Now that Nick Bosa is gone, Ohio State can only hope that the 1954 season repeats itself.
It was 64 years ago that All-America center Ken Vargo broke his arm early in the third game, against Illinois, a season-ending injury that suggested ’54 might not be the Buckeyes’ year. Instead, Bob Thornton stepped in for Vargo, and Ohio State went 10-0 and collected its first national championship under Woody Hayes.
Injuries don’t automatically ruin a season. Sometimes they even help. The Buckeyes do not win the 2014 College Football Playoff without quarterback J.T. Barrett taking over for Braxton Miller, who reinjured his shoulder less than two weeks before the season. And they do not defeat Alabama in the playoff semifinal if Barrett does not break his ankle against Michigan, an injury that opened the door for Cardale Jones to give the Crimson Tide a different look because of his ability to stretch the defense.
One could even argue that Barrett’s injury was the most impactful “break” in Ohio State history. Still, injuries usually hurt more than they help. Keith Byars broke his right foot just before the 1985 season, missed the first five games and then returned too early, breaking the foot again in his second game back. The Buckeyes finished 9-3 but might have gone undefeated with a healthy Byars.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Bosa’s injury hurts. The junior’s departure doesn’t feel good to some, either. Ohio State announced on Tuesday that the 6-foot-4, 263-pound defensive end will withdraw from school to concentrate on his rehabilitation and training in the lead-up to the 2019 NFL draft in April. He is projected as a top-three pick who could sign a contract close to $30 million.
Bosa has not played since suffering a core muscle injury against TCU on Sept. 15. In the four games he has missed since, the defense has worsened. The drop-off cannot all be attributed to Bosa’s absence, but he not only changed the way teams schemed their offenses but also made the OSU linebackers and secondary look better.
After recording 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 2017, Bosa was well on his way to crushing those numbers — four sacks and six tackles for loss in what amounted to six quarters of football — and was being talked about as Heisman Trophy candidate.
Without him, the Buckeyes have relied more heavily on Chase Young and a rotating crew of Jonathan Cooper, Jashon Cornell and Tyreke Smith to take up the slack. Cooper has fought injuries and Smith is a true freshman, making Bosa’s absence felt more deeply. And now more angrily.
There is an indignant element of Buckeye Nation that expects Bosa to get healthy and get back on the field so Ohio State can win a national title — for them. The ugly side of social media.
But the web can be supportive, too. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. tweeted, “We’re going to hold it down, brotha, I gotchu.” Young backed his fellow defensive end, tweeting, “Get money big brotha … love as always.”
What some fans fail to realize is that Bosa would not be 100 percent no matter if he returned against Michigan or for the postseason. And a pale version of Bosa is not worth risking an incredibly lucrative rookie contract.
What of the medical implications?
“You don’t hear much about core muscle injuries in football — more hockey and soccer — but (Pittsburgh Steelers tailback) Le’Veon Bell had something like that,” said Dr. Randy Wroble of Orthopedic One in Columbus. “We’ve seen guys come back from a midseason injury and play in a bowl game, so I would assume this is an extensive injury and what they had to repair was fairly excessive.”
Or maybe Bosa just wants to focus on his career? Last time I checked, that’s what college is for.