Buckeyes didn’t put on an offensive show but did enough to hold off Washington … Ohio State builds 28-3 lead and survives 20-point fourth quarter for Huskies … Ryan Day takes over for Meyer and needs to consider staff changes.
Columbus – If you have a personality like Eeyore’s, if you see a black cloud in every silver lining, if you’re the kind of person who would win the lottery and immediately think about how much taxes you’ll have to pay, you could easily pick apart Ohio State’s 28-23 victory over Washington in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Yes, the Buckeyes produced less than 100 yards in the second half, Dwayne Haskins and his golden arm missed a cruise-ship-full of open receivers after halftime, and they failed to follow the Hollywood script of sending retiring coach Urban Meyer off with a resounding victory. But can anyone really complain about a 13-1 season that concludes with a win over the PAC-12 champion in one of college football’s greatest venues?
If that’s your inclination, have at it.
But in my mind, to emerge from the media-fueled mayhem of preseason camp, the loss of the greatest pass rusher in program history in Nick Bosa and a massive letdown at Purdue at midseason — to go through all of that and still end up as Big Ten kings and a top-five team nationally is nothing short of a remarkable feat.
The Buckeyes built a 21-3 halftime lead thanks largely to the masterful Haskins. He was 17-of-24 for 163 yards and three TDs in the first two quarters, while Mike Weber, looking as sprightly as he has all season, rushed for nearly 100 yards.
On their first possession of the second half, Haskins led them on an 80-yard TD drive for a 28-3 lead, going 5-for-5 through the air for 75 yards.
It wasn’t always pretty. They had three false-starts in their first four possessions, including one on their first play while Haskins was getting ready to change the call. Seriously?
Pre-snap infractions have been all too abundant this year. They had five in the first half alone, counting an off-sides on the defense.
But having a quarterback with a flame-thrower for an arm makes up for a lot of flaws. Haskins hit Parris Campbell for a 12-yard touchdown, Johnnie Dixon for a 19-yard score and Rashod Berry for a one-yard TD when the defense was loading up to stop an end-zone plunge.
After that, the Buckeyes were more conservative than Sean Hannity. They wanted to build on their monumental lead but weren’t quite committed to doing what it would take to achieve it.
Their final five possessions, aside from an end-of-game kneel-down, were four three-and-outs and one four-play series.
The Huskies have one of the top defenses in the nation — the PAC-12 will always produce a respectable champion — but the Buckeyes put far too much pressure on their defense.
The group managed to hold up, but just barely. The game wasn’t over until a failed onside kick with 42 seconds left.
Washington ended up with a 444-364 edge in total yards, and Haskins finished a pedestrian (for him) 25-of-37 for 251 yards.
But those three TD passes gave him 50 for the season — 15 more than the school record — and 4,831 yards. Remarkable.
The Ryan Day era will almost certainly begin without Haskins, who likely will be a top-10 draft pick if he comes out. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t. He could become an instant millionaire, and while he’s been sending mixed signals, players always seem to opt for NFL riches in his position.
Day’s first task is more recruiting — it’s always about recruiting — and then address his staff.
I know there’s been chatter about replacing offensive-line coach Greg Studrawa, and I’ve been in that camp at times this year. But consider this: Ohio State went into the game with the No. 2 offense in the nation with an average of 548.8 yards and were eighth in scoring at 43.5. The passing game vaporized Big Ten records. And the running game, after some early subpar results, actually put together a bit of a surge in the last half of the season.
They had a modest 113 yards on 32 attempts against Washington, but in their previous five games, they had 911 yards on 223 tries (4.1 average) and 10 touchdowns.
J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber split carries this season. Going into the bowl, they had a combined 1,887 yards. If one back had gotten all those totes and had an 1,800-yard season, we’d be saying, “What’s not to like?”
The Buckeyes also gave up just 23 sacks in 14 games.
My opinion changed when Ohio State shelved that run-pass option. The linemen never could get a handle on that. Here’s the quandary: Fire out as if it’s a run, and you’re an ineligible receiver downfield if Haskins throws. Hold your ground at the line, and there’s no hole if there’s a handoff.
Though the running game never looked like it did in the J.T. Barrett years, nobody in Buckeye Land should want to go back to that. And would any other team in the country be considering changes to its offensive staff after that level of production? Doubtful.
Day has already lured Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to his staff, an absolute steal. Lots of schools were after Yurcich, and the Buckeyes will have him to help keep their cutting-edge offense humming while also coaching their next quarterback, whether that’s Haskins, Tate Martell, Matthew Baldwin or perhaps a certain transfer from Georgia.
As for the defensive assistants, let’s not get fooled by some decent showings to finish the year against Michigan, Northwestern and Washington.
While I don’t think we can fault Greg Schiano entirely — the Buckeyes didn’t have a single player in the back seven make first-, second- or third-team all-conference in the coach’s vote — there’s no way Day can justify not making a change in defensive coordinators after the Buckeyes had the worst season statistically in program history.
Linebackers coach Bill Davis probably shouldn’t get too comfortable, either.
Day, though, had better be ready to face the crucible of coaching at Ohio State. Officially, Meyer finished his seven years with an 83-9 record for an insanely good .902 winning percentage.
But the 39-year-old coach doesn’t lack confidence. I saw a Christmas greeting from him online saying how much he’s looking forward to leading the program for the next 10 or 20 years.