About a month ago I wrote an article titled Victory in Defeat, which highlighted my thoughts on what Ohio State needed to fix after their loss to Michigan State in the B1G Championship in order to be in a position to defeat Clemson in the Orange Bowl. With back-to-back losses for the first time since 2004 (the 2011 Luke Fickell fiasco aside), The Holy Land dissects the issues surrounding THE Ohio State Football program.
There's no question about it. There's no doubting it. The 2013 Ohio State defense was just plain bad. It was a season-long disaster, especially in the secondary. Blown coverages, penalties and missed tackles plagued the defense all year. Yes, the loss of Christian Bryant earlier in the season and Bradley Roby's apparent injury were both unfortunate. However, for a team with the clout of Ohio State, the next man up has to be able to step in, and that just wasn't the case.
Tajh Boyd averaged 9.4 yards per pass and 6.4 yards per carry on the ground. Boyd ran for 127 yards on the Buckeye defense, which was a season high. His previous season high running the ball, you may ask? 69 yards against Wake Forest. Sammy Watkins had a record-setting night with 16 catches for 227 yards. On paper, Boyd-to-Watkins looked like Brady-to-Moss. What the boxscore doesn't show, however, was the fact that the majority of Watkins yards came after the catch, mainly on missed tackles after catching a one-yard screen pass.
I ended the last article saying that "the end product you see in Miami will differ greatly from what's become all too familiar in 2013." Wrong. The end product we saw in Miami was the cliff notes version of the season, a perfect summary. Going into the off-season, the justified criticism of Luke Fickell will only get worse due to the performance of his squad. Oh, and Vonn Bell's big performance didn't help Fickell's reputation, either. "Where's he been all year?" said Buckeye fans everywhere.
In order for Ohio State's offense to maximize its potential, Braxton Miller needs to be on his A game. Besides a timely interception late in the fourth, Miller was throwing the ball efficiently, completing 16-of-24 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Carrying the ball, well that was a different story. On 18 carries, Miller only ran for 35 yards, his lowest since his one carry for seven yards against Purdue. On the read-option, Miller just looked confused. Wherever he went, two Clemson defenders were already there.
The Buckeyes ran the ball for 193 yards and threw for 234. Normally, those numbers are good enough to win, especially with 35 points and 144 penalty yards in your back pocket. The Buckeyes are 279-1-1 when scoring 35 or more points in a game, with he loss to Clemson being their first defeat. However, Ohio State's offense was second fiddle to Clemson, who ran for 198 yards and threw for 378 more. Ohio State turned the ball over four times, while Clemson only did twice. No matter what the Buckeyes did, the Tigers did it better.
It seems as if the Orange Bowl decided Miller's fate, with reports saying he will return next year for his senior season. The Buckeye faithful can only hope that 2014 will bring better fortune to the Scarlet and Gray.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda...didn't
A major part of this loss has to go on Urban Meyer. I love Meyer as much as the next guy, and hate to put him under the spotlight after starting off 24-0, but it needs to happen, and here's why. Every time Miller was shown on TV after a play, he was holding his side or rotating his shoulder while grimacing in pain. I know that when the game, and season, are on the line, you put the ball in your best players hands, and normally I'd agree. But this 2013 team wasn't a normal team.
This 2013 team featured a back-up senior quarterback who could more than likely start on 80 percent (and probably more) of the teams in Division I. Meyer, like the other millions of others watching the game, had to have noticed Miller under-throwing and short-arming the ball. There comes a time where you need to make the executive decision and do what's best for your team. Kenny Guiton was more than capable of leading that offense. A healthy Guiton is at least equally as good, if not better, than an ailing Miller. Then there's the defense.
No corrections were made on defense all game. The corners played off the ball consistently, allowing Watkins to run rapid on quick screen after quick screen after quick screen. Meyer had to have seen this, and needed to say something to Fickell. It was frustrating, as a writer, and as a fan, to watch that game. Urban Meyer isn't one to make the same mistake twice, which makes for an interesting off-season as far as the coaching staff goes.
Though the season ended on a low-note, all is not lost, Buckeye Nation. 2014 has a lot to offer. From the star-studded Dream 14 recruiting class, to the return of Miller, Ohio State will be back and competing for a national title once again. At least I hope so.