This week we’re grumping about Ohio State against the Spartans. If you’re not familiar with this column, it’s where I gripe about the stuff that made me want to yell at the punk kids who won’t get off my lawn.
Michigan State is a team that always gets some mud on you at some point. Whether they’re playing well against other teams or not they tend to just make things messy. Ohio State needed a test and Sparty provided one for a while. Let’s get to my complaints of the week.
Look, it’s not that I dislike Ohio State’s black alternate uniforms. In fact, they’re rather nice. I like them a lot. But when the Buckeyes wear them, that’s one fewer chance for me to see those sexy scarlet home jerseys. I’m biased, of course, but I think Ohio State’s home uniforms are as good as any in the country and I like seeing them. So, I’m not begrudging the kids getting to play in fresh threads. I’m not hating on the alternate uniforms. I’m simply pining for the ones I think are the best.
Justin Fields was a bit too amped up at the beginning of this game. On the second play, Fields eluded the MSU pass rush but then put way too much sauce on a pass for a wide open Luke Farrell. Instead of a big play and a first down, and possibly calming the team down, it created a third and long and led to a difficult first quarter. Seeing Farrell go beast mode for a touchdown later in the game made me get mad about the early miss all over again.
Early Play Calling/Penalty
Damon Arnette’s forced fumble (recovered by Malik Harrison) set the Buckeyes up in great shape on the second Ohio State drive. The Buckeyes ran J.K. Dobbins for a short gain on first down, which was fine. But then the offense got a false start penalty and the Buckeyes ran for little gain again. That left a lot to pick up on third down and again Ohio State ran. This was a better gain but still far short of the first down. That led to…
It’s been a few years since Ohio State had a reliable placekicker. Blake Haubeil isn’t it, that’s for sure. His early miss after Malik Harrison’s fumble return allowed the Spartans to keep their record of not allowing points off turnovers this season but it had much more to do with Ohio State’s ultra-conservative play calling, false start penalty, and unreliable kicker than anything that Michigan State did on that drive. At least Haubeil made his second attempt a few minutes later and a third attempt later still.
Return of ButterVictor
Binjimen Victor has had his share of drops over the years but this season he had been exceptional entering the team’s sixth game. However, his first quarter drop was a sign of the old Victor. He jumped for a ball that wasn’t high rather than simply continuing to run down the field. Then he didn’t look it in. Had he caught it in stride, which he could have, he probably would have scored. He made a great play later in the game to score but his loose hands also created some angst when his touchdown went to video review.
The Ohio State defense had been doing well the entire first half until the offense got in the end zone. After the team went up 10-0, the 2018 defense apparently took the field for a while. Brian Lewerke started things with a big gain outside. Then a simple handoff up the middle went for another first down. A couple of passes later and the Spartans were in the end zone and it didn’t even look difficult.
Then the Buckeyes did it again on the next drive, allowing a field goal after the second Ohio State touchdown. Allowing an immediate response is not the kind of thing Ohio State’s defense has done this year, so it was both aggravating and painful to watch and a reminder of how bad that side of the ball looked last year.
I have to give Lewerke a lot of credit. He was harassed all night, hit often, and chased around, and he handled it well, avoiding sacks all over the place and often finding a receiver in the process. And boy did that get me steamed. “Stop being Joe Montana!” I yelled at one point.
At the end of the first half, Ohio State had a third down with three yards to go — which turned into eight yards to go after Ben Victor’s false start. Rather than try to pick up the first down or take a shot at the end zone, the Buckeyes ran Dobbins and picked up about half of what they needed, settling for a field goal at the end of the half. It capped a bit of a mismanaged final minute of the second quarter from a clock perspective. The three points were nice but math tells me that 7 > 3.
In his first true battle against a strong defense, Fields had some hiccups. He made some wrong reads on zone runs and then there was the pre-determined decision to throw to K.J. Hill that resulted in his first interception as a college quarterback. And he also lost a fumble in the fourth quarter. There were a few missteps and a couple missed throws, but overall Fields did well. Now Fields is allowed to play like Joe Montana. I’ll never yell at him for that.
The rules against blindside hits is something I largely can get behind. It’s an attempt to protect the players and eliminate dangerous plays from the game. But in last night’s game an overzealous zebra tried to protect a player who didn’t need it. Baron Browning’s nudge seemed to be a good play, going more or less shoulder to shoulder. There was no massive hit, no ‘oooh’ from the crowd, and no shaken up Spartan. It was just a bump to help a teammate and no one was in any danger of being injured. Still, the flag flew and wiped out a fantastic long interception return from Jordan Fuller, who absolutely deserved that touchdown. The ref who threw that flag should be brought up on charges.
ABC Fumbles Repeatedly
I lost count of how many plays ABC failed to televise live as they happened but the broadcast team seemed to have issues getting done showing replays, sideline features, or cutaways before the next play was run and it was usually when Ohio State had the ball. The broadcast even failed to show an extra point in the second half. Sure, they’re boring, but you hardly ever miss one being shown on TV.
Those are some of the things that stood out to me. It could have been a more lopsided win but it’s hard to get really salty when your team puts up more than 500 total yards and runs for more than 300 against a top 10 defense that allows fewer than 60 yards against on the ground per game. Next week: read my complaints about those bastards from Open Date!