It’s hard to believe that this is the season’s last edition of “The Way I Saw It,” but here we are. The Ohio State Buckeyes finished a perfect season with Saturday’s 26-21 victory over TTUN in The Game and NCAA sanctions have closed the book on Urban Meyer’s first season as head coach. Instead of preparing for a B1G title game appearance against Nebraska, we’re all done. We’ll never truly know what might have been, but that’s fine. There’s no need to even go there. In vanquishing the hated invaders from Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes completed a 5-0 2012 Revenge Tour and gave us a warm glow that will stay with us until next season. We’re used to that kind of season-closing win being a bowl game, but this sort of feels right to me.
Beating TTUN is all kinds of fun. As we saw this weekend, it can even be fun when Ohio State plays one of its worst (and dumbest) games of the season. We saw first-half tackling revert to how bad it was in the early part of the season. Snaps were launched over Braxton Miller’s head. Pre-snap penalties, blatant holds and stupid late hit personal fouls were committed. Short field goals were missed. Punts were muffed on plays where the punter was roughed anyway. It was a crazy amount of DERP to get away with and still come away with a win in a rivalry game. In short, Saturday’s contest was a microcosm of this season—talent and potential that is only now beginning to scratch the surface. This is how I saw The Game:
Dave is here, man: I’m not sure if it was the height of trolling, a tribute to Jim Tressel, or just coincidental, but if there is one takeaway from Saturday’s game, it’s that Carlos Hyde following a pulling Marcus Hall was an all-you-can-eat buffet of yards against the Wolvereenies. Dave still works when executed properly by a competent offensive line. There may have been one or two exceptions, but Hyde was able to pick up at least four yards on the play every time and gashed Michigan on several occasions. Hyde ran for 146 yards on 26 carries (5.6 avg.) mainly because he runs hard and Ohio State’s offensive line owned the Michigan front seven. In fact, my biggest lament from the entire contest came late in the third quarter when Tom Herman elected not to use Carlos Hyde.
The Buckeyes held a 23-21 lead and faced a second-and-1 from the 3-yard line. With a reeling and winded Michigan defense nearing its breaking point, Herman called a pass play in an area where Greg Mattison historically goes for turnovers. Mattison nearly won the battle. Thomas Gordon came unblocked on a blitz and sacked Braxton Miller at the 10. On the next play, Cory Linsley airmailed a snap over Miller’s head. Miller retreated and covered the ball at the 22 for a 12-yard loss. On the next snap, Drew Basil hooked a 39-yard field goal wide. That trio of plays was the single dumbest offensive sequence this season. A simple Dave to Hyde on that second-down play and not only is a first down highly likely, but a touchdown—and a nine-point cushion—is quite possible. Even Mensa members over-think things sometimes.
Redeemfence: Despite all the defensive stupidity of the first half, including the double-missed tackle by Christian Bryant and Travis Howard on the long Denard Robinson touchdown run that put Michigan ahead 21-17, the defense won the game in the second half. The DERP somehow transferred to the offense in the second half, as the Buckeyes squandered excellent field position and scoring chances throughout the game’s final 30 minutes. But the defense came up big. TTUN never crossed midfield after the break. Michigan’s second half possessions went like this:
- Denard Robinson dropped for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-3
- Robinson smashed in the backfield by Bryant, who forced a fumble (recovered by Nathan Williams)
- Devin Gardner sack/strip by Michael Bennett (recovered by Howard)
- C.J. Barnett interception of Gardner
Bryant and Howard more than atoned for their sandwich whiff of Robinson in the first half with big plays after halftime. Bennett’s strip sack made up for whiff on Robinson that resulted in a long run on Michigan’s first offensive play. Barnett also had some issues in the first half. He was left to cover two receivers on the second Michigan score. As he had more help inside, he probably should have taken a greater interest in Roy Roundtree, who ended up with a 75-yard touchdown. Barnett also missed a couple of tackles in that first half. He played well after halftime and sealed the game with his pick. You really can’t say enough about what this defense accomplished after it started to turn things around, considering the stabilizing force was our starting fullback. Zach Boren had another nice game (a team high nine tackles, two TFLs and a sack) and will be picking pieces of Devin Gardner out of his teeth for weeks. In fact, if Boren had moved to linebacker in fall camp, Ohio State might have gone even more undefeated-er than it did.
Rise and Grind: There’s nothing more beautiful in life than when your team has the ball and the lead and won’t give it back. This is something we’ve seen this year from Ohio State and it’s a trend that must continue if the Buckeyes are to win a national championship. After Barnett’s interception, Ohio State took over at Michigan’s 48, with 4:50 remaining in the game. Jeff Heuerman’s false start on the first play of the drive moved the ball back into OSU territory. Even with that 5-yard pre-snap blunder, the Buckeyes ran the ball three straight times and picked up a first down. Two Hyde carries later and the Buckeyes were in position to take victory formation. There is nothing more demoralizing to an opponent than the ability to run it when they know you’re going to run it. But yeah, there aren’t two first team All-B1G linemen in that OSU front five, right B1G coaches?
Other random thoughts/observations…
- It was heartbreaking that John Simon didn’t get to play. As bad as something (flu? food poisoning?) was making me feel on Saturday already, I felt even worse when I read on Twitter that Simon couldn’t go.
- Braxton Miller looked jittery, nervous and indecisive running the football, yet he completed his first eight passes and was 14/18 for the game with at least one intentional throw-away. That strikes me as odd.
- Speaking of Miller, whatever shoes he was wearing needed to be thrown out. He slipped at least three different times, leading to lots of lost yards.
- If there’s one thing Charles has taught me, it’s that the less said about the officiating, the better. However, I can’t for the life of me figure out why that facemask wasn’t called on the punt return. Also, how does Taylor Lewan not get called for holding on Adolphus Washington’s strip sack play, or the obvious hands to the face on the same play Bradley Roby was flagged for pass interference?
- Overall, the officiating didn’t grate on me much this game, outside of those aforementioned instances. Early in the game things were one-sided Michigan’s way but I didn’t see an imbalance after halftime. I did think the Corey Brown touchdown would get overturned when I watched the game live, but when I saw the replay on BTN, I noticed the camera angle on the only view of the ball was not lined up with the goal line and therefore not able to be used as indisputable proof that he was short. Boren was fortunate not to get a flag after his sack as he could have gotten a taunting call.
- Roughing the punter is dumb. Not fielding a return man is dumber. Having a late return man run back to try to catch the punt is dumbest of all. Nothing about that play was smart and all parties involved should feel bad about their part in it.
- Denard Robinson’s last three career carries against Ohio State were a two-yard loss on fourth down, a no gain ending with a fumble, and a one-yard gain. He beat the Buckeyes once in his career because he’s no Mike Hart.
- Ohio State’s defensive approach seemed to be to see if Devin Gardner’s accuracy was really a thing. The Buckeyes left defenders one-on-one deep down the field repeatedly and Gardner was unable to hit them. Gardner was 11/20 for 171 yards (75 of that on one play) with an interception. He was also sacked four times.
- I was surprised not to see more of the Smith/Hyde combo in the backfield for this final game. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in practice that makes coaches bail on things that have worked.
- Sure, he missed one kick, but Drew Basil didn’t look rusty after a season in which he was basically superfluous. That 52 yarder at the end of the first half? Onions. (And a momentum changer.)
- No, Urban Meyer wasn’t trying to ice his kicker with that timeout. Someone on the protection team was late getting on the field and rather than rush the kick, he called the timeout instead.
- No Kenny G, you guys.