gripe about this week.
To that I say, “Ha!” Honestly, I’m disappointed in myself that I don’t have anything more witty to say than that, but “Ha!” will have to do. Let’s get to this week’s complaints.
The game hadn’t even kicked off yet and I was already surly. Ohio State football is for Saturdays and whatever night the college football playoffs are held. Fridays are for high school football and probably…I don’t know…Mountain West or MAC or something. Come on, let’s go back to Saturdays for all B1G games. I worked all day on Friday and now you want me to pour energy into rooting for my team? Get out of here with that, Big Ten.
Buckeye receivers have had a tendency to drop some passes early in games this season and it happened again in Evanston. Austin Mack left the ball where a defender could swat it out on the first play and was a bit fortunate that it was ruled incomplete. Binjimen Victor dropped Justin Fields’ second pass. K.J. Hill was probably mad that Fields didn’t throw him a pass so he could drop one too. Nobody likes to be left out of what the rest of the cool crowd is doing. The wideouts finally started hauling in passes after that and Ohio State went on to score a touchdown on the opening drive (and a lot more after that) but it’s a problem that needs to be cleaned up.
Boundary Kickoffs Back
We saw the return of an old friend on Friday night with a kickoff out of bounds — a tradition unlike any other. The Buckeyes kicked off out of bounds routinely during the Urban Meyer era and it’s happened a couple of times this year. I guess old habits die hard. If my job wasn’t to be grumpy, I might look at the out-of-bounds kickoff the same way I see a warm blanket — as something comforting that I can always count on to be there and possibly to keep my legs warm when I’m wearing shorts and my wife cranks the AC.
10 < 11
If you thought there would be no math, surprise! The Grumpy Old Buckeye is springing the pop quiz on you. On Ohio State’s first defensive snap, there were only 10 Buckeyes on the field and as a result the Wildcats ripped off a 13-yard run. The Buckeyes were mostly fine once they learned to count to 11 but that was an odd mistake to start the game and if I’d had my shoes on, I’d have taken one off and thrown it at something. Did you ever notice there is no satisfaction in throwing a slipper? Seriously, what kind of damage are you going to do with some soft, cushy slipper? Work boots take too long to remove. A good dress shoe is the sweet spot. Toss one of those at something and you’ll instantly feel better.
Run Defense A Tad Leaky
The Wildcats have struggled offensively all year. Ohio State has shut opposing offenses down all year. So obviously Northwestern came out and had some early success running the football right up the middle in the first half. The Cats had a few runs of around 10 yards and finished the first half with 68 yards on the ground. Isaiah Bowser led the way with 41 yards on 10 carries for a 4.1-yard average. At least the Buckeyes controlled the Northwestern passing game, limiting the Wildcats to 22 first-half passing yards.
In the end, Northwestern ran for 157 yards and I never thought the OSU defense would give up that many against the Wildcats’ anemic offense. Four different Wildcats had a long run of at least 10 yards and Drake Anderson’s longest was nine. None of those players are as good as Jonathan Taylor is and we’ll see him next week unless he loses his love of the game and retires from football in a shocking move that is soon to become a made-for-TV movie.
If It Ain’t Broke, BTN Will Fix It!
The Big Ten Network director running the broadcast fell in love with the SkyCam during the first half and used it a few times during live action, including two key plays — a third down just before Northwestern had to settle for a first-quarter field goal, and again on J.K. Dobbins’ touchdown reception. There’s a reason there have been no innovations in live action camera angles. The sideline shot right down the line of scrimmage works and it’s almost never confusing. If you’re going to go all-11 or something, that’s maybe a worthwhile experiment, but the moving, bad angle far from the football seems like the wrong way to show the game. Tune in next week when BTN shows the entire game from the Pylon Cam!
Maybe I’m starting to reach into some nitpicking at this point of the column, but this is the Grumpy Old Buckeye, not the Generally Satisfied Old Buckeye, so I’ll press on. After the Buckeyes’ third touchdown drive, the defense had Northwestern in third-and-long. Damon Arnette was flagged for pass interference to give up a cheap first down on a pass that was probably not going to be caught anyway. He had good coverage but panicked and grabbed the receiver’s shoulder a tad early. Then, on the next play, Jonathan Cooper put his hand up in the right tackle’s facemask and left it there for approximately six minutes and 37 seconds, which was the most obvious penalty in the history of penalties. It gave the Cats another free first down. Northwestern eventually wasted that good field position but pinned Ohio State deep with a punt. Sure, it didn’t matter in the end, but those two back-to-back penalties happened and they’ll never unhappen.
Ohio State apparently has no two-minute offense. This might be because the Buckeyes chose not to work on it early in the season when they had big leads, or maybe they’re just bad at it. Whatever the reason, the Bucks had two late opportunities in the first half. Ohio State squandered the first one and then the second one went awry with a holding penalty, and a bad play call on a screen pass that ended with Dobbins tackled in bounds with no timeouts. Blake Haubeil bailed the Buckeyes out on the second one by nailing a career-long, 55-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. Maybe the two-minute offense just needs some 5-Hour Energy.
That’s all I have this week after a 49-point win at Northwestern. I stopped even trying to find anything to be grumpy about after Austin Mack scored in the third quarter. Being mad at this game was a lot like being mad that you can’t pay the rent and someone just keeps throwing $100 bills at you. Eventually you have enough to pay that rent and so you have to find something else to be mad about…like who is going to pick up all these $100 bills? Why couldn’t they have just handed me the $100 bills and saved me from having to do all that bending and picking up? It’s so thoughtless. And now I have to write out a check and deposit all this cash, so that means a trip to the bank and, hey, I work nine to five, buddy! Gah! I’m so mad now and none of this even happened.
I’m going to go try to walk off some of this anger. Meet me back here next week after Wisconsin visits the Horseshoe.