Yep. I’ll eat it. Served however you like.
OSU’s loss today was a real bitch, no doubt about it. But a few things have been building up the past few weeks. When you really follow a team, watching every snap of every game — really follow a team, you see things that the casual observer just doesn’t see. Now, I’m a self-confessed Ohio State homer and very much proud of it, but I also try to be as fair minded about it as I can. Calling a spade a spade is what I do for a living and I try to keep that philosophy with the Buckeyes (and the Browns for that matter…I think we get crushed Sunday). The past few weeks, even going back to the Penn State game, cracks in the OSU defense started to show. Nothing glaring, but enough to give diehards pause. Wisconsin moved the ball. Penn State ran it but just couldn’t throw it.
Today, Illinois exposed the OSU defense. Plain and simple. It’s surprising that OSU took Benn (1 catch for 7 yards) out of the game and even limited Mendenhall (26 carries 88 yards) but stil gave up 28 points and gobs of rushing yards. If you would have told me before the game that we’d shut down Benn and Mendenhall would get 26 carries and OSU would hold him to 3.5 a pop, I’d say we’d win by 20+. Illinois depends on those guys for big plays. Illinois, all year long, has self-destructed. They’ve lost 3 games this year by a combined 21 points and in all 3 losses they practically gave away wins with turnovers and penalties.
Today they had zero turnovers and 1 penalty. They should have had a turnover on the fumble in the first that wasn’t reviewed, but bad calls are part of football. You have to overcome it. Today they didn’t self-destruct. It was a culmination of two things, really: Illinois playing a nearly flawless game and Ohio State playing its worst game of the year both offenesively and defensively.
How bad was it? OSU closed the gap to 28-21 at the end of the 3rd…and Illinois kept it for 13+ minutes in the final quarter. Yep. Ohio State had the ball for THREE PLAYS in the entire 4th quarter! That’s not a typo. 3 plays. It was the definition of surreal. 3rd and 7 — Williams runs a QB draw for a 1st. 3rd and 10 –same play. 1st down. OSU simply could not stop Juice Williams when it mattered.
His stat line, 12/22 140 yards doesn’t tell the story. He was the story for Illinois on offense.
When you add an inspired game like that to the fact that OSU QB Todd Boeckman picked today to have his worst game of the year — you have a recipe for disaster. Boeckman tossed 3 picks after OSU’s fast start where we scored in 2 plays to start the game. All 3 were huge and 2 were on decisions that you expect a true Freshman to make, not a guy who was played the role of Cool Hand Luke for 10 games. He also missed several passes that should have been huge, huge plays. When your defense is playing poorly, you can’t afford to leave points on the field and OSU left about 21 at the Shoe today. It beat them.
Poor QB play, Beanie once again not getting enough carries (man I wish that kid was healthy) and an Illinois team that simply played lights out…and there you have it.
After OSU beat Washington, back when we were on the old blog, I said that very few OSU fans felt that this is a National Championship team. We’re too young in too many key areas. The Bucks fooled me a bit and I really thought we were heading to New Orleans, and turns out our initial feeling on this team was correct. We’re a year away. And that’s OK. For a team that was picked to finish 3rd or 4th in the Big10, to be playing for a Rose Bowl berth isn’t something to cry about, despite the fact that we were so close to capping a magical run with such a young team.
When the team that plays the better game wins, there’s nothing you can do but move on. I hope they put this loss in the rear view mirror.
It’s now MICHIGAN WEEK.