Hard as it is for some to believe, college football players are human. Remove the helmets and pads and they look like the rest of us. Sound like the rest of us, too. "I'm disappointed in the play-calling." Those words swept across college football at warp speed on Saturday night. Ezekiel Elliott said them. And meant them.
Hard as it is for some to believe, college football players are human. Remove the helmets and pads and they look like the rest of us. Sound like the rest of us, too.
"I'm disappointed in the play-calling."
Those words swept across college football at warp speed on Saturday night. Ezekiel Elliott said them. And meant them.
Now, what to do with them?
To begin, most would agree with the Ohio State tailback, including coach Urban Meyer.
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"I couldn't disagree with his comments," Meyer said on Monday, adding that Elliott should have gotten the ball more, but it would have been better if he had come to him with his concerns instead of airing them publicly.
"But Zeke is a very honest guy," Meyer said. "Frustration, anger, all that probably mounted up."
Elliott is 20. He is emotional. He is human.
More on that in a minute. But first a reset: Elliott met with reporters on Saturday after a 17-14 loss to Michigan State, in which the junior gained just 33 rushing yards on only 12 carries. Elliott criticized the play-calling, and by extension the play-callers - Meyer, quarterbacks coach Tim Beck and offensive coordinator Ed Warinner - for limiting his attempts.
As defensive lineman Joey Bosa put it in defending Elliott on Monday, "I think he said what a lot of people were scared to say."
An intriguing comment, hinting that Elliott was not alone in wondering what was going on with a game plan that looked less creative than a cave drawing. It's time to try something more complicated when any 18-month-old can babble, "QB keeper," as Ohio State breaks the huddle.
Elliott did not limit his criticism of the play calling to the Michigan State game, saying it has been happening all season.
"We'll have some momentum, we're calling plays that work and then we kind of try to get away from it and try to get cute and run some other stuff," he said.
Should he have gone there? He is 20. He is human.
But it works both ways. If you're going to use the "he's only human" defense to let Elliott off the hook for flashing frustration in the aftermath of the Buckeyes' first loss since Sept.6 of last year, then you must apply the human condition on the other side, too. Humans are selfish. And Elliott was, too.
To wit: Elliott criticized the play-calling not only because it was ineffective, but because he was not being featured on offense.
"I think I do deserve more than (12) carries," he said. "I can't speak for the play calling, I don't know what was going on or what they were seeing, but honestly, it didn't work out. It wasn't working."
He's right. It wasn't working, but not because Elliott wasn't getting the ball. The problem was that receivers were not getting the ball. Elliott averaged a mere 2.8 yards per carry against the Spartans, well below his 6.5 average through the first 10 games.
True, he carried only twice in the second half, which is when he tends to gain more yards. But the way Michigan State loaded the box, giving Elliott more carries was not the answer.
Where the Spartans tend to be susceptible is on deep throws and mid-range (15 to 20 yards) crossing patterns. So what did Ohio State do? Fail to test their secondary. The Buckeyes attempted two long passes. Barrett overthrew Braxton Miller on one, which likely would have ended with a touchdown, and the other was an incompletion on a throw to Michael Thomas.
The wind and rain undoubtedly played into Meyer's thinking not to go up top more often, but where was the tight end over the middle? Where was taking advantage of Jalin Marshall's speed on slant patterns? And why not throw deep again to Miller?
So yes, Elliott was correct. The play-calling stunk. Can't bash him too much for speaking the truth, even if it was done in the wrong setting. He is emotional. He wanted the ball and did not get it. But that is not what cost Ohio State the game.
Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.