It’s the #SeasonOfWelp at Ohio State and thus the Buckeyes managed to trail what should be a completely inferior Purdue team for an entire game, losing their star quarterback in the process, before finally putting together a string of plays late to mount a come-from-behind, 29-22 overtime win. For some reason, Ohio State always appears to be playing in quicksand whenever they line up against the Boilermakers in recent years. This is usually confined to West Lafayette, Indiana, but Purdue somehow transported its talent negativity field to Columbus this week. If that thing’s portable now, we’ve got issues. That’s not “OSU arrogance” speaking. Objectively speaking, Purdue allowed 771 rushing yards in the two games prior to Saturday. Ohio State had rushed for 724 yards in its previous two games. It seemed like the perfect storm for a Buckeye team that likes to run the football (and is usually very good at it) and entered with two players having rushed for more than 100 yards apiece in consecutive weeks. Yet somehow Purdue managed to hold Ohio State to just 152 yards rushing.
There are several contributing reasons for the rushing norms of the Ohio State offense and Purdue defense to be completely turned upside down. Part of it is that Purdue’s defensive line played well and its secondary filled and tackled when called upon. Ohio State also played a lackluster game offensively for long stretches. Another factor is that, prior to his game-ending injury, Braxton Miller continued his practice of predetermining to give or keep the ball, and got it wrong on a high percentage of plays. The player without the ball, whether Miller, Carlos Hyde or Rod Smith, ran into wide open spaces—while the ball carrier was being gang tackled at the line of scrimmage. Finally, I don’t think Hyde got enough carries. Sure, he finished with 19 rushes for 91 yards, but on some of those he should not have been given the ball and the offense never found a rhythm. I think part of that lack of rhythm is not getting Hyde more touches early, including getting Rod Smith involved much earlier than usual. Then, when Miller went out, it became kind of a no-brainer for Purdue to key on Hyde, although that’s when he ripped off some of his best runs. Here are my other thoughts on the game:
The smoothest jazz is played late: It’s impossible to understate what Kenny Guiton accomplished on Saturday. Kenny G came off the bench in the third quarter of a game in which his team was flat and trailing all day. He had to replace one of the most dynamic players in college football, and a guy the entire offense expected to move the ball. Also, Miller and Guiton do not have the same skill sets. Yet Kenny G nearly kept his streak of relief scoring drives intact. The swirling wind pushed Drew Basil’s 50-yard field goal attempt against the left upright. That same exact kick would have succeeded from 49. It took Kenny a few series’ to get his bearings. By that time, the Buckeyes were down eight points, thanks to a ridiculous block in the back penalty on Jeff Heuerman, who clearly made that block inside the tackle box, where it is not, in fact, a penalty at all, and therefore not a safety.
On the next series, Guiton under-threw Stoneburner and Purdue picked off the pass on a deflection. After a defensive stop (and did everyone have their hearts in their mouths when Akeem Shavers broke into open field on the left on that third-and-13 play, or was it just me?), Kenny G got the ball back. He was 61 yards away, needing a touchdown and a two-point conversion, with no timeouts and just 47 seconds remaining. On first down, Guiton either didn’t see the pass rusher bearing down on him, or he gave zero fucks about it, and found Devin Smith for 39 yards. Smith, of course, continues to use Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak whenever the Buckeyes have to have a play. It is the best of the Deathly Hallows when it comes to Buckeye football. The completion settled Guiton down and from that point on he was cooler than finding a $20 bill in the pocket of a jacket you haven’t worn in a year. Guiton guided the Buckeyes in close, and tossed one in the end zone for Evan Spencer, who had his route cut off by Josh Johnson, putting the ball at the Purdue two with eight ticks left. He found Chris Fields on the next play for a diving touchdown. It wasn’t the best throw, but Fields somehow made it work.
But the Buckeyes weren’t done. They still needed a two-point conversion. While the offensive line and Carlos Hyde lobbied Urban Meyer for a rushing play, the cooler head of Tom Herman prevailed, as he called the play they’d practiced and planned to use for just such an occasion—the tight end throwback. The play worked exactly the way they planned. Guiton rolled right, giving the play a run/pass option look. Jake Stoneburner (and others) ran right-handed routes. Heuerman appeared to stay in to block, releasing very late and sneaking out to the empty left side. Guiton calmly looked back and lobbed a pass for the tying score. It would have been so easy to screw up that pass in the excitement of the moment. Kudos to Kenny G. The later it got, the smoother his jazz became. His 17-yarder to Stoneburner in overtime—setting up whatever kind of touchdown jump that was by Hyde—showed that he was feeling it.
Other side of the play: The tying two-point try almost didn’t happen. Heuerman did a nice job of selling the block, but he then nearly got caught up in the wash and had trouble releasing out the back side. Guiton wasn’t the only person doing a nice job on the play. Heuerman was persistent enough to get out of traffic and find empty space. The offensive line bought just enough time for Kenny G to throw, once Heuerman found daylight (although the two defensive ends were closing in). Watching the game replay on BTN, I was impressed with the job Heuerman did on the play. Ohio State’s tight ends don’t get a lot of glory, especially with the installation of Tom Herman’s spread offense, but when they make plays, they are usually big ones. My favorite part of that call is that Purdue used variations of it throughout the game to great effect and then got beat on it late.
Boiling over: The Buckeyes made some noteworthy defensive plays with the game on the line. On Purdue’s possession in the extra session, C.J. Barnett made one of the biggest plays of the game. Barnett’s big hit separated Gabe Holmes from a Caleb TerBush pass on Purdue’s first play of the overtime. Had that been complete, the Boilermakers had a first down and may have regained some momentum in the game. Holmes should have caught it, but Barnett really brought the lumber, making it more difficult to bring in. The OSU pass rush affected the second down play, with Ryan Shazier applying the pressure to TerBush. Third down saw Ohio State’s best reaction to a bubble screen all day, with Hungry Hungry Hankins selling out to get out in space and make a big hit. The play left Hankins spent, and he had to come off for an important fourth down. That was another winning play for the defensive line, which would have been all over TerBush had it been a straight drop-back pass. On fourth down the rush again pressured TerBush, but Crosby Wright managed to get position on Christian Bryant in the end zone during the scramble. Had TerBush been able to set and throw properly, Wright probably would have scored. The rush made that tough, forcing the Purdue quarterback far to his right, making it almost impossible for him to accurately “throw Wright open” on the play.
Other random thoughts/observations:
- Some people moaned about Purdue’s fake punt. That play gives the punter the option of running based on what he sees. The yardage to gain was short and it was a calculated risk, but it was always going to be a tough play to stop owing to the number of blockers on the edge and the distance to make. Ballsy call by Purdue and they executed. Well done. Bastards.
- The turnover battle is getting away from Ohio State. Certainly there was no reason for the first “lost” fumble. Clearly Miller was lying prone on the ground with complete possession of the ball and a Purdue player ripped it out. This play should have been overturned on replay due to conclusive evidence but it was, inexplicably, not. Also, I really don’t sweat an interception on a half-ending Hail Mary play. The Miller fumble fighting for extra yardage and the Guiton interception on an underthrown ball to an open Jake Stoneburner were damaging, however.
- The “lost fumble” by Braxton Miller on Ohio State’s opening drive took away a potential scoring chance and really seemed to knock the offense off kilter. It also gave aid and comfort to the enemy, therefore the officials were culpable in determining early momentum.
De’Van Bogard’s injury to an already young coverage unit may have been a contributing factor to Akeem Hunt’s 100-yard return touchdown.
- Speaking of that return…if Danny Hope wants to complain about holding, he can just go back to the kick return touchdown and take a good look at what his own squad did. Watch for Verlon Reed (#8) on this video and see how he gets tackled.
- Chris Fields’ first involvement in the game was utterly forgettable, however, he acquitted himself nicely in the end, with three big catches for 44 yards and one huge touchdown.
- The early Michael Thomas sighting was nice. Thomas is having a season typical of Spring Game MVPs of the past, but he clearly has a ton of upside. I’d like to see more of him.
- On the surface, four penalties for 29 yards seems like an improvement. I’m not counting the safety because that’s not a penalty. The fact that the block in the back took place right where the quarterback was standing (in the pocket) should have been an obvious clue that the block took place in the pocket and is therefore legal. Blocks in the back are illegal outside the tackle box. Heuerman didn’t push his man in the back until the guy got around him (and was therefore, well inside Heuerman’s line position).
- It’s easy to see that Storm Klein got burned on the early wheel route throwback that went 83 yards for a score, but the bigger question is where were the safeties on the play?
- Vico touched on it in his recap, but the alignment problems on the bubble screens with trips receivers were maddening. You just can’t line up one or two defenders on three receivers and expect to stop the other team from picking up easy chunks of yardage.
- The Freak Show has allowed a big play or two against, but let’s face it, without a blocked PAT and a blocked field goal on Saturday, the Buckeyes are not 8-0 this week. Well done by Garrett Goebel (PAT) and Hungry Hungry Hankins (FG).