While it was good to see the Ohio State defense once again playing a dominating game in a 37-3 Senior Day victory over Minnesota — even when considering the opponent’s overall strength — the Buckeye offense returned to its bad habit of stalling without finishing drives. It’s a problem that has been there most of the season, with the exception of last week’s win over Michigan State.
It was still basically a complete performance, however, so let’s check in with the minor annoyances that made me think negative thoughts about a group of players and coaches who were on my television on Saturday.
A holding penalty on the punt return unit set the tone for a game filled with poor starting field position after Ohio State stopped the first drive by the Golden Gophers. Jayden Ballard called a fair catch, so no yards were gained by the hold, but the Buckeyes started at their own 15-yard line instead of the 25 because of a penalty. This was the first of several drives in which the OSU offense began from awful field position. Ohio State was able to easily move down the field and score anyway, which set a false tone for the offense.
Still Getting’ Grabby
The second OSU drive started from even worse field position. Ohio State took over at its own 3-yard line and quickly moved six yards on a pair of TreVeyon Henderson runs. However, on the second, Cade Stover was called for holding, putting the Buckeyes behind the chains and off schedule. Stover caught a short pass on the next play to get the ball back to where it was, but an incomplete pass on third down killed the drive and set Minnesota up in good field position (at its own 45) after the punt.
Still Not Snappy
The snap problems Ohio State has had intermittently the last several weeks showed up again on Saturday on the third OSU offensive series. A bad ball from Carson Hinzman began the drive. Kyle McCord was able to field it on one hop and deliver a strike to Marvin Harrison Jr., but the timing of the play was affected, and it’s a bit maddening that this keeps happening this far into the season.
Wait, I Thought We Were Calling Holding?
Minnesota was facing a 3rd-and-14 on its third drive. The Buckeyes seemed poised to make a big play on defense and quickly get the ball back. However, Minnesota quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis was able to hit Corey Crooms on a crossing route for a big play of 32 yards. The time to throw was generously supplied by the Golden Gophers’ left tackle, who lived up to his position’s name by tackling J.T. Tuimoloau right in front of Kaliakmanis.
No flag flew, and the Gophers moved into OSU territory. Although the defense stiffened up and forced a punt, Ohio State took over at its own 11-yard line.
Second-Quarter Kyle Returns
After lighting up Michigan State through the entire first half, it seemed McCord had taken a step forward a week ago. But his problems from late in the first quarter through halftime returned in this game with some poor reads, curious decisions, and bad throws. After starting 5-of-6 for 60 yards, McCord finished the first half connecting just six times on his last 12 attempts for 87 yards.
He clearly wasn’t seeing the field well, as several open targets downfield were ignored in favor of throwing into coverage. That included a blitz where Harrison’s man left him to rush the passer and Ohio State’s Heisman candidate was all alone.
The young quarterback needs to avoid the bad streak that seems to inevitably follow a hot start in this Saturday’s game or it could be the difference between a trip to Indianapolis and sweating out other results to end up with a ranking high enough to overcome a costly loss. I’m not sure Ohio State will get the benefit of the doubt this year.
Ohio State had all kinds of problems on its two-minute drive to end the first half. Instead of taking a timeout after a first down in bounds, Ohio State tried to go quickly. As has often happened when the Buckeyes try to go fast on offense, something went awry. The line wasn’t set for a second prior to the snap and Ohio State was forced to burn the timeout anyway to avoid a 10-second run-off. Had the timeout been called initially, the Buckeyes would have had five fewer yards to go and about six more seconds on the clock.
The wasteful drive got worse when the clock got low. With virtually no way to get down the field in the time remaining, Ohio State called a pass play. Josh Fryar completely blew his block and McCord got sacked, coming down awkwardly and limping to the locker room for halftime. I’m fine with going after points in the final seconds of a half, but after the previous play resulted in only a short gain and kept the clock moving, the final play should have been a kneel-down.
You Calling Us Posers?
Jordan Hancock’s interception was fun, and it made up for him not throwing a block that could have gotten Tuimoloau into the end zone on an earlier Minnesota turnover. But the Buckeyes decided to celebrate the turnover and they got nailed for it. Most of the defensive unit posed in the end zone in front of photographers. The flag flew and the referee made a point of naming every player so that they’d each count against the ejection total.
In an era of unprecedented celebrating on the field, the Buckeyes ran to the end zone and did not celebrate in their opponents’ faces. Technically it’s a penalty, but lighten up, man. I’ve never heard a ref call out that many players by number on a play like that before, and said the penalty was for “posing.” It was the penalty call of the year in the Big Ten.
The backups absolutely should have been on the field (and probably some of them earlier), but the defense allowed Minnesota to string some first downs together and the Gophers snapped the shutout with a 54-yard field goal. Way to go, backups. You had one job!
Obviously the good vastly outweighed the bad for Ohio State on Saturday, and any perceived anger or venom above is purely tongue in cheek. Henderson ran wild on the Gophers, Dallan Hayden performed well when called upon, the defense was stifling and opportunistic at times, and Jack Sawyer had perhaps his best ever game as a Buckeye.
Next up is The Game in Ann Arbor on Saturday at noon. No matter what happens, Michigan cheated.