Earlier this week, the 15th anniversary of Training Day, of one of this writer’s favorite films, came and went. For the uninitiated, Training Day follows the trail of veteran Los Angeles Police Department narcotics officer Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) and rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) over 24 hours as the latter attempts to prove that he is fit to serve in Harris’ elite detective unit.
Washington’s performance as the extremely shady Harris garnered him a deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. As much as Hawke (who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor) shines by developing his character from pushover to badass moral authority over the film’s 122 minutes, it is Washington that consistently scene-steals by displaying Harris’ understandable-yet-frightening penchant for street justice and overall capacity to leap over lines a just cop should never cross. Scott Glenn, Cliff Curtis, and Snoop Dogg (seriously!) also shine in supporting roles.
Ohio State’s 38-17 victory over Indiana on Saturday failed to produce the same kind of thrilling drama — even though Indiana, per usual, hung around for awhile — but the contest did feature a few exceptional performances.
So, let’s get on with the rankings. A hearty thanks to Matt Brown for filling in for me last week.
1. The Silver Bullets
Another game, another sterling showing from Ohio State’s precocious defense. The unit, which entered the game first in the nation in scoring defense and sixth in defensive S&P+, lived up to its billing opposite Indiana. The Buckeyes limited the Hoosiers (17th in the country in passing offense) to 182 yards through the air, with Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow completing just half of his 28 attempts. More impressive was Ohio State’s run defense, as the Hoosiers averaged a measly 2.5 yards on 40 rushes.
After Indiana crept within seven following a 13-play, 89-yard drive to open the second half, the Buckeyes clamped down. The Hoosiers’ next three drives ended in punts. When Marcus Baugh’s drop resulted in an Indiana interception early in the fourth quarter, Ohio State’s defense stiffened, stuffing the Hoosiers on 4th-and-1 from the Buckeyes’ four-yard line. The Silver Bullets notched another turnover on downs on Indiana’s subsequent drive and iced the game with a pick by Malik Hooker. (Shoutout to the party-killing refs who called back Hooker’s pick-six. Herman Boone disciples, to be sure.)
A final defensive nugget: 127 of the 128 teams that play in the NCAA’s Division I Football Subdivision have permitted their opponents to score a rushing touchdown this fall.
Ohio State has not.
2. Parris Campbell
When Indiana kicked off with a minute and three seconds remaining in the second quarter, it sure looked like the Buckeyes were destined to lead 17-10 entering intermission.
Then Parris Campbell happened. The redshirt sophomore wide receiver, primarily known for his blocking chops, took the ensuing kickoff 91 yards down to the Hoosiers’ six-yard line. J.T. Barrett scored on a five-yard TD run two plays later, and order was somewhat restored. Campbell came six yards short of Ohio State’s first touchdown on a kick return since 2010.
3. J.R. Smith
Team Swish was also spotted hanging out on the Ohio Stadium sidelines with Thad Matta. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough Earl Joseph Smith III in my life.
4. Ohio State’s relationship with the forward pass
Barrett, who has quite obviously performed at a high level this season, submitted what amounts to an off-day for him. The redshirt junior began the day 4-of-9 for 41 yards and finished 9-of-21 for 93 yards with a touchdown and a pick. (Indiana came dangerously close to corralling several additional interceptions.) Overall, Barrett’s showing was a little reminiscent of his nightmare outing (9-of-16, 46 yards) in last season’s defeat to Michigan State.
For a two quarter-plus span, Barrett and the Buckeyes failed to complete a pass for positive yardage. The passing game’s ineffectiveness led the coaching staff to ride Barrett hard on the ground, as the QB logged a career-high 26 carries. The decision to feature Barrett — who was effective, gaining over five yards per tote — over Mike Weber (who ran for 71 yards on 15 carries) and Curtis Samuel (who averaged over nine yards on his nine carries) was a little curious given Barrett’s lengthy injury history and his importance to the offense/team.
As noted by Cleveland.com’s Bill Landis, Samuel, a legitimate Heisman contender, recorded just one touch on the Buckeyes’ first 25 plays. Post-game, Meyer acknowledged that Samuel didn’t touch the ball enough.
A shoutout must be given to Indiana’s defense, though, which has its best unit in years and played well.
5. Michigan State
The sky seems to be falling a bit in East Lansing as the Spartans dropped their third straight game, falling 31-14 to visiting BYU. Michigan State just isn’t the same defensively without Riley Bullough, and the offense was so bad on Saturday that Mark Dantonio benched starting QB Tyler O’Connor.
A 7-5 (or worse) season could be in the cards for the 2-3 Spartans, who still have home games remaining against Michigan and Ohio State as well as road trips to Maryland and Penn State.
My top three Training Day scenes. Spoiler alert, I guess.
1. King Kong
Wow. Where to begin. At the onset of this scene, Hoyt, deep into Harris’ home turf in the Baldwin Village ‘Jungle’, is visibly terrified and on the defensive. Hoyt is also on the receiving end of a cutthroat verbal barrage from Harris, who doesn’t believe Hoyt has the stomach to shoot and prevent his would-be boss from retrieving his gun and stolen money.
“I don’t believe you’ve got it in you, Jake. I’m a go get [the gun] right now.”
Hoyt comes of age in perhaps the strangest way possible: by shooting Harris ... in the butt! If you’re watching the clip, notice the gang members in the back — many of which were real, live gang members — cracking up after they realize Hoyt has emasculated Harris. But Hoyt isn’t done. It’s his turn to taunt (“The next one WILL kill you”) and he doubles down on his teardown of Harris by ripping off Harris’ detective badge. That Hoyt gains the respect of Harris’ neighborhood and is permitted to leave as Cle Shaheed Sloan holds a gun to Harris’ head is the icing on the cake.
Oh, and then there’s Harris’ iconic rant to end the scene, a desperate, machismo-laced tirade that invokes a skyscraper-sized ape. What a mother-bleepin’ day, indeed.
The highlight of this exchange is obviously the NSFW court room peanut butter story told by Harris Yulin, but the undercurrent of corruption is what I find striking about the entire scene.
As the scene wears on, it’s evident that Harris’ shadowy ways are not only permitted but perhaps endorsed by the Wise Men. And it’s jarring to see neither Yulin, Tom Berenger, or Raymond J. Berry oppose Harris’ incredibly illegal and morally bankrupt plan to pay off the Russian mafia outfit that is threatening to murder him.
In many reviews of Training Day, Harris’ character was described as ‘seductive.’ What kind of car would seductive cop drive? A black 1979 Monte Carlo! I mean, Harris even refers to the car as “sexy.”
I always grin at the brief exchange Harris and Hoyt have before Harris turns the car on. Hoyt asks if the office is back at LAPD’s narcotics division. Harris barely finishes his line — “Ya in the office, baby” — as the opening number to “Still D.R.E” kicks on, with director Antoine Fuqua then artfully adding in set piece shots of the Monte Carlo as Harris and Hoyt begin to cruise the streets of L.A.