Yes, it was supposed to be an easy one, another blowout, a quick romp against an inferior team. It wasn’t. It almost made your heart explode and alcohol sales in Columbus probably shot to record levels in the 4th quarter, but the experience was also a good thing for the team.
First, to be staring down a possible loss after a 17-point lead, in double overtime, in an insanely loud and hostile environment and to pull off the victory is an exceptional accomplishment. The Bucks can be proud of themselves because history says you aren’t supposed to win that game.
Secondly, that experience bonded them as a team in a way most of us probably can’t understand. They faced adversity together and beat it, bonded big time and are probably closer than ever now. And that makes you dangerous. (After the game, senior co-captain Michael Bennett tweeted “What did I do to be blessed with teammates like this? Tonight was the first night I felt like this team was an actual family.”)
Thirdly, this young team needed to go through the fear, through the hostility, and through the wrath of a #6 ranked defense. QB J.T. Barrett especially needed a taste of that if we stand a snowball’s chance in hell of beating Michigan State. (But we’re not looking ahead this week. Nope. No trap games here.) They are in for the biggest game of the season and a rabid dog fight soon and this was important prep for that.
Would it be nice to have rolled them? Hells yes. But remember, we have more freshman starters than any other team in the country right now.
The Lions top-ranked defense was able to shut down Barrett and the passing game after the 1st quarter, allowing him to throw for only 74 yards total. Barrett suffered a sprained MCL in the 2nd quarter but kept on keepin’ on. That’s the same injury that in the past sidelined Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller. But J.T. managed to not only stay in the game, but to in double-overtime carry the ball four times and score both rushing touchdowns that won the game. That deserves some respect, kids. (Rub some dirt in it, walk it off.)
This is the first game of the season the Bucks won defensively. They held the Lions to 224 yards and shut down quarterback Christian Hackenberg. OSU’s run defense left Penn State with nothing – they tallied 16 total rush yards at the end of the game. Off 16 carries. Yeah, that’s about .5 yards per rush attempt. Ouch.
And of course, the standout play of the game came from Defensive God, Joey Bosa. Named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week again, Bosa’s takedown of Lions RB Akeel Lynch, who in turn landed on the legs of Hackenberg and took him down, was the final game-winning play. Who thought a running back could hold back BOSA?? Machine. Beast. Can I vote Bosa on November 4th?
For you Negative Nellie’s who think Ohio State sucks now and aren’t as good as we thought, remember a few things. Penn State is one of the nation’s top defenses. The noise in that stadium registered louder than a jackhammer and just a few decibels less than a thunderclap. And Penn State has done this to Ohio State since they joined the conference. They can have the worst season ever, and they always somehow manage to bring the A-game no one thought they had to an Ohio State match-up. I’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again.
On the noise note – I have to give kudos to the Lions fans. That was the loudest and rowdiest I think I have ever heard a stadium in any game, and they did NOT let up. That was the most impressive effort seen in a long time. Ohio Stadium attendees should seriously take notes. It’s kindergarten naptime in The Shoe in comparison.
Bottom line however, that and your 4am air horns outside the OSU hotel Saturday (how very Eagles fans of you) didn’t work. Sorry, suckas.
Ohio State’s next night game comes this Saturday at home in the Shoe in the form of the 4-4 Illinois Illini. Coached for the third year by Tim Beckman – a former defensive coordinator under OSU head coach Urban Meyer when Meyer was the head of Bowling Green football and a cornerbacks coach at OSU under Jim Tressel – Illinois is just 2-18 in conference play overall. Yes, they’ve won exactly two Big Ten games out of their last 26 Big Ten games. And one of those (so like, half) was just last weekend.
The Illini managed to beat Minnesota, who was previously leading the Western Division and riding a high they haven’t in years…that most of us weren’t convinced of just yet. No mas. Illinois handed the Gophers their first conference loss of the season, and I’m not sure who it says more about.
The win was a signature one for the Illini, and their first home conference win under Beckman. (Yes, you read that right.) It ended Illinois’ 3-game losing streak this season, so they have a little momentum going for them. But that might be the best thing they have.
Illinois’ offense is ranked #77 in the nation. Ohio State’s is #11.
Out of their four B1G games, they gave up 38 points or more in three of them. They aren’t good at stopping the run – ranked 120th out of 125 FBS teams. They aren’t good at the rush offense – ranked 13th in the conference (out of 14) for rushing yards per game. They’re ranked last in total defense.
Illinois’ quarterback Reilly O’Toole only took over as the starter in the 5th week of this season. He’s 1-3 in games, losing to Nebraska, Purdue and Wisconsin. O’Toole’s favorite target is freshman wide receiver Mike Dudek, who so far has tallied 42 receptions, 639 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Dudek is looking to break an Illinois record this weekend – he needs 38 yards to take Arrelious Benn’s 2007 school record for receiving yards by a freshman.
On paper, this game looks easy. And it very well may be. But the Buckeyes need to focus only on this game, guns ablazing like it were for all the marbles, and not look ahead to Michigan State (who has a bye this Saturday, but we’re not talking about that) next weekend. Because if they don’t put Illinois away properly, beating Michigan State won’t really matter at all. Illinois has a coach in the hot seat they are looking to save, and would love nothing more than to be the ones to knock Ohio State out of the inaugural playoff rankings. (OSU sits at #16, but we’re not talking about that either. Yet.)
The two teams are playing for the Illibuck, a wooden trophy of a turtle and part of a tradition that started in 1925 when the trophy was a live turtle and the two honorary societies responsible for the turtle and the rivalry would smoke a peace pipe at halftime together. The only thing gettin’ smoked this Saturday is Illinois. And the only place Illibuck is going is to High Street for some dollar pitchers. GO BUCKS!