You can’t find fault with the effort, and certainly the outcome, but someplace in the middle of Saturday night’s win the Buckeyes seemed to lose their way.
Hey look, it’s hard to find a way to criticize a win – especially a win over a hard-nosed, physical program like the Wisconsin Badgers.
But, it you were one of those people that sat and watched Saturday night and wondered why is the better team trailing 10-0, 10-3, 16-6 in the first half, while Wisconsin was racking up 450 yards in total offense, surely you wondered why Urban Meyer was making it look so tough. Like Meyer, did you out-think yourself?
Obviously Wisconsin made the most of its bye week to prepare, but why, indeed, was it so tough? You’ve recruited one of the most enviable offensive lines in college football, so why not dominate the line of scrimmage and dispense with the drama?
Translation: Put your head down, give the ball to Curt Samuel and Mike Weber, Jr., and run right at ‘em.
Enough with the trickery. Enough with the Percy Harvin ball, slow-developing sweeps, enough with the read option, and enough with putting your franchise quarterback at risk by taking too many hits. As it was there was NO Mike Weber for most of the second and third quarters.
Play power football! Play like Ohio State. Beat a determined opponent into submission. Football, after all, is an emotional game where it’s important to impose one’s will on another.
And wasn’t the power game there when they needed it on fourth and one, in the second half, when Weber converted on both occasions?
It struck me as odd that while Kirk Herbstreit did his best to describe why the passing game hasn’t worked this year, why not admit that the running game hasn’t exactly blossomed either. And tell us why. With that glorious combo of running talent they’ve assembled, they still only ran for 185 yards Saturday ((Samuel, 46 yds, Weber, 46 yds, and Barrett, 92 yds), and still…the wear and tear on Barrett is simply too high risk.
You’ve got all that beef up front. You’ve out-recruited the Alabamas, Michigans, and Tennessees to get it, so drive people off the line of scrimmage and dominate. What did Joni Mitchell sing? You never know you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
Then, after the defense brings their safeties up in run defense, you hit Noah Brown over the top, or Parris Campbell, whomever. Or Dontre Wilson, whose 43 yards receiving Saturday amounted to one very big catch and run.
“I came in at halftime and was ready to tear into people,” said Urban Meyer afterwards. “But I just saw a bunch of professionals going about their business (meaning his assistant coaches.)
Credit Meyer for his confidence, and for having confidence in the people he’s hired. But Woody Hayes could have gone about that business, as well.
Wisconsin had the ball on offense for 32:09. Ohio State had the ball for 27:51. Figure it out. Too close.
Still, a win’s a win and Ohio State wasn’t the only national Top Ten team Saturday with an ugly win (see Clemson).
And the Buckeyes did finish the game with 411 total yards.
And when the game was on the line in overtime, the defense DID RISE to the occasion with a stirring goal line stand, culminating in a sack of Wisconsin QB Alex Hornibrook. To be sure, there were enough positives about which to write.
No one in the history of football has invented a better mouse trap than winning the line of scrimmage – pounding on an over-matched opponent. Take a lesson from Wisconin’s last game with Michigan, when the Badgers lost the line of scrimmage in that game, too. There was no trickery from Michigan in that game. They beat Wisconsin physically.
In the meantime, the bigger concern is…how many hits and how much punishment can J.T. Barrett absorb? He carried the ball 21 times Saturday night. Nearly twice the number of carries for Weber (11) and Curtis Samuel (12).
Think about this (and try not to think too much). What does your season look like if your quarterback blows out a knee or breaks his leg…again? You’ve recruited all that talent. You’ve built a roster to look like Ohio State. You’ve created the irresistible force. So play like it.
Of the 23 points scored by Wisconsin on Saturday, nine were off field goals. They were not the immovable object!
Why out-think yourself? Just take what’s there and win.
Or am I the only one?