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Grumpy Old Buckeye: Ohio State at Wisconsin

Here are some of the things that got my blood boiling when the Buckeyes beat the Badgers.

Ohio State v Wisconsin Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

For the second consecutive week, the Ohio State offense spent much of the night stalling out on promising drives and another physical opponent put up a frustrating amount of fight against the Buckeyes. It all worked out in the end, but there were quite a few things that got my blood boiling against the Wisconsin Badgers. Here are some of them.

Fourth Down Failure

The OSU offensive line continues to not appear to be up to the level of a title contender. The five men in front of quarterback Kyle McCord seem to take turns switching off at key moments, and that makes it difficult to finish drives with touchdowns.

It happened early in the evening as the Buckeyes drove into the fringe of field goal range. Ryan Day opted not to make Jayden Fielding attempt a career-long kick at that point and rolled the dice on fourth down with his offense. It didn’t work at all, as right tackle Josh Fryar became a turnstile on the play, allowing the Badgers to get to McCord in the backfield. To make matters worse, the first-year starter coughed up the football.

The fumble turned out to be irrelevant, but had a defender been able to pick it up cleanly, it could have provided Wisconsin with an early scoop and score, allowing the hosts to gain confidence and momentum.

Settling for Three

Speaking of line play, the Buckeyes continue to try to run in short yardage situations (which they should) but continue to do it badly (which they shouldn’t). In the first quarter, a handoff netted one yard on third-and-3, and Fielding came on to open the scoring with a field goal. Never bring field goals to a touchdown fight (and they’re always touchdown fights).

Weekly Reminder that Parker Fleming is Stealing Money from Ohio State

Leading 3-0 in the first quarter, Ohio State’s defense got a stop on the Wisconsin drive following Fielding’s kick. The ensuing OSU drive stalled, however, and Jesse Mirco punted from the OSU 29. Chimere Dike returned the punt 35 yards to set Wisconsin up in great field position from his own 29-yard line to the OSU 36. That means Wisconsin took over possession just seven yards from where the last Buckeye offensive snap took place.

Ohio State’s special teams are anything but, despite having a full-time special teams coach on staff. If he’s going to eat up a spot on the staff, he needs his unit to make plays (good ones, preferably).

The Definition of Insanity

It doesn’t matter how many times the play has failed or how often you think “this has to work one of these times,” Ohio State continues to give the ball to TreVeyon Henderson in short-yardage situations. The line can’t block it, and Henderson — for all his many qualities and virtues — just never moves the pile forward for that needed yard. But Ryan Day keeps going back to it over and over, expecting different results.

How much evidence is needed? It’s understandable that the team continues to work on it and you can’t see if it’s getting any better without calling it, but we’re eight games into the season. It’s just not going to happen. Henderson was rejected on one such run on Saturday, but a taunting penalty bailed the Buckeyes out and provided the first down anyway.

Tough Night for McCord

Last week, McCord told the media that the Ohio State offense was on the verge of breaking out. But then he came out on Saturday and had perhaps his worst start of the season. Both of his interceptions were poor decisions with better options available. The one in the end zone was egregious, as his two receivers were in the same part of the end zone, neither was open, and the defensive players outnumbered McCord’s teammates in that part of the field. Throwing the ball away keeps the team in line for points, and McCord instead forced it in, where it was picked off.

Once again, McCord was better in the second half, but at some point, these slow starts are going to allow an opponent to dig a hole too deep for the OSU offense to climb out of. I liked McCord’s decision to avoid pressure, tucking and running for first down on a third-and-3 situation. However, he wasn’t rewarded for that decision, or for making the play, because he got hurt at the end of it.

Tough Night for Ransom

I don’t want to pick on Lathan Ransom too much because he’s having a good season, but he had a free shot at a sack of Braedyn Locke and missed. The defense continues to be fantastic in 2023, but that was a missed opportunity. It was also no fun to see Ransom leave the game with an injury, reportedly going to the locker room on a cart. You never want to see anyone get hurt, and it added injury to the insult of seeing a freshman quarterback shrug him off earlier in the game.

Line Up!

J.T. Tuimoloau could not back up his stellar game against Penn State with another great performance. The defensive end recorded no tackles in the match, and missed a couple of potential sacks/tackles for loss. But his biggest problem in the game was lining up in the neutral zone, which nullified a tackle for loss by Mike Hall Jr. that would have forced a third down.

Defensive Outliers

Ohio State’s defense seemed to have been completely replaced on the last Wisconsin drive of the first half and the first Badger drive of the second half. A defense that dominated all game long was oddly poor on those drives, including giving up a first down after getting the Badgers in a second-and-20 situation. The Silver Bullets returned briefly during that span of the game for the very last set of downs, when a goal-line stand forced Wisconsin to settle for a field goal after reaching the 1-yard line. After Wisconsin tied the game at 10-10, normal service resumed and the Buckeye defense was stellar once again.

Every Damn Week

What would an Ohio State game be without a Josh Simmons false start? The transfer offensive tackle simply cannot go a full game without jumping early at least once. His penalty against Wisconsin ultimately killed a drive on a night when points were at a premium.

Those are the things that had me considering ordering lots of alcohol from somewhere on the Uber Eats app. What got your blood pressure up?

Obviously there was a lot to celebrate. TreVeyon Henderson and Marvin Harrison Jr. played outstanding games. Jack Sawyer had one of his better performances on the season. The run defense was stout, and both the secondary and the pass rush was consistently good all night.

Next week, the Buckeyes head to Piscataway to take on Rutgers.