Yikes. Too close for comfort may be the understatement of the night. In the nation’s spotlight, Ohio State nearly saw their season ruined by the upstart Wildcats from Northwestern University. Thanks to a poor start and some early fumbling issues, the Buckeyes were on the wrong end of the scoreboard heading into the final quarter.
Once considered the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, OSU quarterback Braxton Miller can cross off that dream for this season. Thanks to two games missed due to injury and inconsistent play, Miller has been surpassed by many other upstarts in the Heisman chase. But how many of those guys can say they have piloted their team through an eighteen game winning streak? None. A bad case of fumblitis did strike Miller at some of the most inopportune times, specifically in the third quarter which ruined an impressive Buckeye drive inside the ten yard line. No rushing or passing touchdowns plus only 203 passing yards made Miller look…. human.
The week six struggle will certainly give Urban Meyer and the coaching staff plenty of material to cover in practice this week. The largest area of concern can be found in the secondary. Outside of Doran Grant’s timely interception, the Play of the Game in my opinion, the cornerbacks and safeties were shredded. They made Trevor Siemian and Kain Colter look like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to the tune of 343 yards and an insane 83% completion rate. Their first game without star safety Christian Bryant highlighted his importance.
The turning point of the game very well may have been that aforementioned dreadful Miller fumble. After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing Wildcat drive, the Buckeyes realized their best hopes rested in feeding their workhouse power back Carlos Hyde. Over the next quarter and a half, Hyde scored three touchdowns and his 26 carries were crucial when Miller struggled. If you exclude Rod Smith’s 13 yards, Hyde’s 168 yards were more than both team’s rushing yards combined outside of Hyde. When Miller regained his touch in the fourth, he gained momentum by finding Hyde on dump-offs in the passing game. His 38 yards and four catches were both second best for Ohio State.
Just as the Buckeyes have done for the past season and a half, Ohio State managed to hang another W in the record column. And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that truly matters? After surviving Wisconsin and Northwestern, their schedule gets much easier. Returning home for a week off and an easy game against Iowa should give the Buckeyes plenty of time to nurse wounds and regain confidence. No matter how close these games get, the Buckeyes are still undefeated and the winning streak lives on.