Michael Arace | Weekend produced a sports hangover that won't soon go away

Michael Arace
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (17) reacts after a Buckeyes pass was intercepted in the end zone during the fourth quarter of the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Clemson Tigers on Saturday, December 28, 2019 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. [Joshua A. Bickel/Dispatch]

After a 700-mile journey with a stomach virus prancing through our minivan, we returned home in a proper state to digest the local sports scene. Pass the bismuth subsalicylate.

The Ohio State football team had its national championship aspirations dashed with a 29-23 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday. Perhaps you heard.

Our Rob Oller did a fine job of weighing the controversial calls in that game. I will only highlight the point about how scoring touchdowns (rather than field goals) is the preferred method of beating the defending national champions. Also, eight penalties and two turnovers can be costly in a big-stakes game. The referee didn't run into the Clemson punter.

It was not that long ago that a certain team won a national championship thanks to a blown call in the Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, a highly compensated and righteous defender of amateurism, needs to tone down his angry rhetoric, if only to soften the irony.

The 2019 Buckeyes will go down as one of the best teams in OSU football history. They played with heart and guts all season. Wonderful job all around. No shame.

While the Fiesta Bowl was an instant classic, Sunday's OSU-West Virginia basketball game in Cleveland had the hairy look of a hangover. In such a circumstance, Bob Huggins is the last mug you want to see.

Ohio State didn't handle West Virginia's trademark pressure. That said, the Buckeyes had as many unforced errors as forced. They lost 67-59 and have time to look in the mirror.

Huggins didn't gloat — not outwardly, anyway — but he had to feel some sense of redemption. Some 2½ years ago, when Thad Matta was fired/retired, members of the Huggins camp made it known that Huggy Bear wanted the Ohio State job. Loosely speaking, Huggins' plan was to put a fence up around Ohio recruits, build a team that could win a national title and then retire. Maybe it was his dream.

Smith, to his credit, demurred on Huggins and hired Chris Holtmann. On Sunday, Huggins and his freshman point guard, Miles McBride of Cincinnati, experienced deliciousness.

The Buckeyes (11-2) slipped from No. 2 to No. 5 in the latest AP poll. That's OK. Their nonleague record remains sterling with convincing victories over Villanova, North Carolina and Kentucky. As they move to their Big Ten season, Sunday's loss will be instructive more than anything.

Holtmann, his point guards and the rest of his personnel comprise one of the best teams in the country. They can aspire to the loftiest goals. Full stop.

Sunday's Blue Jackets loss felt like a cruel joke. The plucky lads — Cleveland Monsters cobbled with baby-faced rookies — have overcome a spate of injuries to push their point streak to 10 games (6-0-4). The latest point came in a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago — but, oh, the humanity.

They let the game slip away in the third period and then they lost the one player they could least afford to lose. Goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who has been shouldering a heavy load, suffered a knee injury in the shootout and had to be carried up the tunnel.

If you are a Jackets fan, you cursed the hockey gods. If you are coach John Tortorella, you cursed the officials.

Tortorella's rant was not epic, per se, as it only lasted a minute. But it probably made Ohio State's Smith smile. Tortorella blasted the officials for screwing up the game clock, thus leaving Zach Werenski with too little time to win the game in OT — thus giving Korpisalo the chance to get hurt in the shootout.

Oh, and Freddy Kitchens got fired.

On Tuesday night, it's Sergei Bobrovsky vs. Elvis Merzlikins.

Happy New Year.


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