The Last Hope of the Desperate; Day, Buckeyes at a Crossroads
Before getting to the heart of the matter, I must clarify a few things. Ryan Day is a good man. He and his wife gave 100,000$ to a cause near and dear to my heart and Coach Day’s heart, mental health. Coach Day is a good college football coach. He has won two Big Ten Championships, has made the College Football Playoff twice, has won the Sugar Bowl, has won the Rose Bowl, and has coached his quarterbacks to win five straight Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Awards.
Ryan Day is 45-5 at Ohio State and it’s not good enough. Because he’s 1-2 in The Game. The most important game of any year at Ohio State and Ryan Day has bitten asphalt. Hard. His time at Ohio State is running out, and he’s hanging by a thread. Even he knows it. When asked after the second of what are becoming known as Day’s Debacles. When asked what he thought about the Buckeyes possibly getting into the College Football Playoff as an at-large fourth seed Day said he thought the Buckeyes would be “dangerous.”
At first, when I heard him say this I thought it showed how out of touch he was with the reality of what he’d just presided over. The only team Ohio State looked to be a danger to was Ohio State. Historic disasters are what Ryan Day had eaten two years in a row. And he was talking about playoffs? After what had just happened? The staff of Ohio Stadium hadn’t even left yet and this joker was talking about playoffs?
Day’s talk of the postseason showed both how there is a part of The Game he just doesn’t get. There is no moving on that quickly from that debacle. Every problem that the Buckeyes had led to the head man. This was maybe the worst-coached game I’ve ever seen. Not Jim Tressel having no clue what Florida was going to do to him in January of 2007. Not Urban Meyer giving up 55 to Iowa in 2017. Not Day having no clue how to stop the run in 2021. This.
The problems the Buckeyes had struggled with all season and all season showed flashes of overcoming them. The problems were self-inflicted. The solutions to overcome are forgotten or worse, ignored. Marvin Harrison Jr. is the best wide receiver in the nation and he didn’t have a ball thrown his way once while Ohio State was in the Red Zone. Ryan Day’s offensive struggles in the Red Zone date back to the loss to Clemson in 2019 when kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns gave Ryan Day his first big loss.
In the Red Zone, the passing game was 2 of 9 for six yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The rushing in the Red Zone was no better with six carries for 24 yards. Taking the middle of the field away from themselves hurt too. All year and all day (and all Day) against that team brick wall Day again banged his head against the brick wall trying to constantly go to the perimeter. The defense leaving poorly coached corners alone to decide whether a pass or run is 10 yards or 75 yards and a touchdown hurt just as much.
On 54 plays the team from Ann Arbor gained only three yards per play. The problem is they ran a total of 59 plays on offense. Five of those plays each went for at least 45 yards and a touchdown. To their credit they let their stars decide the game. Their top two receivers, their quarterback, and their best available running back ran right at Ohio State and dared them to stop them.
That is what’s done in this rivalry. The best players on each team are the deciding factor. Stroud had over 300 yards and Harrison and Egbuka had 100 each and a touchdown. They could have and should have had more but Ryan Day got cute. Trayanum should have been allowed to run full steam ahead as he had 14 carries for 83 yards and it should have been more but again Ohio State stopped Ohio State.
Look to your past, when you were there for the victory. Dobbins and Weber’s running did it in 2017. Dwyane Haskins slinging it for 396 and six touchdowns did it in 2018. A mixture of Dobbins (211 yards and four touchdown runs) and Fields (302 yards and four touchdown passes) did it in 2019. Put it on the shoulders of your best. When you do that they at the very least go down clawing with tooth and nail. And most times will carry you through to victory.
One thing the thought of being dangerous after eating a 22-point loss at home did show was that he knew how desperate his situation is. It also showed how whether he would admit it or not he gets Buckeye Nation and their Scarlet-and-Gray, beat-that-team-up-north-or-kick-rocks hearts’ beat. He was immediately thinking of some kind of redemption. The redemption of a man with hope being the only thing he has left.
To his credit he was thinking of the soonest possible moment he could feasibly have another shot. Where the Buckeyes get into the playoff at #4, beat #1 the defending champion and very mighty Georgia, and hope Harbaugh beats #3, a TCU team that just seems to relish the close game and go toe-to-toe for a fourth time and for all the marbles.
That Day wants that matchup again as soon as possible is good. While those who find the last two Buckeye losses unacceptable to the point of wanting a change in leadership are cautioned to be careful what they wish for, so should Coach Day and those eager to see him go against that team up north again. If the same guy who refused to change how he called a game all year showed up again, the third chapter in Day’s Debacles would be added.
Yet whatever you think of Ryan Day, as a Buckeye fan, you want that scenario to happen, the way it happened for Georgia last year. You want just the shot of it because you know it means that one way or another the problems of the past two seasons will be addressed. If Day still calls the offensive plays, and calls for bubble screen passing plays and shotgun pitches to the running back in the rushing attack then he’d lose and no one could defend keeping a coach that lost three straight in the most important games he’d ever coached.
It’d be better for Ryan Day himself for this hope to come to pass even if it was met with an unprecedented third failure. If redemption eludes him, he can leave and point at us crazy Ohioans and our obsession and say these wild folks are too much and go somewhere like Boston College and both sides go onward and upward. Success here requires that you embrace the madness. That you dance with this devil in the pale moonlight. If you can not, or will not, decide now. Go your way, we’ll go ours, and wish each other all the best.
So if Utah and or Kansas State do the great state of Ohio a solid and give them another chance things must be different. He must go to his stars again and again and again until you crush the other team or that team forces him to go elsewhere. Attacking forward and not laterally. Find out what they struggle with (and in this case, it was passing downfield and attacking between the hashes) and feed it to them until they quit.
Find who you are and be it relentlessly. If that’s passing like crazy, then do it! Explaining why your quarterback threw 50 times, 20 of them to his favorite target is better than explaining why you threw to a linebacker turned tight end at one of the critical moments of the biggest game of your career. And it worked the last time you tried it in the Rose Bowl.
Something has to give. The fire of 31-20, 62-39, and 56-27 had to be found, relight and have gasoline poured on it. Because at the end of the Day, you don’t want this any more than we do.
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