The Ohio State Buckeyes and Alabama Crimson Tide met in Miami for all the marbles in the College Football Playoff National Championship last night in a battle of one same old, same old team and one squad of “we’re not even supposed to be here!” And it turned out to look that way.
Here’s what had me yelling at inanimate objects on Monday night.
The game had hardly begun when Trey Sermon went to the sideline and then the locker room with an apparent shoulder problem. Ohio State’s game plan was largely dependent upon Sermon and the offensive line softening up the Alabama defense. The injury affected the entire OSU game plan and derailed one of the all-time great postseason runs by any player.
Trailing 14-7 in the second quarter, Ohio State picked up a first down and then tried to go up tempo. Unfortunately, Justin Fields didn’t give Garrett Wilson time to get set before clapping for the snap. The resulting penalty was the game’s first and it put the Buckeyes behind the chains. A run got the penalty yardage back but then Ohio State called consecutive passes and Alabama brought pressure on both, forcing Fields to throw it away on second down and then causing an errant throw on third. Ohio State’s drive stalled at midfield in large part due to an avoidable penalty, and the Tide kept the Buckeyes from answering. Fortunately for Ohio State, Baron Browning forced and recovered a fumble two plays later to set up the second OSU touchdown.
After Jordan Battle knocked Jeremy Ruckert senseless with the crown of his helmet, giving Ohio State a first-and-goal, the Buckeyes failed to take advantage. Fields missed Wilson in the corner of the end zone and then nearly threw an interception after a short run by Master Teague. The Buckeyes settled for a field goal and that ended up leading to a quick 14-0 run by Bama to end the first half. Ohio State let Bama off the hook and it was all downhill from there.
Borland on Smith?
Alabama’s fifth touchdown of the first half (!) was perhaps its easiest of the night. Somehow Tuf Borland got isolated in covering Heisman Trophy-winner DeVonta Smith and that’s a match he’ll win every single time without even breathing hard. Kerry Coombs stuck to his four-linebacker defense far too long when it was obviously not working. It wasn’t even a lack of execution. Alabama was out-scheming that defense and doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…something, something.
It was bad enough that Ohio State lost consensus All-American guard Wyatt Davis to injury, but ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit showed his inattentiveness by saying “another defensive lineman is down,” when it was a Buckeye on the ground while on offense. Herbstreit continuously called Davis “Antwuan Jackson,” who wears the same number 52 as Davis on the defensive side. Chris Fowler didn’t correct Herbstreit at first but eventually caught on that it was Davis. Not realizing it was Davis on the ground was literally adding insult to injury.
Ryan Day wasted a timeout after Ohio State cut the lead to 38-24 when an obviously down receiver lost the football. The booth has to let the head coach know that there’s no need to challenge such an obvious play. That was just a total failure of a decision. It doesn’t matter that in the end it was of no consequence. At the time it happened, there was a lot of game time left and it could have been an expensive mistake.
Where is Hilliard?
I know where the Columbus suburb is. I used to live there. But I want to know where Justin Hilliard was on Alabama’s sixth (!) touchdown drive. His absence was felt as he’s been the best Buckeye linebacker by a wide margin the last several games. He was making as many plays (or more) than the other three in the first half, but when Coombs went to three linebackers, he took the wrong guy off the field. If there was a need to do it due to ihat’s fine, but if healthy, Hilliard should be in on every defensive snap he’s able to play.
Never Started Stopping
Alabama’s offense is great. But the Buckeyes didn’t have any answers to anything the Tide did. They didn’t cover anyone, missed tackles, failed to pressure the quarterback, and sometimes even loafed. This was not the same defense that was flying around the last three quarters against Clemson. The defense played slow, played soft, and Kerry Coombs had no answers to anything Alabama did.
After (Forced) Further Review: Olave Garden Closed
Chris Olave sure looked to me like he got his left foot down with possession late in the game for a cosmetic touchdown. The Buckeyes had to take a timeout to even get the replay official to look at the play, which is not how it’s supposed to work. How it’s supposed to work is that a potential scoring play that looks questionable is supposed to be reviewed. Then the play wasn’t overturned. Herbstreit told me the ball was moving while the video was showing Olave’s foot on the ground and the ball not actually moving. I’ll chalk this one up to ‘not enough evidence to overturn.’ A missed defensive holding call on fourth down play later and it was Alabama’s ball, spoiling a shot at a late touchdown to push the score above 30.
And that’s the 2020 season. It didn’t end the way Ohio State fans wanted, but only one team and its fans get to be happy at the end of the year. The Buckeyes overcame a lot, but they finally faced a team too good for “next man up.” Tommy Togiai’s absence was huge, as “Big Tom” keeps the linebackers clean, making their jobs easier and he could have affected some of those early fourth-down plays that Alabama converted, helping Ohio State build some early momentum.
But the Buckeyes didn’t get it done on either side of the ball, really, and you’ve got to give Alabama credit for that. Ohio State earned its way to this game, but, as it appeared all season, Alabama was on another level.