Two completely anemic offenses led by inefficient passing attacks, subpar rushing attacks, and a total inability to convert on third down. Two teams desperately trying to lose, and refusing to take advantage of the numerous chances that they had to pull away. An astounding performance from a punter to save Ohio State from a loss to an average (that may be generous) Big Ten foe. We are currently in Jim Tressel purgatory at Ohio State.
That all may sound like hyperbole if you just look at the final stats in Ohio State’s 26-6 victory over Michigan State. Dwayne Haskins threw for 227 yards on 24-39 passing, and while they certainly isn’t great, it seems far better than “anemic.” The same can be said for the rushing attack, led almost entirely by Mike Weber’s 104 yards on 22 carries. That seems fine, if not a little low. All of Ohio State’s stats yesterday seem fine, if you didn’t watch the game.
Those stats are pretty much useless when looking at how the game actually went though. Ohio State couldn’t run at all for most of the game, and a majority of Weber’s yards (56 to be exact) came in the fourth quarter, when the game was mostly decided thanks to some Spartan miscues, and Ohio State was just trying to run out the clock on a Michigan State defense that spent most of the day backed up in their own territory because of some awesome Buckeye punting.
The passing yards are also pretty deceptive. A good chunk of those yards (112) came on six plays, and Ohio State was unable to turn most of those big plays into points, as the Buckeyes had just two offensive touchdowns on the day, including one in garbage time.
Ohio State won. Ohio State is 9-1. They’re three wins from the playoff. But for the sixth straight game, there was a significant amount of time where the Buckeyes were seriously challenged. That six-game stretch includes games against five-loss Indiana, five-loss Minnesota, five-loss Purdue, seven-loss Nebraska, and now, the team with possibly the worst offense of any P5 team. Ohio State won ugly against a bad team, because that’s what Ohio State does in 2018. Let’s talk Buckeye stocks.
- Drue Chrisman, P: It feels silly to say about a punter, but Drue Chrisman single-handedly (single-footedly?) won this game for Ohio State. He pinned Michigan State inside their own six yard line five times in a row, starting on Michigan State’s first drive of the third quarter and spanning all the way to their first drive of the fourth quarter.
Chrisman, and gunners Terry McLaurin and Jeffrey Okudah were all fantastic, and I seriously don’t think Ohio State wins without them. Michigan State’s offense is dreadful, yes, but if they have even decent field position, they probably find the end zone at least once, and Ohio State loses nine of their 26 points that came directly from Michigan State being pinned in shadow of their own goal line.
Chrisman was the only Buckeye in this game deserving of being named to the blue-chip stocks part of this list, because he was just about the only Buckeye that played particularly well. Some defenders were pretty solid, but I think that too is a result of Michigan State always being up against their own end zone. Chrisman was spectacular, and you should watch his punt reel.
MJ's Shrug Game, except it's for punting. pic.twitter.com/JzR6Ii8sCD— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) November 10, 2018
- Brendon White, S: Brendon White didn’t have as good of a game yesterday as his breakout performance against Nebraska last week, but he was still super solid in the backfield with Jordan Fuller. He didn’t have a ton of chances to make plays, because, well, Michigan State was up against their own end zone all game, but he still picked up five tackles, didn’t get burned, and was as good in man coverage with a ten-yard cushion (good stuff, Greg Schiano) as you could possibly expect from a safety. White deserves to have the starting spot locked down for the rest of the season, and I imagine that he will after yesterday’s showing.
- Mike Weber, RB: While a good amount of his yards came when the game was mostly in hand, I’ll give credit where it’s due: Mike Weber stepped up yesterday. J.K. Dobbins was struggling quite a bit against the stout Michigan State front seven, and Weber’s ability to run outside gave Ohio State enough of a spark offensively that they didn’t just revert to the air raid that we saw against Purdue. It wasn’t a great showing by any means, but Weber did the best that he could in tough circumstances (having a poorly coached line and terrible play calling against the best rush defense in America).
- The defense: Like with Weber, I think some context needs to be added to what was statistically a good day for Ohio State’s embattled defense. Yes, they held Michigan State’s offense to six points. That’s awesome, and a big part of why the Buckeyes won. However, Michigan State’s offense is a trash fire, and it spent all day trying (and failing) to either not fumble snaps or take safeties. The defense did what it was supposed to do, and helped the offense out by not getting gashed for too many big plays (don’t think I forgot about that 47-yard run by noted slow person Rocky Lombardi).
- Ohio State’s offense: This offense stinks. The line isn’t able to get any kind of push, because Greg Studrawa is their coach (he’s such a good recruiter though!!!). That kills the rushing attack, and causes Ohio State to do something completely insane like benching their Heisman-caliber quarterback in the red zone. Everything about this offense is a mess right now, and coasting on talent is going to hurt them against a great defense like Michigan’s.
- “Martell package”: I saw a lot of support for the “Martell package” before, during, and after this game, and I’ve gotta say, I completely disagree with the general sentiment that bringing Tate Martell in for red zone plays is a good idea. I hate benching the starting quarterback in the red zone. I hated it with Cardale Jones, and I hate it now. It’s the least creative solution for a team that can’t run up the middle, and it’s a band-aid fix at best. Ohio State needs to design motions and formations that help level the numbers in the box. That’s the job of a coaching staff, and just like in 2015, they aren’t doing it.
- Sell: Greg Schiano to the highest bidder. Greg Schiano should go back to the NFL, where he can continue not knowing how to coach a defense, but for a fanbase that doesn’t care enough to get mad at him. He hasn’t fixed any of the problems that have ailed Ohio State all season, and he needs to go when the season is over. He isn’t the only one either.
- Sell: Greg Studrawa and Bill Davis. No one wants them, so I’m not sure where they’d go, but both Billy Davis and Greg Studrawa need to be gone at season’s end, just like Greg Schiano. They’re incompetent, and it’s embarrassing that a top-five program like Ohio State let its head coach hire three people entirely because of a prior friendship with them.
On top of that, I have no confidence that Urban Meyer will actually do what needs to be done, and fire his three stooges. He’s never been willing to fire bad coaches, and there’s no reason to think that the added connection of a close friendship with each one would make him any more willing.