The Buckeyes and Badgers met in what would have been a much bigger game if not for the Badgers stubbing their toes in Champaign last weekend. Wisconsin still presented the most difficult test to date for the Buckeyes and all Ohio State did was win by 31 points on a day with weather that made passing difficult. It’s been a difficult season to be grumpy — which is fine, honestly — but I’ll give it a shot anyway after a 38-7 win over Wisconsin.
First Clap Snap
Josh Myers appeared to snap the ball one clap early on Ohio State’s second offensive play. The rest of the offensive linemen stayed in their stances and Myers took off, leaving a gaping hole for the defense to run through and hit Justin Fields in the backfield. It looked like a sack, and appeared to get scored that way, but the way the center took off forward after snapping the ball makes me think it wasn’t a pass play and perhaps was a quarterback draw. That put the Buckeyes behind the chains and led to an early three-and-out.
Ohio State had a key third down on the second offensive drive and Fields couldn’t handle the wet ball as he looked to get started on a designed run and may have taken his eye off a slightly high snap from Myers. Fields was fortunate to grab the ball and at least get back to the line of scrimmage but it was a wasted opportunity to get into plus territory in the first quarter and Drue Chrisman only sent the ensuing punt to the 19-yard line instead of his customary inside-the-10 bomb.
Ohio State punted from deep in its own territory and a 50-yard punt by Chrisman gave Wisconsin the ball at its own 25. But Chase Young jumped offside and gave the Badgers a free five yards. Since Wisconsin was having difficulty getting five yards, it was irritating to give them some freebies. But ultimately I can forgive my large, grown son Chase because of other plays that you may have noticed throughout the game.
Wisconsin converted a third down on a pass play to Quintez Cephus in the second quarter after picking up a Damon Arnette blitz. But it was an extremely low block by Garrett Groshek and Arnette went airborne in part to avoid the low blow. His trajectory was a bit off as a result and he missed what would have been a spectacular sack on Jack Coan. Instead, it was a big chunk play for Wisconsin. Fullbacks should be able to stand up and block Arnette rather than resorting to attacking the knee. Later in the first half, Shaun Wade faced the same type of low hit out on the edge from a bigger blocker. Let’s clean that up, Wisconsin, before someone gets hurt or even loses a career.
Drops, Drops, Drops
Chris Olave and K.J. Hill had back-to-back dropped passes in the second quarter and then J.K. Dobbins made a great catch on third-and-long. The difference was that Dobbins had no gloves on and both receivers did. I get that players have their superstitions and things that make them more comfortable, but those three consecutive plays showed that the Buckeye receivers should have had their gloves off in the rain.
Fields’ helmet popped off at the end of a failed quarterback sweep look that was meant to be a pass, which ended in a sack. Rather than take a timeout to make Fields eligible to return without sitting out for a play, the Buckeyes sent Chris Chuganov out there cold. So…handoff, right? Nope. Chugz threw incomplete on a wasted play that didn’t need to be wasted.
Ohio State normally wants to kick short of the end zone to dare teams to run the ball back so the Buckeyes can swarm to the ball and pin the opponent deep. However, the Badgers — even when pinned near the sideline — got good returns when they didn’t call fair catch and the second one was out nearly to the 35. In a tight battle of field position, those hidden yards can be a problem (although it turned out that they weren’t on Saturday) and it’s mind boggling that year after year the Buckeyes don’t just boot the ball out of the back of the end zone in big games. The Badgers made it to at least the 25 every return and hit the 30 or beyond multiple times. That needs to be cleaned up.
Chrisman’s first punt of the second half was partially blocked after a three-and-out and it turned out to be the only reason the Badgers scored points in this game. Wisconsin came close to blocking one a couple of times in the first half and nothing was cleaned up as the game went on. Chrisman appeared to be taking longer than usual to get his punts off, perhaps due to the wet ball. A shutout would have been nice but…no.
Conceding on Third-and-Long
The defense tried to rise to the occasion after the blocked punt and did well to set up Wisconsin in a third-and-long situation. Coan floated a ball toward the end zone and two Badger receivers ended up in virtually the same spot. It looked like Jeff Okudah saw the ball and had an opportunity to come off his man and make an interception but instead he waited on it to come down and that allowed the pass to be completed over Shaun Wade for Wisconsin’s only score. It turned out not to be a big deal in the end, but at the time it pulled the Badgers within one score in the second half.
Come On, Freshman
One thing that you hear about all the time is how a player is going to ‘hear it’ from his coaches and teammates in the film room whenever they’re in the open field and let the kicker or punter tackle them. Garrett Wilson let the punter get him on what looked like a return that was headed for the end zone. Not only did the punter make the play, it was a stick hit that is no doubt going to elicit strong reactions in the film room. You can’t let the punter get you. That’s like letting your little brother beat you up. Unless your little brother is Nick Bosa, that shouldn’t happen. But then you’d be Joey Bosa and it still shouldn’t happen, or at least should be a pretty close battle.
Those are the things that annoyed me on Saturday. The first half was aggravatingly close but after Ohio State answered Wisconsin’s touchdown with one of its own, the rest of the game was surprisingly easy. Now the Buckeyes need to avoid stepping in it against the two B1G East cupcakes and prepare for the final gauntlet.