Mailbox: Ohio State lost to Michigan in football, and people aren't happy
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On Ohio State football
To the editor: After a long Saturday (Nov. 27) of college football, I went to worship at a local Lutheran congregation. I was a little surprised and offended when I saw that the sanctuary was dressed in Blue. Are your kidding me? Were these people mocking OSU at their great loss up north this year? Ah, then I realized it was the first Sunday in Advent and blue — the color of hope — has been the liturgical color of this season for most Lutherans. Then again, some congregations have kept the color purple for Advent — the color of repentance. How appropriate are both colors on this weekend? We live with the hope that next year OSU will beat Michigan and, in addition, both sides need to repent of how vicious we can be toward each other over a game of football.
F. Allan Debelak, Columbus
To F. Allan: In addition to submitting a candidate for the Letter of the Year, you bring a peace that, judging by many of the other angry emails I get, is much needed.
To the editor: When you have momentum going into halftime, and when you have the best receivers in the country, why do you come out in the third quarter and run the ball three times? Does anyone at OSU teach corners to locate the ball? To paraphrase Woody, when a pass is on the way to an enemy receiver, three things can happen, and one of them is bad. Why do would-be tacklers dive at the feet of the opposing runner? When you leave your feet, you are pretty much stuck there. And the runner can also jump over you.
Mike Howard, Westerville
To the editor: Inquiring minds, at least this one, would like to know why the Buckeyes don’t use a two-back offense when they are in the red zone or it is third-an- 2 or 3. Also, why not try some runs outside the tackle? The team had three very good backs. In the red zone it would force the linebackers to play closer to the line, giving the receivers more room. On third down the defense wouldn’t be able to key on the single back. A few more runs outside the tackles would, again, force the defenses to consider more possibilities.
James M. Mulcahy, Grand Island, N.Y.
To the editor: I have a response to the question "Where does OSU go after rare loss to Michigan?" on the front page of the Sports section in The Dispatch. I would suggest a plan for seeking humility and reality rather than continuing on their pompous and arrogant path.
Humility in realizing they are not THE only university in Ohio and they are not top dog in football even in their own conference. I fully appreciate how proud OSU fans are of their football team. However, their hypothesis that they are superior to other football programs has, once again, been proven false.
I watch a lot of college football and sometimes pro as well and no other former college players or current players refer to their school as THE anything. What's that all about?
Douglas Cook, Lewis Center
Dear Brian: Putting aside Saturday's loss and postgame laments, I think there are positives in the "what might have been" and the "what happened?" discussions. I'm certainly not overlooking Michigan's rushing stats — I still share in the pain despite 20 years of Buckeye dominance. (Thankfully, I've never shared their fans' chronic drudgery, only their after-game exhilaration). But if OSU could turn those two field goals into touchdowns, the game is tied with under five minutes remaining. And despite C.J. Stroud being sacked four times and other issues he incurred (e.g. his health), he still had respectable numbers passing which included a completion rate just under 70%. Plus two touchdowns and no interceptions. His game can only improve — remember this redshirt freshman was a candidate for the Heisman just last week — over the next 2-3 years. He didn't quit when trailing by 17, leading the team back in contention.
My only concern for him is replacing our star receivers, Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, next season. They literally skated around their opponents' defenses in the last two home games. And Stroud's performance was off the chart. Let's hope they all finish well in their upcoming bowl game. (Personally, I'll take the Rose any year).
Larry Cheek, Dublin
To the editor: While putting together one of the greatest offensive teams in Ohio State history, many flaws were exposed at _ichigan! Defense: Weak secondary, poor tackling, poor linebacker play, no sacks. Offense: Poor blocking, bad play-calling, too many penalties, no rhythm. When we came out to start the second half trailing 14-13, we had a quick three and out. That was the turning point. I really respect Ryan Day, but where were our tight ends? I was looking for draw plays or a quick screen to stop the blitz. I guess we are spoiled here at OSU, and we have a right to be. We draw some of the top recruits throughout the country. I would hate to be the team that plays us in our bowl game.
Bary Alan Leeman, Bexley
Hey Brian: I just watched Ryan Day's (postgame) press conference, and the one word that comes to mind after Michigan throttled OSU's run game and torched its run defense is hubris. Never once did he acknowledge that play-calling, strategy and coaching decisions may have been an issue in this game. He blamed penalties mainly for the offense being "off schedule" and lamented the fact he had his freshman QB throw 49 passes like he didn't OK that plan of attack. Two things about this offense have stood out all year but were apparently ignored in game-planning sessions as they were laying the wood to less talented teams. In games against similar talent there were glaring issues. (i.e. Oregon, Penn State, Michigan).
Lack of creativity and no concern about keeping opposing defenses off balance. There was little to no pre-snap motion. No misdirection. No jet sweeps or RB sweeps in general. Very little counter action or pulling by the O line. No reverses. No draw plays to keep a fierce pass rush honest. Just line up and run pretty much the same plays. The run game, with no lead blocker, rarely went anywhere but up the middle or off tackle with the linemen firing straight out. No attempt to influence the defense, so If one guy got beat the play was blown up. The inability to make in-game adjustments bit them in this game.
Insistence on running read-option plays when the QB was zero threat to ever keep it and run. C.J. Stroud had a phenomenal year, but he is a freshman. I could be wrong, but I think I can count on one hand the number of times Stroud kept the ball this year, thereby keeping teams honest. The backside ends in this game had nothing to worry about and continually crashed down and helped blow the run plays up. Listen, if you don't want the QB to run, that's fine, but quit calling those stupid plays. Put a tight end/fullback in the backfield, pull a guard or tackle to create some hesitancy on the D line and get lead blockers into the hole to create some space.
If, on the other hand, young C.J. doesn't want to run, then that's a big problem. There were times in this and other games that if he tucks it and runs or keeps it on the read option he might still be running. Maybe he'll consider the one time he did run it in this game next year, as the Michigan defense was so stunned he ran right into the end zone. It got called back by a phantom holding call, but he did it.
Again, these things weren't a problem when laying waste to less talented teams, but lack of creativity, keeping teams off balance and in-game adjustments vs Oregon, Penn State, and now Michigan exposed Day's strategies and ended a run for a B1G title and national championship.
Tony Federer, Powell
Dear Mr. White: Never thought that I would see the OSU lines get pushed around on both sides of the ball by this Michigan team. Also, poor linebacker play all season.
Mike Wodarcyk, Gahanna
To the editor: Yes, granted, beating the No. 1 team in the country (in basketball) is exciting. However, this is Buckeye Nation you’re talking to. Duke? Basketball? A pleasant wintertime diversion, like assembling a snowman in the backyard. Now football, that’s a horse of a different color. And right now, that color is bright crimson, not scarlet, red, blushing from a crushing at the Big House up north. Next year will bring a mighty reckoning at the ‘Shoe, and Mr. 1-5 Harbaugh will be known as Mr. 1-6 Harbaugh. He will also be known as the man who wasn’t even born on first, because he struck out on three high heaters and couldn’t even make it to the base. Mark it down: Come Turkey Week 2022, Big Blue is going down.
Thad Woodman, Westerville
To Brian: As a Buckeye fan, I think it is only fair for The Dispatch to begin running the counter on how many days it's been since Ohio State last beat Michigan. I believe it's up to 738!
Michael Holliday, Melbourne Beach, Fla.
To the Sports editor: If anyone watched the OSU football team they could have easily predicted a Xichigan victory. The running game was not very good by OSU standards. (TreVeyon) Henderson ran for quite a few yards, but that shows the weakness of the Big Ten more than anything else. He constantly got hit in the backfield. Conversely, whenever we came up against a strong opponent, we were rarely in their backfield.
What happened to Xichigan's quarterback all season? He never played anywhere near as good against Xichigan State as he did against us. Football is an emotional game. A team can usually get up emotionally so as to play above their ability once or twice a season. What team could not get up to play a top-five team and pull the upset? This happened all season against us. The Buckeyes were emotionally drained last Saturday. Xichigan was really high. After a decade+ of frustration, they put everything into this matchup.
Steve Ballmann, Columbus
To Brian: My favorite section after the OSU games is The Bottom Line (leaves awarded). I noticed more coverage/criticism for the officiating of the game. As if that would have made a difference. The holding call, and the pass interference call can be debated. But we still lost the game. For future columns on The Bottom Line, how about giving leaves for the results on how the guest sportscasters predict the outcomes of the OSU games. Wonder how many leaves they would have received after this game.
Chris Beale, London
To Chris: By my count, only Bob Stoops would have gotten five leaves. (That's not counting former Michigan players (Charles Woodson, Desmond Howard), whose picks are not free of predictable bias.)
On Jim Harbaugh
Dear Sir: Before you rip on Jim Harbaugh for being ungracious, you might be well served to recall Ryan Day’s famous “Hang a hundred on 'em" comment and you should probably take a peek at his postgame presser (Nov. 27). His message to the media was all about how his team had a bad day. The reality is that Ohio got manhandled on both sides of the ball. They were overmatched and got embarrassed. Ryan Day couldn’t bring himself to say anything close to a tip of the hat to Michigan for that painful reality.
Gene Smith has a long-standing tradition of hiring low-character guys to coach the Ohio football team: Tressel, Meyer and now poor little Ryan. Even Woody couldn’t help from punching that Clemson linebacker in the throat. And let’s not forget all of the high-character guys they recruit; Schlichter, Pryor, Clarett, the list goes on.
So taking pot shots at Harbaugh might be red meat for your readers, but it makes you a hypocritical hack to the rest of the world.
To the editor: You’re talking about Harbaugh showing some “grace?” How about Day saying they’re gonna hang 100 on Michigan? Furthermore, Harbaugh is right! Day inherited a turnkey program from Meyer. Look at Day's recruiting vs Meyer's. Harbaugh inherited a team that had been in the gutter for a long time. Day inherited a national championship-caliber squad. Sometimes the truth hurts. You and Ohio State have one thing in common: y’all need to toughen up.
To Joe, Nate: While Day did inherit a star-filled program, I would not put him on the same level as Barry Switzer winning with Jimmy Johnson's creation. Day has recruited quite well on his own. But I guess, as always, the longer history will tell the whole story.
To the editor: I see Michigan's coach Harbaugh was so sure of beating Ohio State that he had to go to big brother to get a defense coach .
On print deadlines
To the editor: Just read your response to letters complaining about your print coverage of the OSU basketball games in Florida. Last I heard, print journalism is scrambling to stay afloat. The core of your subscribers do not want to have to resort to the internet or social media to get coverage of their teams. Reading the morning paper is a ritual for me. Also, half-page photos of Wolverine players will not endear you to Buckeye fans. Not to mention frequent articles printed from Detroit papers.
Keep it up, Pugsley, and (you) will be back with the Pigs Knuckle Gazette where you belong.
John Dawson, Dublin
To John: Is the Gazette hiring? Asking for a friend.
On Brian Kelly, Lincoln Riley
To the editor: Brian Kelly’s departure is fortuitous for Notre Dame. He resigned, so there will be no payout made by Notre Dame. He wasn’t the coach, he was a manager of superb assistant coaches, especially the offensive and defensive coordinators who are beloved by the players. Kelly had been at ND for 12 years, too long for most at ND, and in three playoff opportunities his teams lost by large margins. Although coaches can be successful into their senior years, a 10-year contract at LSU means that if he completes his contract he will then be 70 years old. He will probably succeed at LSU, but now many hope that Notre Dame wins a national championship long before Brian Kelly has a shot at that same accomplishment.
John Stechschulte, Columbus
To the editor: Many fans are left scratching their heads with recent coaching moves. Have we ever seen a Notre Dame coach leave for another program? Or an Oklahoma coach winning Big 12 titles leave for another school? We certainly do live in odd times. But after you get past the initial shock and really take a closer look, I think these moves make sense. Why? I personally think that these coaches want to compete for and win national championships.
I think Lincoln Riley recognized that the move to the SEC is going to destroy OU. They are going to go from a perennial power in the Big 12 to the third, fourth or fifth best in the SEC. So when USC comes calling, the Pac-12 looks like a pretty easy conference to win. Now, whether or not he can revive a dormant USC program is a different story. He inherited a top-tier program from Bob Stoops at OU and has never had to do a rebuild. Time will tell if he's up for the challenge. But I can see why he'd do it.
Brian Kelly leaving Notre Dame for LSU? Again, I think Kelly wants to win championships and can't recruit the personnel to compete at Notre Dame. So he's going to jump in with the sharks of the SEC and show the world what he can do with superior talent. It's a tough move, as the SEC is loaded. But I like it. He wants to go out with a bang. And if he fails, he retires a multimillionaire. What's he got to lose?
On Jon Gruden
To Brian: Ray Eichenberger recently wrote you stating that Jon Gruden and others should not lose their jobs for making derogatory statements about "any ethnic group, any sexual orientation group, or even female sports referees." In his letter, Mr. Eichenberger used the terms "freedom of speech," "rights," "constitutional rights," or "inalienable right." While I agree that the First Amendment is vitally important, it does not apply in Gruden's case since the "right" relates to only government, not private, control of speech. For example, a person making vile, racist public statements on a street corner or in front of a crowd cannot be stopped by the government, and, in fact, can be elected to become part of that same government, even to "lead" it, and an athlete making a peaceful statement regarding equality also cannot be stopped by the government but can have his career ended by private enterprise. As for the "political correctness" that Mr. Eichenberger criticizes, this phrase is one made up and used by those in response to things that are truly incorrect, then used as a political issue instead of offering thoughtful solutions. Brian, I also agree with you and I would not have the type of person Gruden as my Coach either.
Greg Ward, Dublin
On college expansion
To Brian: This college football conference expansion has gotten way out of hand. In the SEC, LSU played at Kentucky this year for the first time since 2007. Texas A&M still hasn't played at Kentucky, nor has Georgia played at Texas A&M, or Missouri at Mississippi. Going more than a decade without traveling to another conference opponent is common in the SEC, and with two more coming in that will only increase. Oklahoma has been king in the Big 12 and Texas has become mediocre. In the SEC, Oklahoma will become mediocre and Texas irrelevant when playing Alabama instead of Kansas and wishing they had never switched regardless of the money.
Dennis Singleton, Dayton