Football Hayes & Cannon

The Grumpy Old Buckeye: Ohio State vs. Clemson

Hello, everyone. It’s been a few weeks since we’ve done this. Don’t worry, I’ve been grumpy the last several weeks without you and without Ohio State football. Grump never sleeps.

The Buckeyes went to the desert last night to face one of their few remaining bogeymen. They came close and darn near did it despite having a lot of things going against them. There were touchdowns inexplicably taken off the board, an elite defender thrown out of the game on what should have been a key sack to end a possession, and gave Clemson a free possession by roughing the punter on what really could have (should have?) been a 5-yard running-into-the-kicker call.

It was a great season and should still be ongoing. I’m going to be grumpy about this one for a long time. Here are some of the reasons why.

Settling for Three

Ohio State sprinted down the field on its first drive but an erroneous initial call stopped the Buckeyes’ momentum, even though the replay corrected Garrett Wilson’s catch inside the 10-yard line. From there, Ohio State passed on two of three plays from the 5-yard line. J.K. Dobbins slipped on his cut on second down, which may have gotten him in or at least close to the goal line. On third down, Clemson brought pressure and Justin Fields was forced to scramble. Fields missed an open K.J. Hill in the end zone, as the OSU receiver had fallen down and his defender left him when the quarterback rolled left. Fields threw incomplete to Chris Olave in the corner but had he seen Hill it was an easy six points. Instead, Ohio State brought a field goal to a touchdown fight. And it turned out not to be the only time.

Footballs are Tuf to Catch

Tuf Borland missed an opportunity when he got his hands to a Trevor Lawrence pass in the first quarter, as the linebacker was unable to haul it in. It could have set Ohio State up nicely but at least Clemson was kind enough to miss the field goal to finish the drive.

Hands on Facemasks

One of the things Clemson’s offensive line did well all night was to somehow not get called for jamming Ohio State defenders’ facemasks into the sky. That’s a penalty, and not even a particularly difficult one to see, but the Tigers got away with it repeatedly. Jashon Cornell received an uncalled hands-to-the-face on a long third-and-10 completion when Josh Proctor busted coverage to extend one Clemson drive. Chase Young was the victim on the same play that saw Shaun Wade exit the game (more on that below). Letting holding go is one thing — and it’s a thing we’ve seen all year, with only four offensive holding calls against OSU opponents entering the Fiesta Bowl — but hands to the face is even more obvious and the SEC officiating crew seemed fine with letting Clemson do it. It’s not sour grapes if it’s true. Here’s just one example:

The Ball Moved

J.K. Dobbins appeared to catch a touchdown pass but on further review, the ball moved when he came down to the turf and Ohio State had to settle for another field goal. If that’s a running play, it’s a touchdown when he breaks the plane. But since it’s a pass, which was in his hands, it isn’t a touchdown when he breaks the plane. In that instance, he has to do a lot more. The rule is stupid and always has been. However, it wouldn’t have happened if Fields could have just put a little more air under the ball. That was another missed opportunity.

Red Zone Play Calling

Ohio State continuously made odd choices in the red zone, where passing lanes are a bit more congested. The Buckeyes decided to eschew what had been a successful running game and throw it more. The Buckeyes threw four passes against just two rushing attempts inside the 10-yard line in the first half.

J.K. Droppins

Ryan Day made absolutely the perfect play call on a screen pass that caught Clemson completely unprepared. Dobbins had blockers out front and only one Tiger, who was in the process of being blocked by the tight end. He could have walked into the end zone. But Dobbins took his eyes off the ball to look down the field and he dropped a sure touchdown. For the third time, Ohio State had to bring a field goal to a touchdown fight.

Game-Changing Call

Shaun Wade’s ejection for targeting was officiating malpractice, in my opinion. Wade came free on a blitz and had his arms out, going low to sack Lawrence, who is much taller and heavier. He did lean forward but was a split second from hitting the quarterback in the midsection. At the last second, Lawrence ducked his head, creating helmet-to-helmet contact that would otherwise not have happened. Instead of punting on fourth-and-long, Clemson got a free first down, Ohio State lost one of its very best (and most important) defenders for the game. The Tigers then got a pass interference call on Wade’s replacement to help them down the field. Clemson scored its first touchdown to cap a drive that should have ended on the other side of the field and it completely changed the tone of the game.

This targeting rule does not exist to eliminate dangerous collisions. It’s football. You will never eliminate dangerous collisions. The rule exists, rather, to deter dangerous and dirty hits. That hit wouldn’t have been dangerous or dirty without the offensive player changing the impact point when it was too late to do anything about it. That’s a textbook facemask in the chest if Lawrence didn’t duck into it. There was no launch. It was a huge, game-changing play.

Foot Off the Gas

Ohio State jumped out on top early in the game largely by being the aggressor. In the late stages of the second quarter, the Buckeyes got a bit more conservative and that gave Clemson a chance to cut into the lead even more before the break. After hitting quick passes throughout the first half, it might have been worth a chance at a double move after the Tigers had scored to try to seize momentum back. Instead, the Buckeyes tried more underneath stuff and a run play and gave the ball back.

The Big Play

Ohio State has fed all year on its ability to prevent big plays, so a routine quarterback draw should not have given the Tigers all the momentum entering the half. But it did. Josh Proctor became yet another victim of an awful playing surface, slipping as the last defender, allowing Lawrence to take it to the house. Ohio State went conservative again on its next possession even though Clemson was getting the ball back to start the third quarter. There wasn’t a ton of time left, but with Fields and the OSU receiving corps, it would have been nice to have at least tried to get a late field goal to calm things down.

Roughing the Punter

The Buckeyes were just about to get the ball back near midfield after the defense got yet another stop. Ohio State came after the punt but got there a second late. I will let other people get mad about going after the punt in that situation, but if the Buckeyes get it, no one complains. The job of the special teams coach is to look for weaknesses the team can exploit and then call it if they get the look they want during the game. But you have to execute. Players don’t intend to rough the kicker, jump offside, drop a pass, false start, etc. They’re human. The punter was off the ground when Cam Brown made contact. He didn’t hit the plant leg or even really get much of the kicking leg. It could very easily have been just a 5-yard penalty but they called it a personal foul and Clemson scored on another drive that should have been over. Whether it was roughing or running into, it was dumb, and it affected the game. Holy cow, I agree with a referee.

Overturning the Scoop and Score

Jeff Okudah made a huge play to strip the ball after a catch (and it was a catch, you’ll never convince me otherwise). Jordan Fuller picked up the ball and scored. Then the play was overturned after video review, which is only supposed to overturn clear and obvious errors. The on-field official who threw the beanbag had a great view of the play. It was a bullshit call. Garbage. That’s all I have to say about it. And it’s the second time Fuller has lost a touchdown this season on either a bad or ticky-tack call. You never know how a game will play out, but losing seven points turned on that overturned call turned out to be kind of important. Here’s me once again being on the same page as an actual person who officiates football games for a living:

Unfortunate Bounce

Ohio State could have completely exorcised the ghosts of past Clemson games when Drue Chrisman dropped a late punt deep into Clemson territory. The ball hit a Tiger and was loose on the field for a second. Unfortunately, no one from Ohio State was close enough to fall on it to seal the game. It would have been fantastic karmic retribution from Philly Brown’s muff in a previous loss to Clemson, which led to the Tigers rallying to win. Instead, after falling on their own muff, Clemson came right down the field and scored a go-ahead touchdown. You can criticize the call to not go for it on fourth-and-4, but given the field position and the fact Clemson only needed a field goal, I don’t blame Ryan Day for punting and Chrisman did a great job (and it nearly ended up as a turnover). The OSU defense was tough all night but, for whatever reason, it wasn’t on the next possession.

The End

Maybe the most infuriating thing about the game was the end — specifically the final two drives. Ohio State’s defense had been stout against a great offense all night but Clemson went through them like a hot knife through butter. That would have been fine if Ohio State answered and it almost did. The Buckeyes used short passes to Dobbins to work their way down the field. But with Dobbins wide open underneath, Fields saw Chris Olave flash deep against one-on-one coverage. A simple miscommunication between Fields and Olave — the receiver said after the game he thought his quarterback was scrambling so he broke off the route — resulted in an interception that ended Ohio State’s championship hopes. Of course, all of that was made worse by the Fuller touchdown overturn earlier in the game, because Clemson’s last score should only have cut into the lead, not put the Tigers ahead.


That’s it. We’re done with the 2019 OSU football season and it’s a shame because this team was good enough to hang with LSU and possibly win the national championship. I believe Ohio State was the better team in the Fiesta Bowl despite all the things the Buckeyes did wrong. Some crucial calls certainly hurt, as did settling for three on multiple occasions, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that Fields was playing on a bad knee and Dobbins was also down to one peg in the second half after an ankle injury. Wade’s ejection absolutely affected the defense and helped swing the game seven points in Clemson’s favor.

We’ve seen the last of some very good Ohio State players and we’ll miss them. Others will rise to take their place. But who knows if the stars will align the way they did throughout 2019? It’ll be a long wait to find out. And that makes me grumpiest of all.

18 Responses

  1. A few thoughts from an unbiased observer. I wasn’t the least bit surprised the Clemson beat Ohio State. There a battle tested team and is the defending champion. Trevor Lawrence has beaten the highest level competition. OSU on the other hand plays in a mediocre conference, and some of its biggest victories includes a team it’s owned for nearly 2 decades. This doesn’t get you ready for playing a real team like Clemson. OSU fans seem to think if they played this game again they were nine out of 10 times. I see the win four out of 10. The drop pass call was absolutely correct. The receiver had not established possession, he had simply landed. No reason to whine about the call, even if it was lead stand it would not have assured victory. You saw how Clemson move the ball on the last drive. The mark of any good team is how they move the ball at crunch time, or how they stop the ball from moving. At crunch time Clemson was obviously the better team, and they would’ve been if they played it again and crunch time came. The same thing as likely to have of happened. Good teams make plays, and they don’t do stupid things. Clemson was a good team and is. Better than the buckeyes at least this year.

  2. Just the curse of the Woody Hayes punch to the throat of that Clemson player in 1978 Gator Bowl. As a result of that cheap shot by THE Ohio State legend, the Buckeyes will never beat Clemson. As the saying now goes, Ohio State football coaches can beat their wives and players, but not Clemson….

  3. This I a total homers prospective completely in denial. I’ve never in my life seen a fan base blame refs for the loss as much as OSU has in a day never ever. It’s remarkable how your trying to spin this idiotic explanation to how bad the targeting call was or even looked at from the player was just going low. I mean he was in the grasp at the level the player launched its obvious he has intent to injure Trevor. He lowers his freaking crown and launches directly for him parallel to his earhole/head. That’s the definition of TARGETING! OSU should know that it’s not the first time this year it’s happened. Now the catch no catch is a tough break because realistically it’s 50/50. He’s still in the act of catching the ball and it’s obvious his steps that everyone thinks tells you it’s a completion are not accurate. Even if you call it a catch it’s spotted at his catch due to forward progress realistically he never has full possession period and real time speed is obvious. Slow motion his steps are choppy from player on his back. PI no call, but big shocker it was going both ways. OSU lost because Clemson scored TDs and created interceptions in critical moments. OSU has the ball 1st and Goal at 5 twice, and failed to score on another Red-zone opportunity from 15ydl. FGs were all they could get and that was Clemson D and failed opportunities all on OSU. Clemson had 4 TDs, OSU had and three FGs and two TDs with two pics. Now on yardage and possession OSU dominated the game but the failed opportunities in RZ and turnovers lost the game not the refs I’m sorry but that’s facts. That being said OSU played well but it was pretty clear Clemson had more heart and moxy and it was on full display during and after. Day won’t ever be a winner till he desires to take ownership in mistakes self inflicted. Better team won the game period and execution in crunch time on both sides of the ball won that. Clearly OSU should have won the game with all that being said but hat to be cleashay but OHIO didn’t execute in crunch time I’m sorry get over yourself the refs had nothing to do with it. Clemson young man showed there grit and determination to come back in that ballgame was there missed calls that helped swing the game no. Was there penalties that determined the outcome? without a doubt the targeting call had a lot to do with waking Clemson up out there trance. The call was correct and you all know it was so quit acting like it wasn’t. The scoop and score realistically made no difference because the ball was punted to OSU and they drove dwn and scored. Then kick off to Tigers and stop them anyway so momentum still swung OSU way. Unfortunately Clemson plays Defense and gets it back with 3:07 to go they run 4 plays for 95 yds and a TD. They execute under pressure again so it sways back on OSU. Again unfortunately Clemson Defense bends but makes a play when Fields makes a critical mistake that ends the game. So no refs involved in that outcome sorry, 43 seconds 2 and 6 on Clemson 22 yrd line you got to go win it.. just give credit where credit is do Clemson adjusted and executed period end of discussion and it painful but fair.

    1. Hey, welcome to our site. I will cop to being a homer because this column isn’t called The Grumpy Old Neutral.

      There are, by my count, nine items in the above 13 sections that are completely unrelated to officiating. So, if I wanted to lay all the blame on officiating, then I probably could have saved myself 1500 words and just went with the other four sections. Perhaps you skipped over them?

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on the targeting. Launching is what the Oklahoma player did against LSU. Wade didn’t do that. If you saw intent to injure on that play you have an interesting view of the world and it’s amazing that Shaun Wade could predict exactly how far Lawrence would duck at the last minute.

      I don’t have the rule in front of me, but you might be right. “Choppy steps” with full control of the ball might not count. Only unchoppy steps count towards possession. Forward progress stops when the whistle blows and it didn’t, so that argument is, again, interesting. Also it’s wrong. You admit it’s 50/50. Replay doesn’t exist to overturn 50/50, only clear and obvious errors. Call on the field should stand.

      The scoop and score being taken away was bigger than just the seven points off the board. Momentum is kind of important as you might have seen on the targeting play (which, again, should have seen an offsetting penalty for hands to Chase Young’s facemask). It was 16-0 then and that momentum swing sparked a 21-0 run.

      But the biggest giveaway that you’re a Clemson “homer” (to use your own terminology) other than your screen name is that you said “OSU played well.” That was not a good performance by the Buckeyes. It was merely OK. I pointed out the problems throughout this column (if you skip four of the 13 sections). But despite it not being one of the team’s better performances this year, it still should have been good enough.

  4. Biggest issue was having to settle for FG inside the 5 yard line on three occasions.
    Hate to sound like the grumpy buckeye but you have to give the Clemson D credit.
    I’m curious about two things,
    1. Did we change our defensive scheme when they went 95 yards in four plays to score?
    2. Why didn’t we go for two when we had a one point lead? If we make it, a Clemson FG only ties.

  5. Day & Fields had 2 chances and didn’t get it done-Trevor did it with one and Justin had other options on last play-bad breaks – dropped passes etc we still had control and Lost, I hope Day gets him to be Joe B or Trevor status next year. Trevor took a beating in that game too

  6. Great article except for giving Fields more excuses-his knee had nothing to do with not finishing the last 2 drives-when Fields wins a game at the end then I will believe we have chance to win a NC-he will always have nagging injuries.

    1. OK, sure. I made excuses rather than just pointing out an obvious thing. Clearly Fields wasn’t wearing a bulky brace (I made it all up!) and therefore Ryan Day had his full playbook at his disposal, which explains the usual QB runs inside the 10…wait, those didn’t happen. Never mind.

      Fields wins the game if Chris Olave doesn’t break off his route. Olave shouldered the blame for that saying he thought Fields was taking off. The drive before Day tried to catch Clemson bringing pressure and guessed wrong, opting to go tunnel screen and it didn’t work. If you think Justin Fields is this team’s problem, you’ll accept virtually no quarterback that lives.

    2. Our defense allowed Lawrence to run all over the field last night and he took them down for the game winning drive deep in their own territory. That is a sign of an experienced quarterback. This is Field’s first year as a starting QB who transferred from another school where he was a back up. We should be very thankful that he did as well as he did in this system and lead this team to a 13-1 record. Hopefully he will improve the way that Joe Burrow did in his second year.

  7. If yo lower your head and lead with the crown of the helmet to any point above the midsection it’s targeting. If Wade had kept his eyes up it would have been a clean hit. And it was roughing the kicker. I feel for the team, they know there were too many unforced errors and missed tackles to win the game. There are a lot of guys that will chastise themselves for a long time. I hope they will learn to let it go and focus on the positives. 13-1, Big Ten Champs, another win over TTUN, and will finish as the #2 or #3 team in the nation. Thanks guys, it was a great ride.

    1. Just curious as to how you do that when you see the guy duck at the last second. You have maybe a tenth of a second to react. You know it’s probably a penalty if you hit him in the head, so…you duck and hope for the best. And that’s the result. No launch. Target point moved. It wasn’t even initially called as is, so there’s no way in hell they rule that targeting if contact is made with the chest instead.

  8. How many mistakes do you think you can make against a quality opponent? Clemson ain’t Penn State. Buckeyes got what they earned…

    1. Brian- you’re either drunk or a troll. Sleep it off or go away.

    2. You can make exactly as many as Ohio State made as long as you don’t get robbed of a touchdown that completely changes the momentum back in your favor. I’m guessing.

  9. It’s Buckeyes own fault.You can’t drop 2 probable touchdown passes and only kick field goals.The defense which looked like they were in prevent let Clemson go 94 yards in less then 2 min and score a Td late!Clemson made the plays they needed and the Buckeyes didn’t!

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