In a hard-fought, defensive struggle, the No 10. Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1, 6-1) defeated the No. 18 Michigan State Spartans (6-4, 4-3) by a score of 26-6. While the final score looks impressive, the Buckeyes piled on the points in the fourth quarter to pull away in the game’s most crucial moments.
The win was certainly a team effort, but as we do every week, there’s gotta be an MVP. Now, I know that there is a certain subset of football player and fan that does not view kickers of any sort as full-fledged members of the team. If you fall into that category, please consider this your trigger warning, because we’re about to get all up in our punter love below the break.
Week 11 MVP: Drue Chrisman
9 punts, 340 yards, 53-yard long, 6 downed inside the 20
Imagine this: you are a punter. Your team is on the road, in the freezing cold, in a game that you fully expect to be a bruising contest that very well might come down to field position. From there, also suppose that your special teams coach is also your occasionally ill-tempered Hall of Fame head coach.
With all of that in mind, how do you think that you would respond if on the first possession of the game, you shank the most shankerrific punt of your career, netting a measly four yards, giving your opponents the ball at your own 35 yard line?
While you ponder that unfortunate situation, former Ohio State punter Jonathan Thoma was able to find some personal silver lining in Chrisman’s awful opening punt.
Breaking my Twitter retirement for a moment to announce I have been erased from the Ohio State football record books. Shortest punt in Ohio State history no more!— Jonathan Thoma (@JonThoma) November 10, 2018
Despite the less than desirable record, Chrisman didn’t have much time to get into his own head as he would punt eight more times on the day, with six of them being downed inside the 20 yard line, five inside the 10, and three inside the five. His performance on Saturday gave Chrisman 14 punts downed inside the 20 this season.
Remembering back to his own awful punt, Thoma appreciates the fact that Chrisman was actually given a chance to redeem himself.
Glad they put Drue back in for the next kick. Tress didn’t let me punt again for 2 years.— Jonathan Thoma (@JonThoma) November 10, 2018
No matter how you feel about punters, if you can’t get excited about the coordinated effort between kicker and gunners in these highlights, I don’t know what to say to you. We’ll talk about the efforts to down the punts below, but check out the eight incredible punts by Chrisman below, and try to tell me that punters aren’t exceptionally skilled athletes.
MJ's Shrug Game, except it's for punting. pic.twitter.com/JzR6Ii8sCD— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 10, 2018
Having witnessed the beauty that was Chrisman’s punting extravaganza, let’s wrap up the three-act Thoma tweet story. Once Chrisman had completed his turn around, and the game was in hand, the former punter heaped praise on the current Buckeye.
Today, redemption is spelled D-R-U-E. Congrats on a record setting afternoon young man.— Jonathan Thoma (@JonThoma) November 10, 2018
Honorable Mention: Terry McLaurin and Jeffrey Okudah
McLaurin had five receptions for 63 yards while Okudah had a pair of tackles, but they are not being recognized for their offensive or defensive output. Instead, they deserve praise because of their contributions on special teams, especially in assisting Chrisman in his incredible punting escapades on the day; downing a combined four punts inside the 10 yard line between them.
Urban Meyer preaches that skill position players only get the opportunities to contribute on offense after they’ve proven themselves on kick and punt coverage. So, to see a veteran captain and an up-and-coming star both live up to those special teams expectations in a must-win game is a special testament to the importance of Meyer’s credo inside the program.
Honorable Mention: Mike Weber
22 rushes, 104 yards, 1 touchdown
While certainly not the best game of his career or even season, Weber did pick up his first 100-yard rushing performance since the season opener against Oregon State. The difference in this game between the rushes that were successful and the ones that were not often came down to play design.
On the zone-read/RPO handoffs that generally went straight into the teeth of Michigan State’s No. 1 rushing defense in the country, the Buckeyes had little success. However, when the play design was to the outside, or involved some sort of misdirection — as with the counter in the video below — both Weber and J.K. Dobbins were able to find a bit of success.
Granted, neither Buckeye back was able to bust any substantially big gains, but the fact that for the second game in a row, an OSU RB cracked the century mark is a big deal, as Urban Meyer and company look to get a bit of balance in the offensive game plan as they prep for the de facto Big Ten East championship game against TTUN in two weeks.
With his 104 yards, Weber joined Michigan’s Karan Higdon (144) and Penn State’s Miles Sanders (162) as the only rushers to eclipse 100 yards against MSU this season.