EVANSTON, Ill. — At some point, Ohio State needed to find out exactly what Blake Haubeil could deliver.
Three weeks ago with a 35-point lead and the seconds ticking away before halftime, Ryan Day sent the Ohio State offense back on the field. He was choosing to attempt a Hail Mary from the Nebraska 36-yard line rather than giving kicker Blake Haubeil a chance at a career-long 53-yard field goal.
The Buckeyes were rolling the Cornhuskers either way, so it didn’t really matter when Justin Fields pass was thrown out of bounds. A week later, early in the first half against Michigan State, Haubeil missed his second field of the season, a 37-yard attempt that never had a chance. That miss didn’t hurt the Buckeyes, as Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins delivered a trio of knock-out blows to the Spartans a quarter later, but it still mattered given the limited sample size with their kicker.
On Friday night at Northwestern, Haubeil had another chance to kick a field goal that wouldn’t ultimately impact the outcome. But this time, Day sent him on the field and let him attempt a 55-yard career-long try with a 25-point lead on the road. Haubeil drilled the kick — it would’ve been good from 60-plus — and sprinted off the field in a swarm of Buckeyes who celebrated like they just won a national championship.
“It was good to see the team rally behind him like that,” Day said postgame, acknowledging there was a decision the coaches had to make about the attempt. “It goes to show you the confidence the team has in him, also just the chemistry of our team in general. I think it kind of put an exclamation point on the whole half.”
The kick may have closed the half on a high note, but it also may have provided some clarity on a major Ohio State question mark. Eventually, if the Buckeyes want to win a national championship this season, the kicker is going to matter. What’s going to matter the most is Haubeil’s confidence moving forward.
By letting him show off his range against the Wildcats, Day afforded his kicker a chance to rewrite his legacy at Ohio State.
“It’s a blessing anytime I get to go on the field,” Haubeil said. “Coach Day obviously had faith in our unit to go out there and execute, but I just stay ready at all times, whenever I get called on I try my best to go out there and execute.
“That definitely says a lot about the trust and faith he has in us. So I absolutely love the fact that he put us out there. It is a blessing.”
Day has preached tough love since taking over in Columbus, and it’s trickled down to his team. That love was unmistakable in the on-field celebration that ensued after the kick easily cleared the crossbar at Ryan Field.
“It’s awesome — it proves to yourself, your team, your unit, that you can execute at a high-level from long-distance range,” Haubeil said. “It’s incredible. Just the love and support the team has shown throughout the year. It just made it that much more special.”
Ohio State isn’t going to need 55-yard field goal attempts often. Honestly, they’re not going to need 35-yard field goal attempts often as Fields, Dobbins and the rest of the Ohio State offense assault the record books in Columbus.
But the Buckeyes are going to need their kicker to win a game at some point. By allowing a kick that didn’t matter on Friday night, Ryan Day gave Blake Haubeil the confidence he needs to make the kicks that will, whenever Ohio State needs him.