We’re a third of the way through the college football regular season, and just knowing that gives me something to be grumpy about. However, we’re here to talk about Ohio State’s 52-21 thrashing of the Wisconsin Badgers. I’ll be honest, I didn’t see this big of a beatdown coming, but I certainly didn’t hate it. However, there were some things that I did hate about it and that’s why we’re all here, so let’s get to it.
These are the things that got my goat on Saturday night.
Unavailability List Grows
Even before kickoff, I was irritated. Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Denzel Burke joined a growing number of players who weren’t available for the Big Ten opener, and although the Buckeyes recruit well and seem to have sufficient depth, you never want to watch the game with a roster handy so you can figure out who just gave up that first down. It’s good that some of the backups are getting meaningful snaps and that Julian Fleming continues to show what he can do when healthy, but I like my starters on the field for big games, thank you very much.
Catch the Dang Ball
After watching Maryland’s opening kickoff debacle on the first play of the Terrapins’ game against Michigan earlier in the day, it was super not great to see Chip Trayanum take his eyes off the ball on Wisconsin’s game-opening kickoff. The Buckeyes were fortunate to fall on it and avoid starting the game from behind as Maryland did. Kids want to make plays and sometimes the moment gets the best of them, so I understand it, but that was a tough situation to put the team in just seconds into the game. At least the Buckeyes had no trouble scampering down the field to open the scoring.
Kickoffs Continue to Go Out of Bounds
This baffles me beyond comprehension. I watched parts of 15 different college football games over the weekend, and at least four full games. Granted, I didn’t see every kickoff from each game I watched, but I saw a whole lot of kickoffs. Besides Ohio State’s, I only saw one other kickoff all weekend go out of bounds. I’m not here to argue that my observations follow any kind of scientific method for extrapolating data. I’m just here to say that on a campus the size of Ohio State’s and with a program as successful as the Buckeyes have been, I fail to understand why the team continues to find guys who kick the ball sideways instead of out of the back of the end zone.
That’s another gripe, actually. When the kickoffs were left short, Wisconsin returned all but one of them beyond the yard marker where the Badgers would have started had the ball gone out of the end zone or the return man had called for a fair catch. This got corrected (eventually) in-game, but while watching, it was a constant source of irritation, like when something gets under your contact lens at work and you don’t have your glasses or a spare pair with you.
Referees are people who work at football games, and people get bored at work sometimes, regardless of what their job is. However, just because you’re bored, that’s no reason to start throwing your yellow handkerchief around the field just for something to do.
Wisconsin had done nothing in the game offensively and Ohio State led 28-0. I like shutouts. Shutouts are fun and give you a chance to brag about your team’s defense, which was an abomination at times last year. However, a referee decided to throw a flag on Jyaire Brown for pass interference on an uncatchable ball that wasn’t even intended for the receiver he was covering. Brown’s receiver cut inside, and Graham Mertz overthrew a deeper receiver that was further downfield by a good 10 yards.
That call jumpstarted Wisconsin’s offense, culminating in the Badgers’ first points of the night. It was the first penalty of the game out of only eight called all night on both teams combined. It came in the second quarter. Clearly, somebody was bored at work.
Settling for Three
C.J. Stroud had another outstanding night, especially considering the competition, but he missed a throw to Cade Stover in the end zone near the end of a drive, and then TreVeyon Henderson had a chance to run to daylight out to his left and pick up a first down, but he instead got five yards and then only three more on third down. Ryan Day felt he had to send on the field goal kicker, and I don’t mind that decision or the chance to get Noah Ruggles some in-game reps, but two of the three plays that preceded that field goal are the kind that stick in my craw, and I don’t like having things in my craw.
Settle Down, Sonny
Ohio State was the beneficiary of a punting failure by Wisconsin that went into the end zone for a touchback. It’s always good to get that extra room for the offense after getting a defensive stop. It opens the playbook and reduces the chances of something bad happening. However, Sonny Styles chose such a punt to commit a personal foul. This pinned Ohio State back to its own 10-yard line. Boys will be boys, and sometimes emotions run high in a conference game, but bailing the punter out makes me grind my teeth.
As I mentioned earlier, Stroud had a great night overall against a statistically strong defense and one that will likely finish near the top of the conference in almost all statistical categories. But with time running down before halftime, Ohio State wanted to push the ball down the field for one more scoring chance, knowing Wisconsin would receive the kickoff to start the third quarter. Stroud threw a pass down the right for Marvin Harrision Jr., but put a little too much on it and John Torchio intercepted it. Luckily, the Badgers were unable to capitalize on the mistake.
Speaking of Wisconsin not capitalizing… the Badgers decided to go deep on a fourth-down play from the OSU 41-yard line on their ensuing drive. JK Johnson got absolutely roasted on the play, but Tanner McCalister came over and broke up the play at the last minute to bail out his teammate. Hopefully the coaches will have plenty of time to go over film with some of those backup cornerbacks this week because a better passing team probably would have punished the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Allen Breaks a Big One
Ohio State did a great job for the most part on Braelon Allen, the excellent sophomore running back for Wisconsin. He was able to have some success in the second half but still wasn’t breaking free. Until he did. On the first play of a drive, Allen went over left tackle and ran free for 75 yards for a touchdown. It was gross… like watching last year’s Ohio State defense. If I wanted to see that, I have YouTube highlights from other teams I can watch.
Those were the things that served as the gum on the bottom of my shoe from an otherwise sublime Ohio State performance against Wisconsin. What stood out to you? Let me know in the comments below. Next up for the Buckeyes: Rutgers. I’m already irate.