Scarlet & Gray Matter | Plenty of pain to go around for overmatched Buckeyes

Joey Kaufman and Ray Stein
Columbus Dispatch

Observations on Monday's national championship game between Ohio State and Alabama, by Joey Kaufman and Ray Stein:

The game at hand

• Short-attention span synopsis: Tide comes in, knocks out Buckeyes. Question: Did Ohio State watch the Heisman Trophy presentation? Can't cover, can't tackle not a combination that will unlock many dead-bolts. OSU should probably be thankful it received only a half a dose of DeVonta Smith. Every college football player loves television exposure, but maybe not to the degree Tuf Borland got. Look on the bright side, Buckeyes fans: They had a shot, and that’s better than the August alternative.

• Pregame buzz: It had been six years since Ohio State last met Alabama, a classic playoff game decided when Ezekiel Elliott drove a stake through the heart of the South. The Crimson Tide has changed since then, however, and is now so offense-centric that it practically employs jet packs as part of the uniforms. Could Ohio State keep up and knock off No. 1 again, or would the Buckeyes get lapped? Beep-beep.

Spread the wealth?: Gamblers must love seeing Ohio State as an underdog, considering that since 2012 the Buckeyes are 8-1 when not favored — and that’s straight up, not against the spread. But not every ’dog has its day, and it became apparent in the second quarter against 8½-point favorite Alabama that OSU needed a tourniquet to stanch its bleeding defense but had only Band-Aids in its first-aid kit.

Is that really an Ohio State football fan wearing a paper bag over his head, or is that simply how he eats his popcorn?

Strategically speaking: Trailing by a touchdown late in the second quarter and facing a fourth-and-goal at Alabama’s 6-yard line, Ryan Day called for a field goal. In settling for three points, the Buckeyes passed on the opportunity to even the score at 21, then watched the Crimson Tide retake possession and build a two-score advantage, marching 75 yards to the end zone for a 28-17 lead. A fourth-down attempt might have ultimately failed. The Buckeyes had stalled close to the goal line for a reason. But they had to be more aggressive to remain alive for an upset.

This week in vanity plates: WHO GOT 6

The View

• How the team sees it: After our season was canceled in August, it's something that we even got a shot at the national title. 

• How the pollsters will see it: Now you see why we had Alabama ranked as No. 1 in our rankings since Thanksgiving.

• How Buckeye Nation will see it: At least we finally beat Dabo.

Hey, what did Day say?

What he said: "We needed to play our best game tonight against Alabama, and we didn't."

What it means: "We needed the stars to align to beat this juggernaut."

They said it

Your turn/the channel: The ESPN team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit (also known as He Who Doesn’t Let a Play Pass Without Comment — No, Comments) wasn’t exposed to the degree of, say, the OSU cornerbacks. But nor was theirs a clean sheet. “There’s a flag,” Fowler said, when there wasn’t. “A hat trick for Najee Harris!” Fowler shouted — after Harris’s second TD. And then they both botched Wyatt Davis’s leg injury, somehow thinking that Ohio State was on defense and that Antuwan Jackson had been hurt. Herbstreit wins, though, for proclaiming that Chris Olave “got all three feet inbounds” on a sideline catch. Some trick!

Numbers for dummies

52: Points allowed by Ohio State, the sixth-most it has allowed in a game in school history.

621: Total yards of offense compiled by Alabama, the second-most a team has compiled against the Buckeyes.

28: Scoring margin in the Buckeyes’ loss, equaling the third-most lopsided defeat in a bowl or national championship game.

110.9: Passer rating by quarterback Justin Fields, the second-lowest mark in his career at Ohio State.

1: Number of carries by running back Trey Sermon, who was injured on the opening series and ran for only 2 yards.

464: Passing yards by Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, setting a record for the College Football Playoff final.

12: Catches by Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith, also a title game record in the Playoff era.

14: Tackles by linebacker Tuf Borland, leading the team and setting a career-high.

7: Combined sacks and tackles for loss by Ohio State’s defense against a formidable Alabama offensive line.

2: Losses by Ryan Day in his two seasons as the Buckeyes’ coach.

On tap

The pain of this tattoo is going to linger for a while, though the Buckeyes have been down this road enough to know that you can’t win the big games unless you play in the big games. They’ll be fine. That said, the 2021 season will open on a Thursday, Sept. 2, at Minnesota. Things will all be back to normal by then. Right? RIGHT?

Tweethearts

Reactions to the game on Twitter:

@DBelllll: Sermon going down is No Bueno 

@lstamper11: It took 3 Teagues to reach Master level. 

@prestnpixlr: DeVonta Smith bouta go 2014 Sammy Watkins on the Buckeyes 

@TParker722: I’m not sure what Ohio State’s game plan was to stop the Heisman Trophy winner but it appears to have been to just leave him open. 

@BD40OSU: Sarkisian is taking Coombs to school. Cheerleader Kerry is getting killed. 

@ctownlorbs: I know he’s good, but doesn’t it appear the Buckeyes are failing to cover the best player in college football!? 

@Sophtaveus: Is there that big a talent gap between Ohio State and Alabama? No. But there is a coaching gap. 

@HamBurner_: A man with toothpicks for arms and legs really ripping the Buckeyes defense to shreds 

@HT_BK: DeVonta Smith: 45 catches, 987 yards tonight. 

@Mtcavins: Memo to the Buckeyes; you might want to look out for No. 6. I heard he's good, might have wont some kind of award. Not sure. 

@Htownbuckeye: 2021 is officially canceled. 2022 needs to get here immediately. 

@WuestT03: Love Kerry Coombs and the energy he brings but that was quite possibly the worst defensive game plan I have ever seen. Sark playing chess and Coombs still at the checkers table. 

@BunnerTroy: 1. Bama is really good. 2. Devonta Smith is damn good. 3. The GM that drafts Shaun Wade in the first round should be fired. 

@CoolHomeyP: Pretty sure the Bucks can pull this out if Saban decides to put in Roethlisberger 

@BretHoovler: I love recruiter Kerry Coombs. I love him as the hype guy. I do not love him as the DC. 

@DrydensDenOH: LB on WR, LB on WR wash rinse repeat. One of the worst defenses I’ve ever seen at OSU 

@mbatcheck: The only salve for my OSU wound is watching how miserable Saban seems even when he wins it all 

@TravisDCarter: Buckeyes hanging a sign in the locker room all offseason that’s says 52-24? Asking for a friend

Horseshoe haiku

Roll Tie as ’Bama 

Pouns Buckeyes into the irt

Wait, where is the D? 

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman

rstein@dispatch.com

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