Ohio State’s day went more or less according to plan in the Buckeyes’ 56-14 win over the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. I wasn’t among those freaking out before the game about bad weather, because I’ve seen C.J. Stroud operate Ryan Day’s offense in the snow before. It’s not the same thing as heavy winds. Still, with a number of players still out for this game — or added to the seemingly growing list of injured — depth was one of my concerns going in.
It shouldn’t have been, because it turned out to be an easy afternoon. Still, it wasn’t perfect, and in my role as your Grumpy Old Buckeye, I’m on a never-ending quest for perfection. So, these are the things from the OSU win that made me say some stuff under my breath to prevent my daughter from hearing them.
Enough with the Wide Receiver Screens
Ohio State is bad at wide receiver screens. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being bad at one thing if you recognize your limitations, but the Buckeyes continue to run them. The calls themselves aren’t necessarily wrong. It’s that the perimeter blocking has been insufficient. The Buckeyes called another one — and completed it to Marvin Harrison Jr. — on the game’s first play from scrimmage, with two receivers against one defensive back. That’s a favorable match-up for the offense. But Emeka Egbuka missed the block on the edge and the play went nowhere.
Two plays later, the Buckeyes punted after starting the game with a three-and-out. If your receivers can’t block those plays, they’re never going to work.
Backup QB Syndrome
Ohio State has been oddly vulnerable against backup quarterbacks at times over the years. That seemed to be the case again when Dexter Williams II replaced Indiana starter Connor Bazelak in the second quarter, just after Ohio State went up 21-0. Williams started Indiana’s touchdown drive with a run for a first down and then completed a third-down pass to A.J. Barner over Cam Brown to put the Hoosiers on the board.
Coverage Good, Execution Bad
Speaking of that Indiana touchdown, Brown had sufficient coverage to break it up but did not locate the ball well, throwing out an arm nowhere near where the ball was coming down. Barner went up over him and Moss’d him as a result. Locating that pass would have made knocking it down a lot easier. It’s a nitpick, because Indiana’s guy was a whole lot bigger and made a good play, but it was preventable and I wanted a shutout because I’m just that demanding.
Julian’s Drops Continue
Last week, Julian Fleming had a tough game with multiple dropped passes. You can blame some of it on the weather if you like, but those weren’t difficult, one-handed chances. When receivers get two hands on the pass, they should bring them in, and he didn’t. He had an opportunity in the second quarter to set Ohio State up with a second-and-goal, but he allowed the ball to hit him in the chest and dropped an easily catchable ball. Indiana got pressure on Stroud on third down and Ohio State punted instead of having a red zone possession.
More Misery with Miyan’s Injury
It’s been a miserable year for key injuries at Ohio State’s skill positions. With TreVeyon Henderson, Evan Pryor, TC Caffey, and Chip Trayanum all out of commission at running back entering this game. Near the end of a huge first half, it was Miyan Williams’ turn, when his foot got caught awkwardly underneath him while being tackled in open space — where he spent most of the first half.
Williams was carted off and was in street clothes with crutches and a walking boot in the second half. That left just Dallan Hayden and Swiss Army knife Xavier Johnson as healthy backs. Both did well, but the Buckeyes are running out of guys.
Ryan Day admitted after the game to being a bit bullheaded about running in short yardage situations. It isn’t that running is necessarily a bad choice, but there are ways to maximize success and — well, there is what Ohio State did instead. The Buckeyes brought in their jumbo package, which essentially brings all 11 defenders near the ball without having to keep the safeties honest and keep the corners out wide.
Sure, Ohio State’s line should be better in these situations, but it has already shown that it isn’t. So, instead of spreading the field to run or passing out of that jumbo package, the Buckeyes did what Indiana expected, running Hayden and Mitch Rossi into a 9-man box on third and fourth down late in the second quarter.
Also, why not kick that field goal when you’ve got Noah Ruggles? It’s like Day thinks field goals are somehow beneath his offense. At least Day adjusted later in the game and threw out of the jumbo package.
Indiana decided to pull out all the stops at the start of the third quarter to try to climb back into the game — a wise strategy. The Hoosiers opened the second half with a reverse that went 44 yards through the OSU defense. Tommy Eichenberg had a shot at a tackle for loss but couldn’t make the play. Eichenberg has been outstanding this season, and nobody makes every play but that’s one he’ll want back. Again, I’m looking for perfection because I’m an irrational fan.
Going Fast = Another Bad Play
The Buckeyes got a stop on fourth down and took over on downs for their first possession of the second half. Ohio State promptly went three-and-out and once again it wasn’t necessary. Two Hayden runs picked up nine yards and then the Buckeyes decided to line up and go quickly on third down. As we’ve seen many times over the past few seasons, when the Buckeyes go quickly, bad things usually happen — penalties and negative plays, typically.
In this case, it was a run, with Stroud keeping and barely getting back to the line of scrimmage. The team seems to willfully lack self-awareness in this area. It almost never works but the Buckeyes keep doing it. If the team went fast all the time, it might work, but Ohio State doesn’t do up-tempo that much and it always shows.
Fouls are Still Fouls in Blowouts
Ohio State’s final drive of the third quarter ended in a punt because the referees had no interest in doing their jobs. Harrison took a two-handed shove in the back just before the ball arrived on one of those plays, and the pass would likely have been picked off if the standout receiver hadn’t managed to get a hand on it to prevent the interception. A couple of plays later, Fleming went up for a pass but was prevented from raising his left arm for the catch by an early grab that went uncalled.
The score shouldn’t dictate when the officials allow breaking of rules. Sure, a few borderline plays went uncalled earlier in the game, but Indiana ramped up the severity of interference on that drive and somehow never reached the threshold of when a referee deemed it enough to call. If Harrison’s was let go, I’m not sure there was a threshold at that point, because that one was blatant and easy to spot.
Stocksdale’s Stock Drops (Along with the Football)
With the lopsided score, Ohio State stuck second-year receiver Reis Stocksdale in on the punt return team and bad things happened. The first kick went 10 yards over his head, but he opted to try to catch it anyway and lost it, although it didn’t cost Ohio State, which recovered. The second time seemed a much easier one to field and he signaled for a fair catch, but then… didn’t catch it.
In my opinion, it seems bad to have someone who can’t catch punts out there fielding them. A play after the second muff, Indiana scored its second touchdown of the game. Every team in college football seems to have the arcane art of “catching punts” figured, out but Ohio State continues to make it way more adventurous than it should be.
Those are the things that made me apoplectic on Saturday. What stood out to you? Let me know in the comments section below. Obviously, there was once again way more good than bad. Williams, Hayden, Johnson, and Harrison all had huge games and the defense was nearly impenetrable most of the day. Lathan Ransom and Ronnie Hickman were particularly good. Kamryn Babb finally got an opportunity to impact a game as well.
Next week, we’ll do it all again as the Buckeyes visit Maryland.