OSU's season scrambled after laying egg

Ray Stein The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver K.J. Hill (14) looks to the goal line as Purdue Boilermakers cornerback Antonio Blackmon (14) stops him on fourth-and-goal during the third quarter of Saturday's game. [Photo by Joshua A. Bickel]

In the aftermath of Ohio State’s blowout loss at Purdue, the people who get paid to think and talk about college football did not hold back on the Buckeyes’ lousy performance, yet acknowledged that their 2018 season is not yet a lost cause.

The sentiment, in a nutshell, is that everything OSU hopes to accomplish is still sitting there, well within the team’s grasp.

But after a 49-20 de-pantsing at the hands of the Boilermakers on Saturday, the question begs an answer: What, exactly, is sitting there?

If reasonable people can agree that the Buckeyes laid a colossal egg in Ross-Ade Stadium, follow-up questions must be considered: What to do with this egg? Make an omelet? A frittata? Egg salad? Chuck it at Purdue’s train? And what about folks who are disgusted by eggs?

The fact is, after eight games — and heading into a much-needed and much-anticipated furlough away from games (though not practices) — Ohio State is something of a 7-1 shambles.

OSU does one thing well — it throws the football. The Buckeyes at the moment cannot run it at all, nor can they consistently defend the pass or the run and remain crazy susceptible to big plays. They do not create turnovers, but they seem to have a firm grasp on generating stupid penalties.

All of those components were on full display against Purdue, which has turned around its season after an 0-3 start. The Buckeyes? Not so much.

Theirs is a downward trend that became a full-functioning subterranean corkscrew when Ohio State failed to produce more than two field goals in five red-zone trips against the Boilermakers, who entered with a pedestrian defense.

The fourth of those failures occurred in the latter stages of the third quarter, with Purdue holding a 21-6 lead — i.e., not ideal, but not yet insurmountable. But when Dwayne Haskins Jr.’s fourth-and-goal pass to K.J. Hill bounced incomplete, it set off a troubling, and familiar, cascade of woeful football.

Purdue piled on 28 points against the Buckeyes in the fourth quarter, which included three offensive touchdowns of 40 yards or more, as well as a cherry-on-top pick six by linebacker Markus Bailey, a Hilliard Davidson graduate.

That Ohio State scored two touchdowns of its own was faint consolation because by that time the OSU defenders had largely checked out — not quit, exactly, but they clearly were not fully engaged. The special teams, too, suffered a brain burp when Johnnie Dixon let a kickoff roll to the goal line before realizing hey, that’s a live ball. He was tackled just outside the end zone.

The result was a quartet of big-play TDs by the Boilermakers that turned a relatively close contest into a laugher — except the nation was laughing at the Buckeyes, not with them.

Similar snickers were heard a year ago, when Ohio State strutted into Iowa City with a 7-1 record and a No. 3 ranking and slinked out with a 55-24 shiner that cemented its playoff obituary.

Listen closely and you can almost hear the same whispers about the 2018 Buckeyes: Do you really think a team that lost 49-20 to Purdue can make the playoff?

Even so, it’s all just sitting there for Ohio State.

Now, who’s going to clean up this mess?

rstein@dispatch.com

Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: