Ohio State Has Gone Away from Successful Program Attributes

It was over when Ryan Day punted with seven minutes in the third quarter. Ohio State faced a fourth-and-5 from the Michigan 43. Quarterback C.J. Stroud —a Heisman front-runner coming into this game — pleaded for Day to go for it. Nope. Without second thought, Day sent on his punt team and took his offense off the field.

A few minutes later, Donovan Edwards sauntered through the Ohio State defense twice during the fourth quarter and raced to the end zone to put the dagger in the hearts of Ohio State fans everywhere.

”We are always going to be aggressive,” Day said in his postgame news conference, “but at those times, I felt the right thing to do was to punt.”

Clearly, punting was NOT the right thing to do. Michigan took that punt and marched 80 yards in 15 plays to pretty much end any hope of an Ohio State victory.

Observers across the world noted Ohio State’s lack of “fight,” referencing the decision to punt, followed by the two Edwards runs in the final frame that officially led to a Wolverine victory.

For years, Ohio State’s program identity has been based on a few key attributes: toughness, a strong running game, a fundamentally sound defense, and beating Michigan on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Yesterday, Ohio state fans saw NONE of it.

Despite holding a lead at halftime, it seemed as though Ohio State made “negative” adjustments in the second half, allowing Michigan to run all over what was a stout first-half run defense. It was a flashback to the 2021 game, when Hasaan Haskins scored a whopping five rushing touchdowns and dominated Ohio State’s defense all afternoon.

Ryan Day said after the game that the Buckeyes were playing “really well” up front on defense in the first half, but that they gave up “too many big plays” in the second half, a quote that almost seems insulting to Buckeye fans.

The toughness question was never asked under Jim Tressel, who went 9-1 against Michigan. It was never asked under Urban Meyer, who went 7-0 against Michigan. Both of those coaches won national championships at Ohio State. Day’s three seasons have ended with a 2019 playoff loss to Clemson, a 2020 playoff blowout loss to Alabama, and a Rose Bowl shootout win over Utah after being blown out by Michigan a few weeks prior. None of those seasons have ended in a championship, which has basically become the expectation in Columbus after the accomplishments of Day’s two predecessors.

Day brought in Jim Knowles to fix the defense. It didn’t work. We all expected offensive wrinkles. There were none. The secondary was bad. The offense was bad. The defensive line was bad. And Ohio State’s toughness will continue to be questioned for at least another 364 days.

Is it fixable? Sure! Ohio State’s defense was certainly better for the majority of this season than it was in 2021. It just didn’t show up yesterday. For now, Michigan owns the rivalry.