Game 9 View from the Couch – Ohio State at Northwestern
For those of you who are first-time readers, welcome! Here is a link explaining my process of how I recap Buckeye games while paying respect to the rich historical tradition of the team I love, The Ohio State Buckeyes.
-Favorite Stat of the Game: 79 rushing yards by C.J. Stroud.
A lot has been said in the great state of Ohio and beyond about C.J. Stroud running the football. When asked about not rushing much last year Stroud responded that he wasn’t a running back. Last year and this year, there have been times with wide lanes in front of Stroud for an easy first down or more and he has chosen not to take them (I always think a quarterback who keeps the pass alive as long as possible is the best anyway). So when he tucked the ball and ran for 79 yards today, and ran the read-option when it was needed it was a tremendous step forward for him as Buckeye and a quarterback. He showed his team, fans, and the world that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win, even if it’s something he doesn’t necessarily want to do.
That’s the leader and captain Stroud wants to be. I hope he has a couple of runs for first downs in the rest of the games for Ohio State this season. I hope Coach Day and Coach Dennis (Buckeyes’ quarterbacks’ coach) both talk to him about how much the mere threat of a quarterback who can run further opens up a defense, especially in the middle of the field when linebackers and safeties have to watch out for the quarterback to run, maybe putting them a step or so behind their coverage or their tackling and opening up more windows for Stroud to throw through.
Credit Stroud for getting out of his comfort zone and doing whatever it took to win. Stroud also had a fantastic block on Miyan Williams’s first touchdown run when Williams bounced it outside, Stroud got in front of him and between him and a defender that allowed Williams to get that extra yardage and into the end zone.
-The Brooklyn Dagger Award: Stroud’s 44-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
The game felt like it was within reach for Northwestern until Stroud’s 44-yard run set the Buckeyes up first and goal to go at the Wildcat five-yard-line. Even then there was no sure thing of scoring a touchdown until after a three-yard run by Stroud, Miyan Williams rushed for his second touchdown of the game to make it 21-7 which would be the final in favor of the Buckeyes.
-Dwayne Haskins Award: Miyan “Chop” Williams.
No doubt about Miyan “Chop” Williams being the player of the game for Ohio State. Williams had 26 carries for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He was the most consistent and brightest spot for the Buckeye offense on the day and he did it without another Buckeye running back getting a carry today to give him a breather.
-Chase Young Award: Tommy Eichenberg.
Tommy Eichenberg once again was the best Buckeye defender for the game. He had 13 tackles on the day (10 of them were solo!) and a tackle for a loss. On the season he has 85 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hurries, two passes broken up, and an interception returned for a touchdown.
-Ryan Shazier-Devin Smith Award: Jakailin Johnson.
The redshirt freshman from St. Louis, Missouri had a good game at cornerback for the Buckeyes. He had five tackles, three of them solo at a position that the Buckeyes have struggled at this season. Games like this will see Jakailin Johnson in more and more games and making more and more plays for Ohio State. He has 19 tackles on the season with 14 of them solo.
-Dane Sanzenbacher Award: Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones.
The all-American caliber offensive tackles that the Buckeyes have played fantastically against Northwestern and all season long. Jones and Johnson kept Northwestern from sacking C.J. Stroud and paved the way for tough 207 rushing yards and three touchdowns for the Buckeye ground game.
-Taylor Decker Award: Denzel Burke.
Denzel Burke has struggled this season with injuries and at times consistency on the field this season. He bounced back in a big way against Northwestern with six tackles, all unassisted. After four against Penn State it seems that Jakailin Johnson and he are settling in well as the top two cornerbacks for the Bucks.
-Fedora Award: Miyan Williams
Williams and TreVeyon Henderson have been 50/50 when leading the Buckeye rushing attack. Both have stepped the most though when without the other. In the two games without Henderson where Williams filled his shoes and had almost all of the Buckeye carries, he has had 47 carries for 400 yards and seven touchdowns.
-Sweater Vest Award: Jesse Mirco.
Jesse Mirco has done so little punting and drawn so little attention that this is the only picture of his I could find. That’s the way it should be. A punter should rarely be needed. And then when he is needed, you want him to play like Jesse Mirco did against the Wildcats. Aided by the wind, Mirco had seven punts for 352 yards, averaging 50.3 yards per punt with two downed inside the Northwestern 20-yard line.
-Archie Award: Jim Knowles.
I was very critical of Coach Knowles early in the game but he and his defensive staff and the Silver Bullets defense showed massive, incredible amounts of poise in this game. With Northwestern leading early and a game similar to the one in Ann Arbor last year facing them the Buckeyes’ defense kept their cool.
They gave up 206 rushing yards, one shy of how much their offense gained. But they made Northwestern do it on 59 carries (as opposed to the Bucks’ 35) holding them to a 3.5 yards per carry average (the Buckeye offense had 5.9 per carry). The defense also wrapped up very well, recording 76 tackles, 56 of which the defender brought down solo. Another improved performance by Jim Knowles’ defense.
-Horned Rimmed Glasses Award: The Missing North-South Running Game.
There is an old story that during his time at Ohio State, Jack Tatum was practicing on special teams as a punt returner and he fielded a punt, ran from sideline to sideline away from the coverage team, and burned the punt unit for a touchdown. Supposedly, after he did this Coach Hayes grabbed Tatum and chewed him out, yelling at him that if he gets the ball, he runs north and south (straight ahead) not east and west (sideline to sideline). Even though he had scored a touchdown, Coach Hayes believed there was a right way to do things and that way was straight ahead, as fast, and as physically as possible. I’m not nearly as conservative as Woody Hayes, and until this decade I was the fan wanting more passing and speed runs. But the Buckeyes have to find a way to run the ball behind the center and the guards.
They need to run to the middle to force opposing defenses to defend the entire field. It seems their best runs begin that way too. Miyan Williams’s first touchdown started to the inside for a first down, then he bounced it outside to score. His second run was right behind the center and it was so unexpected, that despite it being on the two-yard line, Williams went in untouched. There were similarities last week to Henderson’s big fourth-quarter runs. And you know if I can see it, so can the Buckeye coaches, and worse the coaches and players of the teams they go up against.
-Coaching Moments of the Game:
It seems these past three games have followed the same routine. The Buckeyes come out flat. They try attacking the field outside the numbers with little to no success. Bang their heads against that brick wall trying to force those plays. Make late adjustments to attack differently and pull away late. I give all the credit in the world to Ryan Day and his staff for making those late adjustments to do things differently and win the game. Not many coaches can do that. It was something the great Jim Tressel inexplicably struggled with. It takes a very good coach and staff to be able to do that.
That said, if the Buckeyes keep playing poorly early, and having trouble making the opponent defend the entire field, they’re going to lose to that team up north and all hopes of big-time wins will be lost for the 2022 season and the career of a very talented quarterback will have only really one big time game to remember. The Buckeyes have been reluctant to attack the middle of the field and have forced everything wide toward the sidelines all season long and that has to change. I don’t know the reason why.
Some have wondered about the interior linemen of the Buckeyes and their health, or worries about turnovers. Whatever the reason, the Bucks can’t help the opposing defense by taking themselves away from part of the field. Make the other team defend the whole field, and force them to take a portion away from you instead of taking it away from yourself. Another way to get this power running game going is to go a little old school, and have the beast that is senior fullback Mitch Rossi lead the way in an I-formation for Henderson and Williams, like he did for Miyan Williams’ second touchdown of the day!
Finding a bright side isn’t as easy as you’d like it when you were favored by 37 and only won by 14 and the game felt a lot closer than the 21-7 score would indicate. I’ve been hard on the Buckeyes despite the insane weather they were playing in. Good teams play in crazy weather and win. The rain in Georgia didn’t stop the Dawgs. Another concerning aspect is that the Buckeye coaches didn’t seem to have anything specific planned to do differently in the nasty weather, until late in the game with C.J.’s called runs.
I hope I am wrong but it seemed that their plan was to just run their normal plan despite winds that were clearly affecting the ball every time it was in the air. Today was the first game they really missed Jaxon Smith-Njigba. You always miss a player of his caliber but today was the first day that some of his fellow receivers made some drops that had me thinking that JSN would have caught those. Finally, instead of being the leader in the race, C.J. Stroud is now back to being neck and neck with other stars in the race for the Heisman.
But all is not lost! Despite all my misgivings the only thing that matters is winning. All of those lofty goals of beating TTUN, winning the Big Ten, making the playoffs, advancing, and winning a national championship, and going undefeated are all still within reach. There is also no doubt that this team has the talent and coaches to achieve all those goals.
-2014 Moment: Back to the Future.
In 2014, the Buckeyes had a game that sparked their National Championship run. But it wasn’t beating TTUN by 14, or winning the Big Ten Championship by 59. It was a 31-24 double overtime win at a Penn State team that finished the season 7-6. After the Buckeyes win, you could tell that they felt they had a chance against any team and in any situation. The following Tuesday they were ranked 16th in the first-ever College Football Playoff Ranking. And that pissed them off. They played with a chip on their shoulders and playing their best football, always in the fight, all the way to the eighth title in Buckeye history.
I thought the slow start and red zone struggles against Iowa might do that. I thought needing late-game heroics again at Penn State might, and now I’m hoping that playing in a hurricane in Chicago might give the Buckeyes that kind of edge. That they’ll be out there playing their best with something extra to prove. All the way to a title once more.
-2002 Moment: Winning Ugly in Evanston.
The 2002 Buckeyes had a fight in Evanston and had their stars struggle too. Star player Maurice Clarett had three fumbles and the Buckeyes fell behind 6-0 after the first quarter. They stayed poised, kept running the ball, and played great defense on their way to a win. Sounds familiar, right? Let’s hope Buckeye history repeats itself here.
-1968 Moment: Clean football in a filthy game.
The Buckeyes didn’t turn the ball over at all and in those winds and with the offense that stalled, that is an impressive feat. They also didn’t give up a single sack and were a perfect two-for-two in the RedZone. Those are some pretty facts about a nasty-looking win. Ohio State is now 65-14-1 against Northwestern with a ten-game winning streak going. Ohio State set an FBS record today by scoring 20 or more points for the 70th, yes 70th, straight game.
Ohio State’s chances going into the game against Northwestern, to beat that team up north in three weeks were 74.6% that they would win. I wasn’t that high on my Buckeyes myself, feeling like the formula that the wolverines used to win last year was still very viable and had The Game at 50/50. I’m even less certain of the odds for the Buckeyes now. The good news is as I finish this, Rutgers is giving that team a good game, having had the lead at halftime. It’s also important to remember that records are thrown out when The Game starts.
Read about all the Ohio State games so far this season!
- Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
- Ohio State vs. Arkansas State
- Ohio State vs. Toledo
- Ohio State vs. Wisconsin
- Ohio State vs. Rutgers
- Ohio State at Michigan State
- Ohio State vs. Iowa
- Ohio State at Penn State
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