Ohio State and Michigan renewed the greatest rivalry in all of sports with Jim Harbaugh’s team peaking and the Buckeyes coming off one of their sloppiest performances of the season.
The Game has been owned by Ohio State since Jim Tressel took over as OSU coach in 2001 but at some point you just figure all the stars will finally align for the Wolverines. I talked myself into thinking this would be the year but obviously I was just reacting to the post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted upon me by Tressel’s predecessor, John Cooper, who went 2-10-1 against That Team Up North. I’ll own my erroneous prediction of a Wolverine victory because, honestly, being wrong never made me so happy.
The Cooper years can trigger me at the drop of a hat and forced me to doubt the most complete Ohio State team we’ve seen in years (maybe ever?). In fairness, the game plan against Penn State kind of helped that doubt creep in, but Ryan Day and his staff weren’t calling a scared game on Saturday in Ann Arbor and that led to a 200-yard, four-touchdown game for J.K. Dobbins and a 300-yard, four-touchdown day for Justin Fields.
So, let’s get to the things that irritated me during the 2019 version of The Game.
“Late Hit Out of Bounds”
I can respect the officials for wanting to prevent tempers to flare in a rivalry game but the early personal foul on Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah was ludicrous and Michigan provided an example of what actually constitutes a late hit out of bounds later in the game. It’s nice that the officials can go back and review the game film to see the difference. Learning is a lifelong process. Back to the “foul,” the ball moved the ball from the 45 to the OSU 30-yard line and helped the Wolverines take a 6-0 lead. But, because ball don’t lie, Michigan missed the extra point.
Can Drue Chrisman Even be Fixed at this Point?
I’ve been talking about this for weeks now but the days of broken Drue Chrisman continued as the Ohio State punter continues to struggle. His first punt was utterly returnable. His second effort wasn’t good either but thankfully Michigan jumped offside and gave the Buckeyes a first down. Later in the game he booted two into the end zone. Wisconsin broke Chrisman, but maybe he can find the vessel that has his soul entrapped in the B1G title game against the Badgers next weekend in Indianapolis.
Dear Game Refs, Do Your Damn Job
For the second week in a row, Chase Young had to drag offensive linemen around the field as they happily threw on their skis and hung onto the big fella for dear life. Jalen Mayfield’s grab was enough to keep him from getting home on what turned out to be Michigan’s second touchdown of the day and it happened throughout the game. I know the officials can actually see holding because they had no trouble seeing Thayer Munford do it on the ensuing drive, so no problems with their eyesight. It was a much less holdy hold than Mayfield put on Young.
The call against Munford wouldn’t make the top 5 holds against Young this game
— Buckeye SloopCast (@SloopCast) November 30, 2019
All the Buckeyes can do at this point is sew some broken glass into Young’s jersey to deter opponents from grabbing him since those employed to enforce rules aren’t willing to do it. The officiating wasn’t good all game, and don’t even get me started on the targeting call that was correctly overturned.
Cheating is Wrong
I’ve been watching college football since the mid-1970s and I’ve seen some things over the years. I have seen shoes come off before in football games. Famously I saw Keith Byars throw a shoe and still outrun everyone to the end zone for a touchdown. But, until Saturday, I never saw Michigan players at the bottom of the pile untying and pulling off a running back’s shoe. That’s not just a penalty, it’s infantile. Cheaters never prosper, except in the SEC.
The Play Clock is Not a New Concept
Ohio State struggled Saturday with clock management, having to take a timeout to start the fourth OSU drive to avoid a delay of game penalty. The Buckeyes didn’t even get lined up until there were fewer than 10 seconds on the play clock. That’s on the coaching staff for not getting the team out there and the play called on time. Ohio State was late multiple times and even got a penalty in the second half for not being set by trying to rush to get a play off on time instead of using one of its three timeouts. Hopefully the staff will work on getting those calls in to Fields more quickly, especially the ones in which he claps and then checks with the sideline.
The Buckeyes muffed their third punt of the season in The Game and it gave Michigan a bit of momentum after Ohio State had just about put away the Wolverines. Freshman Garrett Wilson was the culprit, but I’m convinced it was the fact he had to wear two jerseys because Baron Browning (who also wears No. 5) was on the punt block/return team too. Wilson would pull a No. 18 jersey on over top of his No. 5 whenever he went back to field a punt. Well, he ended up dropping one. The defense stepped up and forced a field goal, but Michigan rode a bit of that momentum to pull back within two scores. Ultimately it didn’t matter, but it’s always concerning to turn the ball over when you’re getting it back after a stop. Famous turnovers on punts that have sparked opposing team comebacks from the dead include games against Michigan State and Clemson. It’s Thanksgiving week though, so I’m thankful the defense rose up and prevented a Wolverine comeback.
Not Intentional Grounding? Really?!
Shea Patterson got away with textbook intentional grounding on what turned into a Michigan touchdown drive. The officials huddled after the play but ultimately decided there was no infraction on the play. Intentional grounding is supposed to be called whenever a quarterback throws the ball away intentionally to avoid a sack and one or both of the following conditions exist:
- The quarterback is still in the pocket and the ball doesn’t go near an eligible receiver.
- The ball doesn’t go beyond the line of scrimmage and/or near an eligible receiver.
Patterson hit the trifecta, by not getting out of the pocket, not reaching the line of scrimmage with his throw, and not putting it anywhere near a receiver. So why exactly wasn’t that a penalty? Because it happened against Ohio State, I guess. Two plays later, Michigan scored a touchdown and I said some things I wouldn’t say in front of children.
Trio of Bad Things
A series of issues in three consecutive plays had me looking for something to throw that wouldn’t require lengthy cleanup later. The first of those was a long bomb for a potential touchdown that bounced off Chris Olave’s facemask and fell incomplete. The second featured the aforementioned rush to get a play off that resulted in a penalty on Jake Hausmann for not being set before the snap. The Buckeyes could have used the first of their three timeouts to preserve a third-and-1, but instead it became a third-and-6. On the next play, Fields escaped the pocket, dropped to a sidearm throw to get the ball around a defender, but threw inaccurately to Demario McCall in plenty of space, costing Ohio State a fresh set of downs. The Buckeyes punted, up only 15 points, but the defense forced a four-and-out and the Buckeyes took over deep in Michigan territory and put the game away four plays after that with an Austin Mack touchdown.
Those are the things that made me yell things that neighbors passing by the front of my house probably heard. No doubt if their children were nearby, they instinctively pulled them close to protect them. But ultimately it was the eighth consecutive win in the series for Ohio State, another 50-burger dropped on the Wolverines’ vaunted defense, and a mostly relaxing fourth quarter. Next week, your friendly neighborhood Grumpy Old Buckeye will no doubt find plenty to be irritated about as Ohio State goes for another Big Ten championship in Indianapolis.