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Grumpy Old Buckeye: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

Here’s what really grinded (ground?) my gears when the Buckeyes faced the Irish.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Notre Dame at Ohio State Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to your first installment of Grumpy Old Buckeye for 2022. Since this column formerly was hosted elsewhere and is new to Land-Grant Holy Land, here are the basics:

  • I am grumpy.
  • I am old.
  • I am a Buckeye (class of ’96).
  • I gripe in this weekly column after each game about the things that bothered me. Sometimes these things are quite serious, but they are often tongue-in-cheek.

Now that you know what to expect, let’s get started. The following items were the ones that had me yelling things at the TV screen, at my cats, and at the world at large from Ohio State’s 21-10 win over the fifh-ranked Fighting Irish.

The First Play

“Aw, jeeze, here we go,” I thought. Ohio State’s defense was bad last year and the source of a lot of talk and speculation during the offseason. Things didn’t look good right off the bat when the Buckeyes missed a tackle on a short pass on the first play of the game and turned it into a huge play that set up the opening field goal. What made matters worse was a penalty called on J.T. Tuimoloau for a, “blow to the head.” That call looked soft, as it appeared the initial contact was to the shoulder and the arm slipped upward and glanced off the helmet as the play continued. That one play was followed by a three-and-out, but the 54-yard catch and run allowed the Irish to grab an early 3-0 lead.

The JSN Injury Changed the Game

You never want to see kids get hurt, but if it’s your future first-round NFL pick wide receiver, you definitely don’t want to see an injury. Jaxon Smith-Njigba was shaken up on his first catch, taking C.J. Stroud’s most dependable target off the field. Although JSN was hit in the head, and there was a lot of online outrage about there not being a review over that, the report from the sideline was that he got his lower leg rolled up on the tackle. His absence was noticeable. He came back for a few plays with five minutes to play in the first half and made one catch for a short loss, but then limped off the field again.

Without Stroud’s security blanket, there were a number of misfires in the passing game as less-experienced receivers missed assignments — such as settling into an area against a zone — and it took the offense a while to get going. Notre Dame was able to put its best cover man on Marvin Harrison Jr. instead of Smith-Njigba, and he had a somewhat quiet game.

Hopefully JSN will be back on the field soon, although if there is any question about his health, he should absolutely sit the next game.

Run the Dang Ball!

For a team that wanted to show it was physical this year, the Buckeyes came out as a finesse team, throwing a lot. TreVeyon Henderson had a decent run on his first carry and Miyan Williams picked up eight on his first tote. But with 2nd-and-2 early in the game, the Buckeyes chose a rollout pass that Stroud under-threw and then couldn’t mash for the final two yards on third down when a rushing play was more expected. The offensive line can’t get into a rhythm in the run game if there aren’t runs called.

It wasn’t until Ohio State took over deep in its own territory with a slim lead that the Buckeyes fully committed to their running game, and they proceeded to march right down the field and score, all but putting the game away. While Ryan Day is a good coach, he’s also a quarterback guy and he often overlooks the run game, particularly in tight matchups. It’s nothing a little self-scouting and honesty couldn’t fix.

The Luck of the Irish

Facing a third down just shy of midfield, Tyler Buchner threw a deep ball down the left that deflected up in the air. The receiver fell, but somehow the ball fell right to him for a big catch, instead of falling literally anywhere else and forcing a punting situation. Notre Dame went on to score a touchdown at the end of the drive and took the lead for the rest of the first half, due in large part to an incredibly lucky bounce.

Later in the game, on another third down, a short pass to the tight end turned into a big gain. That could have become a huge play for Ohio State as the ball was dropped without contact while the big man lumbered up the field. Once again, the ball bounced kindly for the Irish, settling down for the fumbler to recover.

I don’t mind playing a football team, but Lady Luck needs to stay off the field — at least off the OSU opponents’ side. That’s 12 on the field and that’s illegal.

Dawand’s Dubious Hat Trick

The offensive line is believed to be a strength for this Ohio State team, and indeed that seemed the case on the game-clinching, grind-it-out, touchdown drive. But Dawand Jones made life difficult for his team with three (!) pre-snap penalties. Jones’ three false starts kept his team behind the chains. Thankfully, the penalties didn’t cost the team the victory, but those are the kinds of things that must be fixed before people start calling him “Shugarts.”

You don’t want that nickname because it means you’re a false starter and nobody wants to be known for that. You’d much rather be called “Pace” than “Shugarts” if you’re an OSU offensive lineman.

And there you have it. One down, several to go. These are the things that had the neighbors photoshopping my head over Grandpa Simpson’s to create a new, “old man yells at cloud” meme. What drove you up the wall? Let me know in the comments section below. I’ll be back next week to gripe about the Arkansas State game.