Mailbox: Ohio State opener was a horrible mess, from ticketing to Kerry Coombs and beyond

Brian White
The Columbus Dispatch

The Mailbox

Editor's note: Emails in this column were sent before Saturday's game between Ohio State and Tulsa.

Editor: No, this is not about how we lost the game to Oregon. Simply put, they beat us. I’ve been going to Ohio State games for over 50 years. I don’t  know what the athletic department is thinking. A number of changes have been made. No, this isn’t about the ticketing. I had to wait in line for an hour to get a bottle of water. We were packed like sardines. Getting into and out of the stadium was an adventure. Barriers have been placed outside around the south end of the stadium. With the mass of humanity trying to get to their gates, this is a disaster waiting to happen. Ever felt you might be in a stampede? It was just as bad on the way out. How can these changes be made without regard to safety? Even without COVID this was dangerous. In those 50 years, this was the worst.

Joel Altschule

Editor: I can top Mr. Holliday’s comment about 100,000 maskless in the Horseshoe.  How about fans who should be using the stairs being maskless in a crowded elevator and the operator saying it is wrong but he can’t do anything about it?

J. Thomas Jones, Upper Arlington

Editor: Regarding M. Holliday's observation regarding Gene Smith's decision to not require masks at the 'Shoe, my wife and I are about as COVID conscious as they come but we decided to join the fray and attend the Oregon game. As far as Gene's decision to not require masks, I don't see how he or the university had any choice in the matter.  Some people are flat out not going to comply and then who knows what problems would arise between mask vs. non-mask compliant fans. Ushers certainly can't be the enforcers. We went to the Blackwell pregame and there were signs posted everywhere requiring mask wearing and there were staff at the doors checking. But clearly there were at least 20% of the people with no mask in sight and no enforcement. So I don't personally think the university made a bad decision — it was the only option. If I were to meet Mr. Holliday I would totally agree that this may not have been the safest (smartest?) decision to attend but we did it anyway. I don't blame the university for having the game and all the events surrounding it and not requiring masks. Time will tell what herding such a large group into such a setting will do to the spread.

David Sheets, Sedona, Arizona

Brian: So OSU had problems at the gate Saturday!  Hmm, and the excuses were everywhere as to why this occurred?  Did Michigan, Notre Dame, or Alabama have problems as I assume most colleges are going to the same process.  What was the real problem?  Did we have outdated resources?

Larry Wilson, Anthem, Arizona

Joel, J. Thomas, David, Larry and anybody else who angrily missed the first quarter: It was indeed a mess, and bordered on being dangerous. It was a fail all around. But at least Ohio State took ownership of the situation and vowed to fix it.

Coordinator Kerry Coombs' defense didn't fare well against Oregon.

Editor: As long as Kerry Coombs has anything to do with Ohio State's defense, this team will struggle. The offense will be under pressure in every game because they will always have to score more points than the defense gives up in order to win. When Coombs was here the first time, defensive backs were suspect at best. Now under his leadership, the whole defense is suspect. Not individual players, but the game planning and inability to make adjustments. He had weeks to prepare for (Minnesota's Mohamed) Ibrahim and failed to stop him. Oregon ran the same play around left end multiple times scoring each time because no defensive adjustments were made by coaches. You want to beat Ohio State? Forget your run game. Just throw the ball again and again and again. Ryan Day will regret the day he brought Coombs back as defensive coordinator.

Bob

Editor: BUCKS RUN OVER BY DUCKS — CALL COLUMBO. If Oho State would been able to cover the  Ducks receivers better instead of leaving them wide open and not giving their running backs a hole big enough to drive a semi through and not given up so many yards because of penalties, they might have scored some more points. OSU was just outplayed.

Forrest Bennett, Grove City

Editor: A new “Day” has dawned for the Ohio State football program. They are currently in rebuild mode. There were red flags about this, of course, such as when they allowed Alabama to put up 52 points. It is true that many of the starters are unproven. But what irks me most is that the defensive philosophies, schemes and adjustments under the current regime leave much to be desired. When an announcer points out that the Bucks' defense is unable to stop a basic outside run play you know the coaching has reached a certain level of ineptness. On the plus side it usually takes a loss like this one for real change to occur. And hey, at least disappointment came early this year and not in January.

Erik Pack, Las Vegas

Bob, Forrest, Erik: It has not been a good week for Kerry Coombs. And just when I thought it might be over, Saturday's national pregame shows kept piling on. "Offensive coaches are understanding how to manipulate them," said Kirk Herbstreit. Ouch.

Mr. White: You've made it clear that young C.J. (Stroud) needs to be more like some great players that are no longer in Columbus. C.J. needs to be clutch like (Justin) Fields, or J.T. Barrett, and a tough guy to boot. Right out of the gate the comparisons, and he needs to play like them now. (Geesh, I wonder who you compared Barrett and Fields to when they didn't play well?)

Well, are your O-linemen gonna have to play more like Orlando Pace and Korey Stringer? You didn't mention that. Who on your defense needs to play more like MR. CHRIS SPIELMAN, Sean Springs, Dan Wilkinson, Joey Bosa, and Chase Young?

Maybe your boss thinks you need to write more like Frank Deford and Tony Kornheiser.  Quit with the comparisons and stay in the here and now. The kid learned a lot and got better in this game. I'm a Georgia Bulldog and SEC fan, so I have no skin in the game.  Your comments just seemed to be a bit snarky.

Daryl Matthews

Daryl: In a program with such great history, current players are always going to be compared to those who came before them. It is also a measure those current players aspire to, and it certainly is no slight in saying the immensely talented Stroud hasn't gotten there three games into his career. And I'm not sure what my boss thinks, but if she expects me to reach the level of Deford or Kornheiser, or even Ray Stein, then I'm in trouble. 

Dear sports editor: I’m among those who believe Dwayne Haskins will never get his deserved place among the great Ohio State quarterbacks. It is in part because he was followed by the amazing Justin Fields, preceded by the beloved and enduring J.T. Barrett, and chosen over Joe Burrow, who many forget didn’t become great until two years after leaving Ohio State. But Haskins’ main failing is that the rest of the team just wasn’t up to Ohio State’s usual standards. The 2018 Buckeyes were often unable to rush the ball even a yard or two for a first down, and the defense was the worst we’ve witnessed in the modern era. The loss to Purdue was dreadful, and wins over Nebraska and Maryland were the result of having to score and score to survive as opponents just ran around the end and then all the way to the end zone while being chased from behind by linebackers and safeties. Even Michigan scored 39 in our big win against them. But Haskins could, and did, throw it with the best of them.   

So it has been dismaying so far this year to see the 2021 Buckeyes appearing to be a clone of the 2018 team with one unfortunate difference: C.J. Stroud is no Dwayne Haskins other than their shared inability or unwillingness to run for first downs. C.J. is not as good a passer, and he’s not as smart with the football. That’s not so much a knock on Stroud, who is only a redshirt freshman and may grow into the role, as it is an affirmation of Haskins’ greatness. Here’s to hoping the coaching staff can put an end to the 2018 comparisons while turning Stroud into a player of Haskins’ caliber.  

Bob Young, Columbus

Bob: I'm told that some of our readers don't like when you compare current players to those of the past.

Hi Brian: I was at the Oregon game. It was ugly and hard to watch at times. Two things I have issues with:

1. C.J. Stroud has to feel more comfortable getting out of the pocket and running. When it was fourth-and-2, he had a huge hole to run through and for some reason he stopped short of picking up the necessary yardage to move the chains.

2. He tried too hard to make plays when it wasn’t necessary and we played ourselves into unnecessary third and ten many times. On first down, he doesn’t need to play Superman and bomb it 40 yards down field to (Chris) Olave. Just pick up five yards on first down, four yards on second down, and one on third down.

I’m not saying I can play better or call better plays, but adjustments need made.

Shannon Patke

Brian: A great Sports page today (Sept. 12). Probably the best pages in the last couple of years! Pretty much everything there except for the later games. I realize Buckeyes played early. And yes they lost. Still a good read today. Again, It was all there. College and pro articles. Along with many other sports. Also please continue as many scores and stats as much as possible. And since I have a little background in coaching high school football, I love having all the scores from around Ohio in the paper again. Good job today for sure. I do hope you and your staff keep up the Great work.

John Clifford

John: Thanks much. It took great restraint for me to not run this letter first, and possibly as the only one. But I resisted, much to the dismay of Mr. Coombs.

More from The Mailbox

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OHSAA gets it right with expanded playoffs; Cleveland baseball got it wrong

Does it make any sense to sit maskless in a packed Ohio Stadium?

Have more comments, questions? Reach out to me at bwhite1@dispatch.com.

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