Ohio State had no trouble handling Rutgers on Saturday but it’s fair to say it was a game that didn’t make anyone who isn’t convinced about the Buckeyes suddenly change their mind. The Buckeyes’ starters were mostly fine, although there wasn’t much in the way of explosive plays in the running game and the defense got gashed for a touchdown by the worst team in the league.
Most of the problems came after the starters came off the field. The backups are generally never as sharp as the starters, but we saw a couple of dropped snaps — one by each of the backup quarterbacks — and uncharacteristically stoney hands from young receivers Garrett Wilson and Jamieson Williams.
Here’s the rest of what bugged me from a 56-21 OSU win at Rutgers.
Ohio State got totally fooled on a read option play on third-and-long on the third Rutgers series and got gashed by quarterback Johnny Langan. They got gashed by Rutgers. By Rutgers. Gashed. On a quarterback run. I’ll be mad about that play for a month. Adding to that aggravation was the Big Ten Network camera operator who got fooled by the run-pass option play. I’m also mad that it took three possessions by Rutgers to have something to be grumpy about. A lot of anger on just one play. That’s maximizing the irritation right there, which is efficient.
Malik Harrison dropped a sure pick six in the first quarter on…let’s call it the fourth Rutgers possession. Honestly I lost count. It was all a blur. But the ball was right in his hands and there were not Rutgers players on the side of the field toward where he was running. It would have been the easiest touchdown for a linebacker ever, if only he’d held on. That led directly to…
The ensuing Rutgers punt popped off Wilson’s pads and landed in the arms of a Rutgers special teams player, setting the Scarlet Knights up deep in Ohio State territory. In other words, the Buckeyes did what Rutgers couldn’t — moved the ball for Rutgers. The freshman has been exceptional this season but this play was a reminder that he’s still a freshman. It was a terrible play and that led directly to…
Rutgers Scored…Not a Typo
The cascade effect of Harrison’s dropped interception led to Isaih Pacheco’s touchdown run, which was, in itself, a number of aggravating things in one. Tuf Borland missed a tackle. Jordan Fuller got outrun. Shaun Wade failed to make a play either by tackle or angling Pacheco toward the sideline. I’m offended that the Buckeye starters gave up a touchdown, let alone on a long run. The run went for 26 yards. That’s basically half the yards Jonathan Taylor had for an entire game against Ohio State. I’m not saying that Taylor is better than Pacheco or Wisconsin is better than Rutgers but…OK, yes, I am saying that. It was horrible. Of all the teams Ohio State has played in 2019, Rutgers (!) is the first team to score a touchdown on the OSU defense. Bench and/or fire everyone and then fire the bench.
Is Drue Chrisman Broken?
Last week I talked about Chrisman shanking his first punt against Maryland and then booting his second into the end zone in uncharacteristic fashion. His poor run of form continued with his first kick against Rutgers, as he sent a low drive that took an OSU bounce and still only went 41 yards, giving Rutgers good field position. Whether it’s a lack of confidence, thinking too much after getting one blocked by Wisconsin, or something mechanical, Chrisman used to be superhuman and then went through a run of meh. At least he was able to drop an ugly one just inside the 20 late in the third quarter, but he averaged only 35 yards per attempt.
Goal Line Stand
Ohio State’s offensive line provided plenty of room for J.K. Dobbins for much of the first half and then suddenly got jammed up three times in a four-play sequence on a goal-to-go situation. Dobbins nearly scored on second down from about eight yards out but came up a yard short. Then the offensive line got blown up on back-to-back plays and the Scarlet Knights were able to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. Josh Myers completely whiffed on his guy on fourth down and the play imploded. If the slobs can’t push around Rutgers at the one, how will they expect to do it against Penn State or Michigan?
Lining Up is Hard
Ohio State got two different 5-yard penalties for lining up incorrectly on the kickoff. Both were for lining up more than five yards behind the line, which is apparently a thing. It’s understandable that someone could make that mistake occasionally but once it’s called, everyone on the kickoff team should be on point with where they’re lining up for the rest of the game. Incredibly sloppy from a team that hadn’t (to my knowledge) drawn a flag for it all season.
Play Your Kids
Leading 35-7 against a terrible Rutgers team, Ryan Day put his starters back on the field to begin the second half. There was no reason to do so, given the score and the hosts’ likelihood of making a game of it. It looked to be a really bad decision just a few plays into the drive when Justin Fields was roughed after throwing a pass. Fields had already been dinged up earlier in the game. With two huge games on the schedule in the next two weeks, the exposure seemed unnecessary and that roughing penalty could have been a season changer. The Buckeyes got a touchdown out of the drive but the backups were capable of doing that. At least the backups went in for the next drive.
Ohio State allowed an explosion play for a touchdown in the fourth quarter when Langan tossed a 45-yard touchdown pass. It was a bad throw but a good adjustment by receiver Bo Melton, who abused Amir Riep and blazed past Josh Proctor, who took a bad angle — probably because he was expecting a better pass. Because of that second touchdown, Rutgers scored more points against the vaunted Ohio State defense than against any other Big Ten team this season. It was the first time in five years that Rutgers scored double digits against Ohio State (even last year’s dumpster fire defense did a better job). Langan later threw a 41-yard pass to Kay’Ron Adams who Jahsen Wint didn’t bother to cover and no one else did either.
Gunnar Hoak was given the opportunity to throw a pass late in the fourth quarter. Hoak had to double pump, presumably due to the coverage, and he got hit from behind and fumbled, setting Rutgers up in the red zone. That’s bad by Hoak, bad by the offensive line, and bad by the receiver who didn’t get open. It was a lot of bad on just one play. Riep compounded the issue by getting questionably flagged for pass interference in the end zone on fourth-and-7, allowing Rutgers to add a late cosmetic touchdown that was awarded on clear and obvious video evidence I have yet to see after an initial call of a fumble into the end zone.
I realize that finding fault with a huge win is the first-worldiest of first-world problems, but the Buckeyes weren’t crisp for much of Saturday, especially after the starters left the game, and never seemed likely to cover what was an enormous point spread. While I don’t expect that to be a problem in the next two weeks, there’s always a worry that a team that’s had it so easy all season could become complacent or just not be equipped to handle adversity against better competition. So far, the worst adversity has been a one-score game in the second half against Wisconsin. The next two weeks may prove a bit more difficult. The players should expect to get yelled at a lot this week.
We’ll be back to do this again next week after the Penn State game.