Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day said changes were coming. He said that there was a plan. Little of that outline on how to fix the OSU defense was on display Saturday other than Kerry Coombs being in the press box and Matt Barnes calling plays. Sure, there was a little Cover 2 and some more zone, but the defense was still a tire fire inside a dumpster fire, allowing Tulsa to throw for 428 yards and failing to bother the quarterback much at all throughout the day.
On the other hand, the Buckeyes won, 41-20, against a team that gave Oklahoma State all it could handle the previous weekend. Here are some of the things that had me doing spit takes during the game.
Missin’ Sacks: Always Costly
Tulsa got stuck in a third down on its first series and Ohio State had a chance to get off the field. Tyreke Smith appeared to have a sure sack but just a slight slide forward and Smith failing to come at the quarterback under control combined to make him miss. The Golden Hurricane converted and kept the drive alive. The Buckeyes have struggled to get pressure, so when they do, they need to finish better than that.
The Thayer Munford injury made me both sad and angry, so I was sangry about that. I wasn’t mad at Thayer, because he can’t control that, but it was more of a general irritation with the universe. The run blocking still wasn’t at the expected level early in the game, although it finally picked up a bit once Matthew Jones came in. Is it possible that playing tackles at every position could be detrimental to the cohesion of the offensive line? I’m willing to consider that.
The second half was a comedy of errors by the offensive line. There were multiple pre-snap penalties, a facemask on Paris Johnson that wiped out a huge pass play to Chris Olave, and there was far too much pressure on Stroud on passing downs. This line is too talented for this kind of performance against this opponent, and the opposition will get much more difficult in the coming weeks.
Stroud’s Slow Start
I watched much of the first half with the sound off because the broadcast crew was terrible and a lot of that had to do with Stroud’s incompletions going high and Tim Brando losing his damn mind about it, and then not losing his mind when Davis Brin did it in the red zone. Yes, it was frustrating to see Stroud missing receivers early, but some patience with a first-year starter is not only warranted, but also required, and the guy who entered the game needing fewer than 200 yards passing to set a new OSU record for most passing yards in the first three games has earned some leeway (I believe he got that record, pending official stats). He also doesn’t deserve to have his confidence shattered by being benched while his team is leading, which people seemed to be calling for on social media. The most egregious error was the interception, because Stroud seemed to consider checking down to a wide open TreVeyon Henderson but then changed his mind and tried to fit it into a tight window to Jeremy Ruckert. It was intercepted, and I blame it on all of this “year of the tight end” talk. Lookin’ at you, Buckeye Weekly.
Wrong Way Replay
When Denzel Burke picked off Brin — and it was absolutely an interception — it set Ohio State up in good field position with a chance to build a lead before halftime. It was a big momentum play and a fantastic effort from Burke. And then he was robbed.
The replay official buzzed down because…reasons, and then the referee took an insanely long look before making the wrong decision and calling the play a reception by the wide receiver. Remember, this play was called an interception on the field and the replay clearly showed the ball was loose until Burke — not the receiver — finally gathered it in.
Tulsa’s receiver never had control of the ball, never had clear possession, and most likely never even knew where the ball was until Burke showed him. The officiating crew committed malpractice. I don’t normally lobby for people to lose their jobs, but I think this crew shouldn’t just be fired. They shouldn’t even be allowed to watch the sport of football in any form. If they’re at the beach and two guys start throwing a football around, they should be legally required to leave. Think of it as a restraining order filed by the game of football. Oh, and they should add Brando and Spencer Tillman to that restraining order.
Perhaps I’m just a glass-half-empty guy. Maybe I should feel fortunate that Ronnie Hickman’s and Cam Martinez’s interceptions weren’t also ruled receptions by Tulsa.
Ohio State could have scored a touchdown instead of a field goal on its final drive of the first half. Stroud made a great play to escape pressure in the backfield and threw a perfect, soft pass down the field. The ball hit Olave in the hands. Those two things usually mean a big play is happening, but in this case Olave dropped the ball. When even the best players are playing poorly, it’s hard to turn things around. Olave still should have had a big play in the game if not for the Johnson penalty mentioned above, but a player of his caliber getting held without a reception is not a good look and there’s plenty of blame to go around, including some on the player himself.
Just pretend there are 3,000 words in this section, ripping apart every last thing the defense did on Saturday other than Cam Martinez’s pick six and the Burke interception that was absolutely an interception and not at all a reception, regardless of what the official stats say. Assume that 2,000 of those 3,000 words have to do with this being the worst third-down defense in the history of third-down defenses. Connecticut’s defense thinks Ohio State is bad at defending third downs. The Buckeyes entered the game 119th nationally in allowing opponents to convert on third down (53.33%). Tulsa went 9-of-16 on third down, which means the Buckeyes got worse at something they were already terrible at doing.
That’s what drove me to drink on Saturday. This team has a long way to go if it’s going to have any type of season worth celebrating. I’m not sure the defensive coaching staff is salvageable, but we shall see. Of course, there were plenty of good things that happened, too, as is typical with a three-touchdown win, but the overall performance of the team put a damper on a huge day for TreVeyon Henderson, with his OSU freshman record for rushing yards.
The Buckeyes welcome Akron to the Shoe next week and maybe at this point we should all stop predicting Ohio State will have a sufficient lead that we’ll see the backup quarterbacks and receivers.