Why Ohio State accomplishing something for the first time in 2 years was actually a good sign
On College GameDay, the crew agreed on the notion that if Ohio State was going to win on Saturday, we were going to know immediately. As in, it wasn’t going to take long to see if the Buckeyes showed up for an early kickoff in East Lansing.
That belief might’ve subconsciously stemmed from the fact that entering Saturday, Ohio State hadn’t won a regular season game in which it failed to score 27 points since the last time it visited East Lansing back in 2016. In the 3 regular season instances in which the Buckeyes failed to hit that 27-point mark dating back to the start of 2017, they lost.
I’m sure plenty of Ohio State fans in the early going of Saturday’s game felt like 2015 game against Michigan State. That is, OSU entered holding on to its Playoff hopes for dear life, only to watch a less-talented MSU team win a grind-it-out November game.
Saturday could’ve easily followed that same script. It didn’t.
Finally, Ohio State won a defensive struggle. And by “defensive struggle,” I’m not talking about winning a 30-14 game against Minnesota. I’m talking about a game when Ohio State was winding down the clock holding on to a 19-6 lead, 10 of those points came via a safety and a defensive touchdown.
Call it gutty, gritty or whatever. But whatever you call it, I’d call it a good sign.
There’s the obvious reason as to why Ohio State’s first win with less than 27 points in 2 years was a good sign. The defense did the heavy lifting.
You know, the same group that’s been extremely mediocre the last month. The same group that allowed an average of 40 points the last 2 games against the likes of Purdue and Nebraska. The same group that’s been putting a whole lot of pressure on Dwayne Haskins to carry the team. Saturday wasn’t that. At all.
The 227 passing yards for Haskins was actually his fewest total of the year. It wasn’t an efficient day from Haskins, but on the road against one of the nation’s best defenses, that’s OK.
Even against the nation’s No. 1 run defense, Ohio State didn’t just turn into a pass-only team like it has in years past of the Urban Meyer era. It would’ve been easy to deviate from the running game in the first half after the Buckeyes were held to 14 rushing yards and just 0.9 yards per carry. Mike Weber helped the Buckeyes run for 4 yards per carry in the second half, which was capped off by his late touchdown.
Will anyone tout the Buckeyes for running for 2.9 yards per carry? No, but it says a lot that the Buckeyes still trusted the game plan to try and wear Michigan State down.
MSU was worn down alright. I mean, the Spartans were apparently so worn down that they didn’t even want to punt to Ohio State.
Seriously, what in the WORLD was this, Mark Dantonio?
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) November 10, 2018
MSU went with that punting strategy while Ohio State’s punting game was arguably the biggest difference in the game. After he started with a 4-yard dud for the ages, Drue Chrisman dropped 6 punts inside the Michigan State 20, including a sequence of 4 straight inside the 6-yard line. That’s actually what prompted MSU’s blunder.
Surely Meyer will be fired up to talk punts. Rather, great* punts.
Ohio State fans should be fired up with how that played out. This team almost felt like it checked out when it didn’t light up the scoreboard. That’s an extremely scary quality for a team to have, especially late in the season.
Did Saturday mean that Ohio State was going to suddenly go into 2014 mode and blow past Michigan to earn another trip to the B1G Championship? No, but it showed a side of Meyer’s program that many — myself included — didn’t think it had the last couple years.
Maybe it’s a certain toughness. Perhaps it’s just showing that, “hey, when our best player isn’t playing out of his mind, we can still win a game against a quality defense.” And sure, you could argue that Ohio State has done that in years past, but I think that 27-point stat bears repeating.
Fox Sports announcer Gus Johnson made a simple, important point at the end of Ohio State’s victory.
“It has not been pretty,” Johnson said, “but it’s been disciplined and effective when they needed it.”
He’s right. The Buckeyes needed that.