Even after strong answer, big question remains for Ohio State


By Jim Naveau - [email protected]



OSU gets high grade on its final exam

A Sunday morning grade card on Ohio State’s 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, a game that put about the best possible ending on a season when the ultimate goal was out of reach.

OFFENSE

Slow starts were a problem much of the season but OSU’s offense made sure that wasn’t an issue by scoring two touchdowns before the first quarter was even halfway over.

Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 149 yards and four touchdowns in his farewell to Ohio State. J.T. Barrett was 19 of 31 for 211 yards passing and ran for 96 yards on 23 carries.

The offensive line repeated the dominating performance it had in a 42-13 win over Michigan. Balance was a goal and the Buckeyes got it with Barrett’s 31 passes. He completed his first seven passes and connected with six receivers by halftime.

The only questions were about why Ohio State didn’t play its fast-moving “tempo” offense more often earlier in the season and why it took so long to move offensive coordinator Ed Warinner to the coaches booth from the sideline.

Grade: A

DEFENSE

Unfortunately, the All-American poster boys for Ohio State’s defense and Notre Dame’s defense didn’t make it out of the first quarter.

OSU defensive end Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting and Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith left the game with what his coach Brian Kelly called “a significant knee injury.”

Bosa’e ejection meant Ohio State was playing without three of its four starting defensive linemen. Even without Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt, though, the Buckeyes held Notre Dame to 143 yards on the ground.

Linebacker Darron Lee (two sacks) and defensive ends Tyquan Lewis (one sack) and Sam Hubbard (one sack) got good pressure on ND quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Notre Dame had only one really big play in the air, an 81-yard touchdown pass to its No. 1 receiver, Will Fuller.

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Sean Nuernberger made a nice comeback from a tough season when he kicked field goals of 38 yards, 37 yards and 35 yards in the fourth quarter. The sophomore lost his job to Duke graduate transfer Jack Willoughby for most of the season and had missed his only attempt before the Fiesta Bowl.

Ohio State’s kick coverage team did a nice job of containing dangerous Notre Dame return man C.J. Sanders, the son of former Ohio State receiver Chris Sanders, who never found room to run. Punter Cameron Johnston was his usual excellent self.

Grade: A

OVERALL

The most often asked question in the weeks before the Fiesta Bowl was if Ohio State would be motivated.

Some people speculated the Buckeyes would be distracted by the NFL draft or still disturbed about not getting into the College Football Playoff. The answer to that question came quickly when OSU jumped out to leads of 14-0 and 28-7 in the first half.

Ohio State finished 12-1 and the senior class departed with a 50-4 record in the last four seasons.

The Fiesta Bowl was a good ending to the season and to the seniors’ careers.

But everyone knows wearing hats that said “Fiesta Bowl Champion” on the field after the game was not what Ohio State had in mind this season.

Grade: A

——-

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ohio State coach Urban Meyer called the Buckeyes’ pursuit of last year’s college football national championship “The Chase.”

With that mission accomplished, he labeled the pursuit of a repeat championship this season “The Grind.”

Would it be too harsh to say for some people this season turned into The Second Guess?

Ohio State’s biggest problem in some unimpressive wins early in the season and in its one loss came on offense.

And after that loss, 17-14 against Michigan State, OSU seemed to find a combination that changed the offense for the better. Much better.

With J.T. Barrett installed as the undisputed starting quarterback and with offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner in the coach’s booth instead of on the sideline, Ohio State scored 86 points in the final eight quarters of the season in a 42-13 win over Michigan and on Friday in a 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

There are undoubtedly reasons why the move didn’t happen until the twelfth game of the season and questioning Urban Meyer’s football decisions isn’t a job for amateurs.

Maybe Warinner moving upstairs with Barrett as the quarterback was only a small part of the turnaround.

But the question of why it didn’t happen sooner will still linger out there because, like Meyer himself, Ohio State football fans aren’t very good at letting go of things.

The last two weeks of the season, Ohio State looked like one of the top four teams in the country. But until Warinner moved upstairs and presumably took on more of a role in the play calling, it often did not.

It says something about what the standards are at Ohio State and how they have become even higher during Meyer’s four years there that a team has to defend or explain a 12-1 season.

Senior offensive tackle Taylor Decker says, while the ultimate goal was not reached, this year’s team doesn’t need to make apologies.

“I’ve said it probably 10 times that just because we didn’t make the playoff doesn’t mean this season was a failure. This season was a huge success. I’m walking out of here 50-4 in my career. We’re arguably one of the best classes ever here,” Decker said after the Fiesta Bowl.

“I’m just happy we came back and responded after two tough losses and kind of made a statement that we are a really, really good football team. I think we had to go out there and make a statement.

“I think we wanted to make a statement, not because of how any of the other (bowl) games went, but because we shot ourselves in the foot. We still wanted to come out here and show we’re still a good football team and, more importantly, what this program is about. Just because things didn’t go our way doesn’t mean we’re just going to pack it up,” he said.

Safety Vonn Bell said, “You see the other (bowl) games. We know we could have been there, that we could have won. But that’s life. Everything happens for a reason. This is our destiny right here and we accomplished that destiny.”

It is a season and a destiny that will be talked about for a long time for many reasons. And, of course, it will be second guessed.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/web1_LOGO.osu_.jpg

By Jim Naveau

[email protected]

OSU gets high grade on its final exam

A Sunday morning grade card on Ohio State’s 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, a game that put about the best possible ending on a season when the ultimate goal was out of reach.

OFFENSE

Slow starts were a problem much of the season but OSU’s offense made sure that wasn’t an issue by scoring two touchdowns before the first quarter was even halfway over.

Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 149 yards and four touchdowns in his farewell to Ohio State. J.T. Barrett was 19 of 31 for 211 yards passing and ran for 96 yards on 23 carries.

The offensive line repeated the dominating performance it had in a 42-13 win over Michigan. Balance was a goal and the Buckeyes got it with Barrett’s 31 passes. He completed his first seven passes and connected with six receivers by halftime.

The only questions were about why Ohio State didn’t play its fast-moving “tempo” offense more often earlier in the season and why it took so long to move offensive coordinator Ed Warinner to the coaches booth from the sideline.

Grade: A

DEFENSE

Unfortunately, the All-American poster boys for Ohio State’s defense and Notre Dame’s defense didn’t make it out of the first quarter.

OSU defensive end Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting and Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith left the game with what his coach Brian Kelly called “a significant knee injury.”

Bosa’e ejection meant Ohio State was playing without three of its four starting defensive linemen. Even without Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt, though, the Buckeyes held Notre Dame to 143 yards on the ground.

Linebacker Darron Lee (two sacks) and defensive ends Tyquan Lewis (one sack) and Sam Hubbard (one sack) got good pressure on ND quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Notre Dame had only one really big play in the air, an 81-yard touchdown pass to its No. 1 receiver, Will Fuller.

Grade: A-

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Sean Nuernberger made a nice comeback from a tough season when he kicked field goals of 38 yards, 37 yards and 35 yards in the fourth quarter. The sophomore lost his job to Duke graduate transfer Jack Willoughby for most of the season and had missed his only attempt before the Fiesta Bowl.

Ohio State’s kick coverage team did a nice job of containing dangerous Notre Dame return man C.J. Sanders, the son of former Ohio State receiver Chris Sanders, who never found room to run. Punter Cameron Johnston was his usual excellent self.

Grade: A

OVERALL

The most often asked question in the weeks before the Fiesta Bowl was if Ohio State would be motivated.

Some people speculated the Buckeyes would be distracted by the NFL draft or still disturbed about not getting into the College Football Playoff. The answer to that question came quickly when OSU jumped out to leads of 14-0 and 28-7 in the first half.

Ohio State finished 12-1 and the senior class departed with a 50-4 record in the last four seasons.

The Fiesta Bowl was a good ending to the season and to the seniors’ careers.

But everyone knows wearing hats that said “Fiesta Bowl Champion” on the field after the game was not what Ohio State had in mind this season.

Grade: A

——-

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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