24-1. Urban Meyer’s record as head coach of The Ohio State Buckeyes is perfect no more. A weekend that was full of possibilities ended with a heart-breaking result at Lucas Oil Stadium. Michigan State was all that stood between Ohio State and the first B1G title since 2009 (2010 has been “revoked”), a second consecutive perfect season, and a fourth appearance in the BCS title game. Instead, Ohio State’s imperfectly perfect team suffered their first loss in the Urban Meyer era.
We all knew the Buckeyes would lose at some point under Meyer. It doesn’t change the fact that a loss against a quality opponent stings more than even I thought it would. Early in the game, it was obvious Ohio State wasn’t on their “A” game. A head scratching pass interference on Doran Grant on Michigan State’s first third down attempt followed up with Shazier committing one of the worst mental mistakes I’ve ever seen when, on 3rd and 19 he runs over a receiver for no clear reason, giving Michigan State another first down. The Buckeyes handed Michigan State their first three points, indicative of how much of the rest of the game would go.
Going through the errors Ohio State made throughout the game, it’s obvious the biggest errors were on the defensive end, ***looking at you*** Corey “Pitt” Brown and C.J. Barnett, but Tom Herman’s play-calling in the 1st and 4th quarters was equally maddening (Tom needs to completely remove swing pass to Hyde from the playbook, it makes NO SENSE, swing it to Hall, Wilson, Philly Brown, ANYBODY but Hyde). When Ohio State’s offense finally woke up after Braxton Miller’s momentum changing scramble, it worked because Carlos Hyde was running dive plays up the middle. He was regularly getting 5+ yards on the stingy Spartan defense. When Hyde was hot, it opened up the sweep plays for Braxton, as well as play action to the wide receivers, even if they couldn’t make the catch. (Spencer and Smith both had killer drops). Inexplicably, Hyde was given the ball two times in the 4th quarter and on the critical 4th and 2, Meyer didn’t even give Braxton the option to hand it to Hyde.
On the defensive side of the ball, the pass defense (save Roby, who actually played his best game of the year) was terrible. Specifically, the safeties were absolutely atrocious. On the first Michigan State Touchdown, “Pitt” Brown took an abysmal angle in trying to intercept the pass, ensuring a completion would result in a touchdown. On Michigan State’s go ahead 4th quarter touchdown, Barnett, for reasons not even God is fully aware of, leaves the tight end wide open for the touchdown. As you can see in the video, if Barnett had just stayed with the tight end, Cook gets sacked by one of the three Ohio State players circling him and Michigan State settles for a field goal, leaving the game tied. Do we go on to win, not guaranteed at all, but it certainly takes some of the pressure off the offense.
After sitting and suffering through the loss and enduring endless amounts of trolls tweeting how overrated Ohio State was, I came to accept that the soft schedule truly was the downfall of this team (the poor defense didn’t help either). Winning 24 in a row against FBS level competition is impressive, no matter what any of the pundits might say. However, the fact that this the Buckeyes team wasn’t used to playing against high level competition was evident in the game. Ohio State could have put Michigan State down in the third quarter, they couldn’t. When an opportunity to put your foot on an opponent’s throat presents itself, you have to do it (Alabama can attest to this). Ohio State hasn’t been good at “finishing” opponents off this season (Illinois & Michigan) but it hadn’t mattered because of the inferior quality of the opponents. In the B1G title game Ohio State faced a Michigan State team that was good enough to get off the mat and put them down when the Buckeyes failed to finish the job.
As a fan, this loss hurt a lot. Everything you do for the next few hours just feels empty. You don’t want to watch ESPN, listen to Mark May, or read about Auburn fans celebrating. And yet, trying to watch a movie or a funny show doesn’t work either, all you can do is replay the game in your mind, imagining how it should have gone. So I sat there for a while, put on a smile after some time and remember that it is just a game. Braxton Miller will be back (likely), bowl season is still fun, and there’s always next year. But man, those images of Urban eating cold pizza all alone after the game sums up pretty well how most fans felt for the next 24 hours.