In a 31-0 shutout (and beatdown) the Ohio State Buckeyes received from the Clemson Tigers in Saturday night’s National Semifinal, there was plenty of bad and ugly, and a few good things which happened in the game.
Let’s take a look:
On an offense that came away with zero points, there’s not many positives. The only positive really from the Buckeyes’ offense is Curtis Samuel. Even though the play-calling forced the ball to him on the outside more than they should, No. 4 still totaled six carries for 77 yards and nine catches for 43 yards, both of which led the team.
All season, Raekwon McMillan led the defense. The quarterback of the Silver Bullets, he may not have had the stats to prove it at times, but he was one of the best players on Ohio State’s defense in 2016. After an impressive game against Michigan in the regular season finale, the junior improved his draft stock even more after racking up 15 tackles, one sack, and two tackles for loss against Clemson.
McMillan will be one of a few Buckeyes that have a shot at getting selected in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft, if indeed he decides to forgo his senior season and enter the draft.
Part of the Buckeyes impressive linebacking group, Chris Worley may not have made many highlight reel-type plays, but he came away with 10 tackles. He also did well in pass coverage as well.
Who would have thought that Malik Hooker’s draft stock could have risen even more after such an impressive regular season? Well, it did after he played very well against the Tigers. The junior had seven tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, and an incredible interception that proved his insane range in the defensive backfield. After he declared for the draft Sunday afternoon, Hooker will get a well-deserved big pay day on the first day of the upcoming draft.
The fact that No. 24 had just one season as a full-time starter is still mind boggling. Somehow, he may not even reached his potential yet, and that’s scary for his future opponents.
For much of the game, Gareon Conley had the tough task of locking down Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams, who is one of the best receivers in college football this year. Williams may have been able to catch a few passes, but Conley and company did an excellent job of holding him down for much of the game. No. 8 finished with six tackles and one interception while doing his best to not allow Williams to get a big play.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson is not only known for his arm, but also for how often he can make plays with his feet as well. Faced with the task of containing the quarterback and putting pressure on the Tigers’ backfield, the Buckeyes’ defense played well for much of the game. Part of the reason for that was the defensive line, which was led by Hubbard, who finished with five tackles, 0.5 sacks, and one tackle for loss.
Following the game, Hubbard made it known that he will return for his senior season, which will be a huge boost for Ohio State’s defensive line in 2017.
With the offense struggling as much as they did, the senior was counted on to turn the field possession around for the Buckeyes, no matter where he was forced to punt the ball from. Well, he did just that. His seven punts averaged 49.7 yards, three of which landed inside the 20-yard line. Many may have taken Johnston for granted, but his ability to punt the ball deep and allow the punt protection to get downfield and not allow big returns will be missed.
Let’s face it, the Buckeyes were shutout in a game that many around the country were watching. How can there be any positives that come from this, right? Well, Ohio State had the youngest team in college football this season. They weren’t supposed to only lose one game during the regular season, let alone make the Final Four. Next year was supposed to be *the year*. Remember that, Buckeye Nation.
The Buckeyes struggled offensively all game, but especially on third downs. They converted just 3-of-14 third-down attempts. With Ohio State’s offense not being able to move the ball on any down, let alone on third down, it was one of their worst games offensively in the storied history of their program.
Yes, freshman guard Michael Jordan getting hurt didn’t help, but Ohio State’s offensive line struggled for much of the game. Whether it was not giving Barrett enough time in the pocket or not opening up holes for the ground attack, the offensive line lost the battle in the trenches to the Tigers. Offensive playcalling didn’t help them, but blocking up front will be something that the Buckeyes will look back on as one of the main reasons why they lost Saturday night.
Time of possession
The defense may have allowed 31 points, but they played much better than the scoreboard shows. With such a struggling offense, Ohio State’s defense was forced to be on the field for much of the game, 35 minutes and 51 seconds to be exact. Forced to be on the field for that long, the Silver Bullets eventually became worn out, and that cannot happen when playing such a high-powered offense. So yes, much of the reason why Clemson scored 31 points was solely because of Ohio State’s offense.
Offensive play calling
For much of the season, many question Ohio State’s play calling on offense. Luckily for them, their playmakers and the defense was able to bail them out, but that didn’t happen Saturday night. Whether it was running back Mike Weber not receiving enough carries, Samuel being force-fed on the outside too much, or Barrett not being able to make plays with his feet, the Buckeyes playcallers on the offensive side of the ball were bad, to say the least.
Head coach Urban Meyer hinted at changes this offseason following the game, so chances are, the Buckeyes’ offensive staff will most likely look much different in 2017.
After missing just one field goal in the first 11 games of the season, Tyler Durbin missed four of his final five field goals in the final two games of the season. While his two misses against Michigan didn’t prove to be costly, he missed both of his attempts in the National Semifinal. While the two left just six points off the scoreboard, they were huge momentum killers early in the game after the Buckeyes could have taken an early lead over Clemson.