Skull Session Ohio States defense still needs work Noah Ruggles

Skull Session: Ohio State’s defense still needs work, Noah Ruggles failed before his kick sailed and CJ – Eleven Warriors

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

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

Let us talk about it.

Before that, of course, I have to say: Let’s have a nice Monday, okay?

STILL WORK TO DO. Looking back, I have no idea how Ohio State’s defense made it into the college football playoffs this season. While that side of the ball looked strong for most of the season, Maryland, Michigan and Georgia proved the mad scientist in Columbus still had work to do.

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

The explosive games were Murderer again for Ohio State as Bennett completed 11 passes for 15 yards and UGA rallied 10 plays of 20 yards or more. None of those plays cost more than Arian Smith’s 76-yard touchdown catch and run, which came after Lathan Ransom tripped and fell to the turf in man-to-man deck.

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 failed to bring safety to help Ransom over the top, resulting in a wide-open result for Smith that cut Ohio State’s lead to 38-35 with an 8-41 run in the fourth quarter.

That sort of call from Knowles — zero coverage by 11 points with momentum in his team’s favor after another touchdown (?) — and the Buckeyes’ lack of execution is worrying.

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


Ohio State’s defense failed to live up to the high expectations of Ryan Day, Knowles and even Teradja “T-Raw” Mitchell in the preseason. It was a top 10 defense, then a top 5 defense, then a top defense.

None of that happened. Perhaps they will in 2023 with another year under Knowles and the anticipated development of Ohio State’s young talent. At least one can hope so.

FAILED BEFORE IT SAILED. With a national championship trip at stake, Noah Ruggles’ game-winning field goal attempt missed from 50 yards, and he missed really, really badly.

Ruggles, being nothing short of an automaton in his two years as a Buckeye, was unable to be the hero and lead his team to the promised land. Like most kickers who miss game winners, Ruggles will likely take most of the blame from those who watched his kick sail wide to the left.

But he doesn’t deserve the blame for the Buckeyes’ loss — not everything, that’s for sure.

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

After a 27-yard scramble from CJ Stroud that placed the ball on the Georgia 31, Day opted to run Dallan Hayden on the first and ten to facilitate a field goal attempt for Ruggles, his career-long entry into the game was 49 yards. That decision backfired when Hayden’s carry backtracked and lost 1 yard, putting the Buckeyes behind Ruggles’ goal line.

“Two timeouts are left. They were at zero, so if you split one, you might come out at the back end. Every few 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 as well as we would have liked, but I wouldn’t change that call.”

“Good decision. Great decision,” added Stroud, who sat next to Day on the presser.

Day put the ball in Stroud’s hands for second and third. The quarterback’s first try was destined for Xavier Johnson but fell short, while his second was thrown away as he dodged pressure from Georgia’s defense. Looking ahead to the fourth and long trot, Ruggles trotted onto the field.

When the clock struck 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 like he was trying to crush the football instead of hitting it like he usually does, presumably to make sure he had enough leg. The result was a shot that went wide to the left.

Post-season, Ruggles will leave Ohio State after exhausting his final year of eligibility. Instead of a lasting memory of a game winner in a CFP semi-final, he has to live with a missed kick that would be a tough nut to crack for most at his position – one for which I’d argue Ruggles never should have contested first place ( see: Marvin Harrison Jr.’s departure with concussion, a timeout perfectly named by Kirby Smartdefensive errors, etc.)

DÉJÀ-VU. This year’s Peach Bowl had a lot of the 2019 Fiesta Bowl for Ohio State fans, didn’t it? When you look at the small moments that influenced the game’s outcome, it feels like it.

I don’t want to invoke PTSD from the Buckeyes’ loss to the Tigers game a few years ago. Still, the small moments were Murderer Scroll down on this one too if you don’t want to relive these moments: Tuf Borland’s drop interception, JK Dobbins drop touchdown catch, Dobbins’ sprained ankle, Shaun Wade’s ejection and the flipped scoop-and-score, below other others all altered the outcome of the game.

Ohio State’s loss in the Peach Bowl felt similar to losing 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’s really annoying.

Maybe in one of those years things will go right for Ohio State. At least one can hope so.

NO THANKS. 7. Barring unforeseen circumstances, CJ Stroud played what I believe was his best game as a Buckeye in what was probably his last appearance as an Ohio State quarterback.

Stroud did everything he could to help Ohio State emerge victorious in the Peach Bowl. Unfortunately, his Herculean efforts — 23 of 34 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns plus 12 carries for 36 yards, including four sacks for -36 yards — didn’t result in a win.

I understood some of the criticisms of Stroud as Ohio State quarterback, especially when it came to his willingness to oversee football. But damn it, he ran the ball on Saturday and looked rock solid doing it. Also to be admired was his elusive ability in the bag to set up big plays like his two touchdown passes for Harrison.

In my pre-game skull sessions, I challenged Stroud to be 10ft tall and bulletproof against Georgia. He was. It’s too bad we can’t see him play one more time for Ohio State in the national championship. His performance deserved it, but the team’s performance didn’t and that’s a shame.

With Stroud (probably) moving to the NFL, I hope he has a wonderful and prosperous career. His stint at Ohio State as a gold-arm (or platinum-arm, or palladium-arm) player would suggest this is sure to happen.

Thanks for everything, #7.

SONG OF THE DAY. “Something in the Way” by Nirvana.

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