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Grumpy Old Buckeye: Ohio State at Purdue

Don’t let winning by 34 fool you into thinking there’s nothing to complain about.

Ohio State v Purdue Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Ohio State went to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on the Purdue Boilermakers in a matchup that can best be described as a just-don’t-screw-this-up game for the Buckeyes. While I didn’t expect any trouble out of Purdue, that has also been the case in past years, when Purdue very much caused a lot of trouble. Things can get dicey in the Twilight Zone-esque, joy-dampening environs of Ross-Ade Stadium.

Ohio State won big, but I’ve never met a sporting event in which I couldn’t find something to complain about — especially when that’s my whole thing with this column. Here’s what had me screaming into a pillow on Saturday to avoid my wife having me committed.

Setting the Tone

The two teams began the day on vastly different notes offensively. Purdue went on offense first and picked up 19 yards on a simple toss play on the team’s first snap. Ohio State went with a quick out to Julian Fleming, who dropped an easy pass right in his hands. While those first plays turned out not to be a microcosm of the game, it was a reminder that things sometimes go very oddly at Ross-Ade Stadium. No Ohio State fan ever wants to be reminded of that...

Get It Together, Peacock!

While it would be convenient and awesome to only have to worry about one location to see Ohio State play and (if necessary) subscribe to just that one service, that’s simply not the reality these days. Like many others, I had to add Peacock to my growing list of subscriptions prior to the game.

Some streaming services still have a long way to go in producing quality sports programming. For example, the play clock function on Peacock’s score bug wasn’t working early in this game. I think it started working early in the second quarter, but before then, it often just stuck at 40 seconds, refusing to tell me how much time was left for each team to snap the ball.

And the broadcast team sometimes left quite a bit to be desired. I couldn’t be bothered to remember his name, but the play-by-play announcer once said, “I’m told this is the world’s largest drum,” as the on-screen subject was Purdue’s giant drum that literally says “World’s Largest Drum” on it. Where else are you going to get that kind of hard-hitting, tell-it-like-it-is announcing?

Not Exactly Automatic

Ohio State scored early, moving down the field mostly through passes to Marvin Harrison Jr., which is honestly a great way to move the ball. Harrison scored on a 14-yard reception to give the Buckeyes the early lead. However, Jayden Fielding missed the point-after-touchdown.

If there is a complete unit that has lagged behind and consistently doesn’t execute to an acceptable (and easily sustainable) level, it has to be Parker Fleming’s special teams. There was also a kickoff out of bounds later in the game, just to throw things back to the Urban Meyer era.

Personally, I’d rather have a full time linebackers coach working under Jim Knowles than a full-time coach dedicated to special teams, especially if the special teams aren’t going to be special.

Dial It In

Ohio State’s second drive covered 51 yards and extended the Buckeye lead to 13-0 on a Devin Brown run. However, that drive could have been disastrous early, as the first two snaps were awful. Center Carson Hinzman was not dialed in to start the drive. His first snap of the drive was off to Kyle McCord’s right, where it was fielded in the air by Xavier Johnson, who went for five yards. McCord then made a nice grab to corral a second straight snap off to his right before giving it to Chip Trayanum, who ran for 10 more yards.

Those 15 yards moved the ball into Purdue territory, but either of those snaps could have been a turnover instead, had Johnson and McCord not been alert. Even if the first one was supposed to be a direct snap, which I don’t think it was, based on McCord trying to catch it, the second was still quite ugly. A turnover there could have given Purdue some momentum.

OK, We Get It: You Have a New Toy

The red zone package featuring Brown was an interesting wrinkle I didn’t hate, but that doesn’t mean I want to see it every time. I understand wanting to show more variations and forcing future opponents to spend time on defending it, but it was costly on Ohio State’s third drive.

Brown threw a dangerous pass into traffic on first-and-goal in the direction of Gee Scott. That could have been disastrous. Instead, it was the next play that turned into a dumpster fire when Brown was met at the goal line and fumbled while going into the end zone. Purdue recovered, thwarting the Buckeyes’ drive. That would have been more costly against a better opponent, but throwing away points is never ideal.

I’d rather have kept a couple of those Brown plays hidden in case they’re needed next week.

Marv’s “Average” Day

Harrison is such an amazing player that it seems weird when he only has a great day and not an insane one. The wide receiver caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown, which is a big day for most receivers. But it was a curiously normal day for such a standout player. In 13 targets, Harrison had multiple bobbles and drops. Some of that can be a product of the weather and getting his gloves wet, but not all of it. One of his bobbles took a touchdown off the board, although Cade Stover picked him up on the next play.

Holding and Other Calamities

Josh Simmons made yet another critical mistake this week when a holding penalty by the left tackle nullified a big pass play to Fleming. This mistake by Simmons was compounded two plays later by a delay of game penalty, which was the first of three such infractions by Ohio State on Saturday — a maddening clock management trend that doesn’t ever seem to go away. That drive ended up going nowhere, and Ryan Day, who (last I checked) has the ability to call a timeout (but didn’t) was obviously livid, screaming at Tony Alford, McCord, and then Simmons in rapid succession.

That was the first drive for the offense that didn’t produce points, aside from the one that would have produce points if Brown had hung onto the football.

The offense had two delay penalties on the afternoon and the punt team had one as well. Other lapses in discipline on the offensive side included an illegal snap by long snapper John Ferlmann just prior to the delay of game on the punt team, and a false start by Luke Montgomery. These types of pre-snap penalties and fouls by the offensive line have been ongoing throughout the season, and may prove much more costly later if not corrected.

Opening the Second Half

Ohio State seemed a bit late (mentally) getting into the second half on defense. Purdue drove right down the field on the Buckeyes and got a lot of help along the way. There were multiple missed tackles on a pass to Mershawn Rice that helped the Boilermakers gain 35 yards on a play that should have been stopped much sooner. That allowed Purdue to get some confidence.

Later in the drive, Lathan Ransom conceded a free first down on a pass interference penalty on 4th-and-9. Purdue ultimately missed a field goal at the end of the drive. Better teams will make Ohio State pay for those kinds of free yards.

A More Costly Line Issue

Josh Fryar got absolutely roasted by Nic Scourton, who knocked the ball out of McCord’s hands. Purdue’s Yanni Karlaftis fell on it at the Ohio State 20-yard line to set up the Boilermakers in scoring position. Turnovers are never ideal, but deep in your own territory they can be lethal in a tight game. Thankfully, this wasn’t a tight game. The offensive line has been a constant source of angst for Ohio State fans (as well as the team’s running game in 2023), and with half the season behind us, it does not seem like things will get much better.

Losing the Shutout

That fumble by McCord ultimately led to Purdue getting on the board, but it was helped by one of the problem areas the defense has shown in 2023. The Buckeyes seem incapable of making opposing quarterbacks throw more difficult passes. Everything successful for OSU opponents through the air seems to come in the middle of the field. Yes, the Buckeyes play safeties deep, looking to avoid giving up the big play. Giving up a dozen medium plays seems just as bad to me as giving up two big ones. And why Ohio State’s corners can’t play inside and force things wide, where it’s more difficult to thread balls in, is a mystery to me.

Purdue utilized slants on its only scoring drive to find the only success it had. Hudson Card threw incomplete to his left three times on the drive, but complete twice in the middle, including on a 4th-and-7 play to extend the drive and then again on the Boilermakers’ only touchdown. Had Ohio State correctly defended on the fourth down, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as Jack Sawyer was called for roughing the passer on that same play.

I didn’t see a replay from the Peacock broadcast with a good view, but from the downfield camera, it simply appeared that Sawyer hit Card just after he released the ball. I couldn’t tell from that angle if he’d gotten him up too high, but either way, a little more caution by Sawyer and some inside leverage on the coverage could have preserved the shutout. Slants have been an issue all season, and at some point, some team is just going to call it on every play until Ohio State shows it can stop them.

Those are the things that burned my bacon on Saturday (and I didn’t even point out the injuries to Trayanum and Denzel Burke). What stood out to you? Obviously, in a 41-7 win, the good is going to vastly outweigh the bad. Stover had a nice day, the Buckeyes ran the ball much better (with a nice game from Dallan Hayden), McCord was efficient, and the defense played solidly. Carnell Tate is getting even better, Brandon Inniss gave us a taste of his future to come, and we saw a little more creativity out of the play calling at times.

The first of Ohio State’s two biggest conference games looms next, with Penn State visiting the Horseshoe on Saturday at noon.