Ohio State had not lost a regular season game since the creation of this blog. It seems crazy, now that Land Grant Holy Land is now in our 3rd season, but it's true, nobody has had to write a game recap for a regular season loss yet. After Braxton Miller went down for the season, most of us expected that we'd need to write one of these at some point this year.
Just maybe not quite so soon. On a night when every Big Ten team wet the bed on some level or another, Ohio State found themselves upset at home by Virginia Tech, and now here we are, writing about a loss.
So let's take a look at everyone's stock. SPOILER ALERT: Don't look for a ton of blue chips here.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Joey Bosa, DE: On a night mostly bereft of big plays, Bosa continues to be a bright spot, breaking into the backfield and causing havoc. Bosa had two tackles for loss, and had probably the single most important play of the game, a stack of Virginia Tech QB Michael Brewer to force a fumble deep in tech territory, allowing Ohio State to tie the game at 21.
Michael Thomas, WR: The perennial Spring Game MVP had himself another nice game, grabbing six passes for 98 yards and a score. This position group was talked up a lot over the offseason for their speed and potential, but Thomas, who teased Buckeye fans with what he was capable of over the last two spring games, might be their most reliable and productive target. Thomas has probably earned himself a few more targets.
Curtis Samuel, RB: We didn't see a ton of Samuel, but he was a big part of Ohio State's second scoring drive, going 27 yards on just two caries. He finished with only 26 yards on five caries, but that healthy 5.2 yards per cary was still easily the best on the team over the day. With Ezekiel Ellliot's season off to a slow start, Samuel may be climbing his way up the depth chart to even more playing time.
Ohio State's ability to get their defense off the field: Virginia Tech is an improved squad with some nice offensive talent, and they might have found their best passing QB in years, but nobody is going to get this team confused with the Greatest Show on Turf era St.Louis Rams. Ohio State actually did a good job forcing the Hokies into 3rd and long, or 3rd and passing situations, but could not, for the life of them, finish them off. Virginia Tech was an astonishing 7/10 on 3rd down in the first half, and finished 9-17 for the game. It didn't matter if Ohio State forced them into 3rd and 5 or 3rd and 17, Virginia Tech kept finding ways to extend drives. Can't do that if you want to win big games.
The kicking game: Freshman Sean Nuernberger had a nice first game against Navy, but was 0-2 on field goals today. His first miss, a 40 yarder, was understandable. His second, a 27 yard kick that doinked off the crossbar, was substantially less so. You can't get too mad at the kid, since he's a freshman and the learning curve for a kicker is steep, but missing out on those six points hurt Ohio State a lot today.
Corey Smith, WR: The Buckeyes looked his way early and often over the air, but Smith only was able to grab a single pass, albeit one that ended up going for 23 yards. His drop in the first half robbed Ohio State of a sure touchdown that, along with the poor special teams play, could have cost the team the game. If this passing offense is going to improve, Smith has to be more consistent and reliable.
POKEMON CARD/ GREEK DEBT LEVEL OF BAD INVESTMENT:
This is a new category, but Junk Bonds really doesn't do it justice. This would be like replacing your 401k with a bunch of Charizard cards.
Ohio State's offensive line: JT Barrett was officially sacked seven times. It seemed like he was getting hit on every single play in the 4th quarter. The Buckeyes rushed for a meager 108 yards, the lowest in the Urban Meyer era. The line wasn't bad at blocking defenders, it was bad at even attracting the interest of defenders. Ohio State's total inability to protect their quarterback crushed their ability to run the ball, and turned their offense into essentially the Rex Grossman playbook...F*** it, I'm goin' downfield, which turns out to be a bad idea, given that Ohio State was facing an excellent secondary and was sporting a QB with questionable arm strength.
SELL: Dontre Wilson. Dontre Wilson is really fast. He's supposed to be a "threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball". He's supposed to be the Percy Harvin whatever in this offense. Today, he was mostly invisible, and when he makes a guy miss and takes a ball 50 yards for a TD, it'll be his first time. Wilson dropped a potential touchdown pass, rushed for -5 yards on two carries, and caught only one pass (although it was an awesome one). Maybe Wilson has a blowout game soon and grabs the mantle of the X factor of this offense. But he hasn't yet.
SELL: Ohio State on 3rd down. The Buckeyes are dead last in the Big Ten at converting 3rd downs. They were only 4/16 against Virginia Tech, which makes it impossible for an offense to be efficient. That puts a ton of pressure on your QB to bail you out with big plays, and it is pretty clear Barrett isn't ready for that yet. The Buckeyes have to do a better job at preventing 3rd and very long, and with running the ball better, and that comes back to the offensive line.
BUY: Ohio State's season not being over. Ohio State's offensive line played like total crap. Their much vaunted stable of offensive skill players was quiet. The vaunted rebuilt Ohio State secondary was decidedly "eh". AND YET, Ohio State probably still *should have* beaten a good Virginia Tech team, or at least, certainly could have. Had any number of small things gone the Buckeye's way, it's a totally different game. Running the table, including beating Michigan State, may be a tall order, but there is probably still only one game where Ohio State will be significant underdogs, and a 10-2 season with a win over Michigan is still really on the table. Did you guys even SEE the rest of the Big Ten yesterday?