Enjoy Ohio State’s brief brush with adversity, because we may not see it again for a while
The entire Ohio State team was in the locker room at Beaver Stadium when they received some surprising news: The first half was not over.
With 2 seconds left on fourth down, Justin Fields took a knee to end the half. The clock appeared to be at 0, but upon further review, officials put 1 second back onto the clock. Jordan Stout came on and drilled a 50-yard field goal, sending Penn State into the locker room with all the momentum as a frustrated Ohio State bunch cursed through the hallways on the way back to the locker room. Ryan Day, obviously, was not happy and pleaded with the refs to no avail.
When Penn State marched down the field on the opening possession of the second half, Ohio State suddenly only led by 8 despite drastically outplaying the Nittany Lions.
These are the moments to savor as No. 3 Ohio State cruised to a 38-25 win over No. 18 Penn State on Saturday night for its 10th straight win over a ranked opponent on the road.
There are so few occasions when Ohio State is legitimately challenged or legitimately pissed off, so to see something go against the Buckeyes, even if it wasn’t at all their fault, is entertaining. How would Ohio State respond? Well, Justin Fields launched a 49-yard bomb to Chris Olave on the ensuing possession, and Penn State never cut it to single digits again.
Justin Fields DIME to Chris Olave! pic.twitter.com/Q3sTCdAhpt
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) November 1, 2020
Writing a column about Ohio State can be challenging. How many ways can you say the Buckeyes are great? Even if they only average 4.5 yards per rush, like they had last week, it just doesn’t feel right to nitpick when they win handily. That’s the reality when a team is coming off a season in which it was in the top 4 nationally in total offense and total defense.
Ohio State in 2019 was one of the best regular season teams ever and played nearly flawless football week in, week out. The 2020 unit looks to be more of the same. Without 110,000 fans taunting Fields, the one-time Penn State commit, where was the adversity going to come from? Certainly not from a short-handed Penn State team coming off a loss from Indiana.
That’s why we owe a thank you to the refs, for blatantly giving the Nittany Lions 3 points and lighting a fire under the Buckeyes. This was supposed to be Ohio State’s toughest game of the season, and it was mostly a snooze-fest in terms of drama. Ohio State scored in the first minute of the game and led 14-0 less than 6 minutes in. It looked like game over—until the refs intervened and made it interesting.
It was probably good for Ohio State, too. Remember, the Buckeyes fell apart when Shaun Wade was ejected for targeting against Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals last year. They don’t often get these chances to really dig in and find out what they’re made of. Of course, it would’ve been much more compelling to see Fields navigate that drive in front of a sellout crowd, but hey, you have to take what you can get.
That’s because the first 2 weeks have mostly consisted of trying to decide whether Fields would have more TD passes or incompletions. The incompletions have a slight lead, by the way, 7-6. And Fields, after a night in which he threw for 318 yards and 4 TDs, is looking even better than he did last year when he was a Heisman finalist.
Took care of business in Happy Valley 💪🌰
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 1, 2020
Fields, for his part, tried to see how much he could get away with, like when he converted a third down while basically falling down. Hey, anything to spice it up.
Justin Fields, how? pic.twitter.com/MglOF1NKOi
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 1, 2020
The supposed flaws Ohio State did show in the opener against Nebraska looked mostly fixed. Master Teague and Trey Sermon, who were held to 96 yards on 23 carries in the opener, got loose for 166 yards on 36 attempts. After looking slow against Adrian Martinez and Luke McCaffrey, the Buckeyes’ defense held Penn State to 1.6 yards per rushing attempt.
The new flaw? Shaun Wade has been a little inconsistent. And Fields isn’t great at kneeling, apparently. And Ryan Day isn’t great at getting refs to change their minds.
Other than those, though, it’s been smooth sailing for the Buckeyes. And looking at the schedule, only Indiana and Michigan appear capable of staying within a few scores of Ohio State. So in terms of adversity—if you even want to call it that—this may be it for a while. Aside from a COVID outbreak like the one at Wisconsin, it’s hard to fathom anything standing in the way of these Buckeyes.
After only 2 games, it’s evident Ohio State has once again established itself in a tier with only Clemson and Alabama. No one is quite sure who the fourth-best team in the country is, and it probably does not matter, because those 3 are head-and-shoulders above the rest.
So be grateful for the refs, who did a solid for Ohio State and those at home watching on TV who wanted to see just a few minutes of drama.