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BuckIQ: After major defensive turnaround, big plays doomed Fiesta Bowl

Clemson was able to come up with big plays against the talented Ohio State defense. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

BuckIQ: After major defensive turnaround, big plays doomed Fiesta Bowl

COLUMBUS — The problem at Ohio State had seemingly been fixed.

The Buckeyes had spent all season producing a remarkable turnaround on defense. They were among the stoutest, stingiest units in the country, and limiting the explosive plays that had doomed them a year before was the clear catalyst. Effort, fundamentals, scheme and personnel seemed to again be in perfect alignment.

And then for just a couple plays, it all slipped away from Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl — and it wasn’t just the sloppy turf that was to blame. Clemson found huge holes on the ground, it dialed up creative play calls and it connected on just enough throws through the air to capitalize against the Buckeyes when the College Football Playoff semifinal was on the line.

Yes, Ohio State did more than enough to win that matchup in the desert and easily could have been playing for the national title on Monday night if not for the hard-to-believe string of bad luck, near-missed and horrible calls that went against it. But if not for a couple uncharacteristic defensive lapses, none of the other stuff might have mattered.

Jordan Fuller-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State and veteran safety Jordan Fuller just came up a little short in the Fiesta Bowl. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“I give Clemson a lot of credit,” Ohio State linebacker Tuf Borland said after the game. “They’ve got a lot of good players. They made plays. As far as [Trevor] Lawrence running, not really a huge surprise. We saw that on film, extending plays and being able to find open guys.

“So, credit to them.”

The Buckeyes didn’t do much to provide answers in the immediate aftermath of that shocking loss to Clemson, and they’ll continue to spend the offseason reliving it and trying to find out exactly what went wrong. As they regroup for another run back to the College Football Playoff, they’ll have to do so without a handful of superstars who were instrumental in the resurgence — starting with defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah.

Ohio State still has the tools to be one of the best defenses in the nation. But now they’ll have to wait almost a full year before getting another chance to prove it on the biggest stage in the sport.

What happened on those key defensive breakdowns in the Fiesta Bowl for Ohio State? Were there signs that the Buckeyes were susceptible to the explosive plays? How will those couple missed assignments linger and motivate the Silver Bullets heading into the offseason program? Former Ohio State captain Zach Boren was back in the Lettermen Row film lab looking at the turning points against Clemson and answering those questions in the latest episode of BuckIQ.

Roll the tape!

Lettermen Row senior writer Austin Ward contributed the editorial content for this post.

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Buck68
Buck68

Austin…which is better: tactical thinking or human nature? Which is ‘better’: negative or positive motivation? Which is better: seizing/exploiting The Initiative, or ‘read and react’? Which is harder to keep choosing: the problem-solving method or my instinctive feelings? Which is easier and more popular: start with my conclusions, or try to figure out what is going on [WIGO] ‘out there’? ====*****MacArthur on ‘leadership’ [paraphrasing]: “leaders look backward… but they only ‘think’… ‘forward'”. ====SO…which are these phrases: – “it was fixed… but it popped up again”… “at the worst possible moment.” – “think [about 2019] all off-season…” – “missed assignments linger” [indefinitely] – we “banished…but” – [at a pause in several feelings…. “who knows what it was”> [nb verb tense on what we do/don’t ‘know’]. – “we’re losing a lot… so much…” – we need to ‘step up’… c/f reference to Coach Mariotti’s approach…. – “ya gotta look back before you look forward…. – “big play… shouldn’t look [at X…Y…Z?]” – to play [a named position] “you have to be ‘our best tackler'” sets what standard? – is the opposing QB “very fast”? Do we ‘have to be’ X to apply the Cover 1 scheme? ===== Suggestion for us all: look… Read more »

coolhand850
coolhand850

WTF ?

Brunstar
Brunstar

I think everyone who watched that game, or at least the people who were not Clemson fans or Ohio State haters, know that the replay booth cost us the game more than anything else. Tim May mentioned it the other day, most of the late money put on the game in Vegas was for Clemson. Maybe that’s something that someone should look into.

Brian
Brian

Well yes, I agree, an why not take a look into it?
I always wondered why refs at big level games don’t take a lie detector test throughout the year, just to make sure they are not cheating. Is that too harsh an idea ? I mean especially with all the money now being bet. It has always been a possibility anyways, people’s lives become troubled, things happen and they become tempted and cheat. It only takes one call sometimes to truly affect the outcome of a game. How else would one look into these situations other than a test annually and or randomly, or the like?
Is there another way? Good point though, I agree.

Brian
Brian

So glad you brought this up !
Needed to be talked about. I watched those plays over and over again to see what actually happened. They were truly HUGE plays that affected the outcome greatly.
Thanks Zach for shedding light on this and making sense of it, Austin to, because I’m quite sure a ton of fans wanted to know what the heck happened on those plays.

Zach Boren

Zach Boren was a 2012 captain and member of the 12-0 team. Winner of the Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award and an ESPN/Kirk Herbstreit "Herbie". Zach remains in the Columbus area and heads the development of Boren Brothers.

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