Skull Session: Ohio State’s Defense Still Needs Work, Noah Ruggles Was Failed Before His Kick Sailed and CJ Stroud Shined Bright in Atlanta

And with that, the 2022 season comes to an end.

After Ohio State lost to Georgia 42-41 in the Peach Bowl on Saturday, every soul in Buckeye Nation felt the same emotion simultaneously.

Let’s talk about that.

Before we do, I, of course, have to say this: Let’s have a good Monday, shall we?

STILL WORK TO DO. In retrospect, I have no idea how Ohio State made the College Football Playoff with the defense it possessed this season. While that side of the ball looked stout for most of the season, Maryland, Michigan and Georgia proved the Mad Scientist still has plenty of work to do in Columbus.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs added the final blow of the three-piece combo to Knowles and Co. as the Buckeyes allowed 42 points and 533 total yards to Georgia, including a career-high 398 yards to Stetson Bennett, in the Peach Bowl.

The explosive plays were killer again for Ohio State, as Bennett completed 11 passes for over 15 yards and UGA collected 10 plays of 20 yards or more. None of those plays was more costly than Arian Smith’s 76-yard touchdown catch and run, which took place after Lathan Ransom tripped and fell to the turf in man-to-man coverage.

Ransom’s trip wouldn’t have been detrimental under normal circumstances, but Knowles’ aggression cost Ohio State as it did against Michigan. A zero-coverage call placed no safety to help Ransom over the top, leading to a wide-open score for Smith that cut Ohio State’s lead to 38-35 with 8:41 left in the fourth quarter.

That kind of call from Knowles – zero coverage up 11 points with momentum in his team’s favor following another touchdown (?) – and lack of execution from the Buckeyes is concerning.

In the last two games, where plays like Smith’s touchdown via busted coverage were far-too-common, Ohio State allowed Michigan and Georgia to set program records in average yards per play, with an 8.83 mark for the Wolverines and an even worse 8.88 mark for the Bulldogs. And then there’s this:

Oof.

Ohio State’s defense failed to meet the lofty expectations of Ryan Day, Knowles and even Teradja “T-Raw” Mitchell in the preseason. It was a top-10 defense, then a top-five defense, then a top-ranked defense.

None of those happened. Perhaps they will in 2023 with another year under Knowles and the expected development of Ohio State’s young talent. One can hope, at least.

FAILED BEFORE IT SAILED. With a trip to the national championship on the line, Noah Ruggles’ game-winning field goal attempt from 50 yards missed, and it missed really, really badly.

Ruggles, who was nothing short of automatic during his two years as a Buckeye, was unable to be the hero and take his team to the promised land. As most kickers who miss game-winners do, Ruggles will likely shoulder most of the blame from those who watched his kick sail wide left.

But he doesn’t deserve the blame for the Buckeyes’ loss – not all of it, that’s for sure.

Yes, Ruggles should be expected to convert when given an opportunity. However, Day didn’t necessarily put him in a position to succeed with his questionable playcalling down the stretch.

After a 27-yard scramble from CJ Stroud that placed the ball at the Georgia 31, Day opted to run Dallan Hayden on first-and-10 to make a field goal attempt easier for Ruggles, whose career-long entering the game was 49 yards. . That decision backfired, as Hayden’s carry went backward and lost 1 yard, putting the Buckeyes behind Ruggles’ target line.

“Two timeouts left. They were in zero, so if you split one, you could come out the back end. Any couple of yards there would add to the field goal. That was the idea,” Day said of the call in his postgame. press conference. “Didn’t execute it as well as we would have liked to, but I wouldn’t change that call.”

“Good call. Great call,” added Stroud, who was seated next to Day at the presser.

Day put the ball in Stroud’s hands on second and third down. The quarterback’s first attempt was intended for Xavier Johnson but fell incomplete, while his second was thrown away as he evaded pressure from Georgia’s defense. Facing fourth-and-long, Ruggles trotted out on the field.

As the clock hit midnight and the calendar shifted from 2022 to 2023, he lined up to take the kick. But, as I often do with my four iron on a long par 3, Ruggles looked as if he tried to crush the football rather than strike it as he usually would, presumably to ensure he had enough leg. The result was a kick that went wide left.

With the season over, Ruggles is set to depart from Ohio State after exhausting his final year of eligibility. Instead of a lasting memory of a game-winner in a CFP semifinal, he will have to live with a missed kick that would be a tough make for most in his position – one I would argue Ruggles should never have needed to line up for in the first place (see: Marvin Harrison Jr.’s departure with a concussion, a perfectly called timeout by Kirby Smartdefensive lapses, etc.)

DÉJÀ VU. This year’s Peach Bowl had a lot of the 2019 Fiesta Bowl in it for Ohio State fans, no? When you look at the small moments that affected the game’s outcome, it starts to feel like that’s the case.

I do not wish to create PTSD from the Buckeyes’ loss to the Tigers game a few years back. Still, the small moments were killer in that one, too, so scroll down if you don’t want to relive these moments: Tuf Borland’s dropped interception, JK Dobbins’ dropped touchdown catch, Dobbins’ sprained ankle, Shaun Wade’s ejection and the overturned scoop-and-score, among others, all changed the outcome of the game.

Ohio State’s defeat in the Peach Bowl felt similar to that loss in the Fiesta Bowl in that it felt like Murphy’s Law in full effect. Everything that could have gone wrong eventually went wrong for Ohio State in Atlanta.

And that sucks. That sucks hard.

Maybe one of these years everything will go right for Ohio State. One can hope, at least.

Stroud did everything he could for Ohio State to come out victorious in the Peach Bowl. Unfortunately, his Herculean efforts – 23-of-34 passing for 348 yards and four touchdowns plus 12 carries for 36 yards, which includes four sacks for -36 yards – did not result in a win.

I understood some of the criticism of Stroud as Ohio State’s quarterback, primarily when it came to his willingness to run the football. But, by golly, he ran the ball on Saturday and looked tough as nails when he did. His elusiveness in the pocket to set up big plays, like his two touchdown passes to Harrison, was also admirable.

In my Skull Sessions leading up to the game, I called upon Stroud to be 10 feet tall and bulletproof against Georgia. He was. It’s too bad we won’t be able to see him suit up another time for Ohio State in the national championship. His performance was deserving of that, but the team’s performance was not, and that’s a crying shame.

As Stroud (likely) moves on to the NFL, I hope he has a wonderful and prosperous career. His time at Ohio State as a player with a golden arm (or platinum arm or palladium arm) would indicate that will surely happen.

Thanks for everything, No. 7.

SONG OF THE DAY. “Something In The Way” by Nirvana.

CUT TO THE CHASE. Happy New Year! 2023 celebrated around the world… Top 10 most bizarre news stories of 2022… Woman mistakes Tasmanian devil for dog’s plush… toy… ‘”Avatar” sequel again dominates box office… Roberto Clemente remains Latino legend 50 years after death.

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