Ohio State – Michigan State: notes and thoughts

As the Ohio State offense struggled through today’s loss at home against Michigan State, I kept thinking, “For this team to win, they’re going to have to score on defense or special teams.” Late in the third quarter, with Michigan State leading 7-0, I thought that break was going to hair happen when Buckeye defensive back Travis Howard narrowly missed intercepting a pass from Michigan State quarterback, Kirk Cousins. Howard would have easily scored a touchdown.

But the Spartan offense lived to play another down.

On the following play, again on Howard’s side of the field, he was burned by Michigan State wide receiver B.J. Cunningham (who went to my high school) for a 52 yard gain.

At that point, as poorly as Ohio State had played, they were still in the game, but they couldn’t afford to give up points. Michigan State picked up another first down on the following play, and moved inside the Ohio State ten yard line. The crowd was getting into the game, but even if the Buckeyes could hold Michigan State to a field goal, with as poorly as the Ohio State offense had played, would ten points be insurmountable? They had to force a turnover.

On third and goal, they did. Defensive back C.J. Barnett intercepted a Cousins pass in the end zone.

When Ohio State’s offense took the field, I was sickened to see that the Bucks had made a quarterback change.

Braxton Miller had not played well through the first three quarters, completing just 5 of 10 passes for 56 yards. But taking over the ball inside the 20 (following a penalty against Ohio State after the interception), putting Bauserman into the game was anticlimactic. I knew this team was not going to win today when I saw Bauserman. The coaches had decided that Miller was not the answer, and from watching this team play, it was empirically obvious that Bauserman would not be the answer either. The Buckeye offense struggled to a weak three and out, and were forced to punt.

The Spartans would settle for a field goal and increase their lead to 10-0.

It’s certainly not solely the fault of Miller and Bauserman that Ohio State lost 10-7 today. It was a team loss, and the offensive line was not doing any favors for either quarterback.

Buckeyes qb’s were sacked 9 times today. While some of those sacks were enabled as a result of slow decision making, Miller had instances this afternoon where he never had a chance. Three other times today, offensive linemen had false starts. Two of those came on consecutive second quarter drives. With a struggling offense, taking two drives which should have began as first and 10, and causing them to start as first and 15 is unacceptable.

The lack of time for routes to develop also severely impacted Ohio State’s ability to throw down the field.

I can’t help but wonder where this team would be if Tresssel were coach. They have a lot of youth and inexperience. I think they would have lost at least one game by this point. Today, the Bucks played the first of four very difficult games. Going in, I’m not sure what a realistic expectation was going to be for those first four conference games. With this team’s youth, it was probably going to be tough to win all four, regardless of who the head coach is. Unfortunately for Fickell, part of their youth results in making him look incompetent.

The defense looked good today. Ohio State was in the game until the end, and that clearly wasn’t due to anything the offense was doing.

Late in the game, Michigan State cooled off on blitzes defensively, and began to play more zone. This cushion from the defense was meant to prevent big plays. It also resulted in less pressure on Bauserman and more space for receivers. With as badly as the offense played for ninety percent of this game, that is why they Buckeyes were suddenly able to complete passes at the end of the game.

Lastly, I thought that this game was poorly officiated. On Michigan State’s touchdown in the first quarter, an Ohio State defense linemen was closing in on Cousins which was what had forced him to start scrambling. To protect Cousins from getting sacked, this Buckeye was knocked down by being pushed in the back by a Spartan offensive linemen. Nothing was called.

In the first half, Braxton Miller was running out of bounds, and was hit going out. Nothing was called. I didn’t think it was a penalty at the time. But I also didn’t think a very similar play in the second half where a Michigan State player was tackled going out of bounds should have been called as a personal foul, but it was.

It was amazing with as ugly as this game was, Ohio State was still in it until the end.