The annual Spring Game is not only the sole pigskin oasis in the endless desert we call the off-season, but it is also the only Ohio State game of the season where the final score doesn’t matter.
Instead of focusing on the score, fans look forward to the Spring Game to get their first look at new players and to see if problems of the previous season have been addressed. Very little of what they’ll see in the Spring Game will translate in any meaningful way to the real games this fall, but it sure beats reading practice reports.*
*No offense intended, of course, to the outstanding writers who provide those reports for Eleven Warriors. Seriously, you guys rock.
Some young player (or players) typically blow up and leave us wanting more, only to disappear down the depth chart or even redshirt when the season rolls around. Veterans may be invisible in the spring and then emerge as beasts in the fall. You never really know what you’re looking at, but you don’t really care all that much because it’s Ohio State and it’s football and OH GOD THERE IS NO MORE UNTIL THE END OF SUMMER.
Ohio State’s obvious problem last year was pass defense, but there were other areas of concern (wide receiver depth, for example). Many fans entered yesterday wanting to see improvement in those areas and to find out how the offensive line would perform in the wake of four seniors graduating. The Spring Game is all about questions and not very reliable about providing answers.
Would the backup quarterbacks perform well with Braxton Miller out? Would the linebackers perform well? Would we see Chris Ash’s fingerprints on the defense in the form of more press coverage? Would another young Buckeye look like a beast in the annual spring exhibition?
Meh (but there were a lot of dropped passes), yes, yes, and yes (Tyquan Lewis and Chris Worley both looked the part). Here are your talking points for the office tomorrow:
Water Cooler prep (Everything you need to know…in one paragraph)
Team Gray got short touchdown runs from Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball and kept the Team Scarlet offense out of the end zone, winning 17-7 in front of 61,000+ in the Horseshoe. Team Scarlet scored on a fumble recovery by Rashad Frazier, who sacked J.T. Barrett in the end zone and knocked the ball free on Gray’s first possession. The play was set up by a brilliant punt by Cameron Johnston. Mr. April Michael Thomas had another nice game for the winning side.
Talk before the game
“OMG, Ohio State football will be played today!”
“Meh, I find it hard to get excited about a glorified practice. Wake me in the fall.”
And then there was this smack talk from the hooligans of Team Gray:
I almost forgot the Spring Game is the time of year when I start talking trash about Scarlet and the beating it's going to take from Gray.— Vico (@ourhonordefend) April 10, 2014
While Team Scarlet, as expected, kept it simple and classy:
Go Scarlet. We shall prevail.— Stan Drayton (@OSUcoachDrayton) April 12, 2014
Talk in the aftermath
I saw and heard nothing after this tweet:
@FakeUrban: Congratulations to Gene Smith on getting an $18,000 bonus for the Gray beating the Scarlet.— Fake Urban Meyer (@FakeUrban) April 12, 2014
Give that man a buckeye leaf (Player of the game)
Tyquan Lewis was a beast at linebacker for Team Gray. Lewis finished with five tackles and two sacks and was generally around the ball constantly. He had a hand in at least three goal-line stops and made Cardale Jones run for his life on multiple occasions. He was hard to handle all day long.
Honorable mention here for Worley (game high nine tackles for Team Scarlet); Ball, who picked up 55 yards and a score on eight carries; Michael Thomas, who caught six passes for 64 yards; and Corey Smith, who led all receivers with 72 yards on five receptions. Eli Apple also played well and nearly had a goal-line interception.
Snot Knocker of the Game
There were two fairly noteworthy smackdown plays. Frazier’s strip sack of Barrett in the end zone was only marginally less violent because the young quarterback was wearing a black no-contact jersey. Honestly, those black jerseys were more suggestion than rule over the course of the day. Frazier got a pretty good shot in on Barrett despite the directive not to hit the signal callers and it turned into Scarlet’s only points.
The other mentionable hit was Darron Lee slamming Kato Mitchell down short of the goal line on the opening drive of the second half. Scarlet had a first-and-goal and when Jones’s pass hit Mitchell in stride, it looked like a sure score. Lee had other ideas, however, knocking the reserve receiver backward and out of bounds. That stop was the first of four straight on one of Gray’s two goal-line stands.
Did you see that?! (Play of the game)
Let’s be honest. There weren’t many “did you see that?” moments in yesterday’s game. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some outstanding individual efforts. Maybe the best was Thomas making a one-handed snag of a J.T. Barrett pass in the second quarter near the sideline. The play went for only eight yards, but it set up a manageable third-and-two, which Gray converted. The ability to make plays like that should get Thomas on the field a lot this fall.
When you sank into your chair (The moment Buckeye football disgraced your family)
Team Gray picked up a first down on a nice gain in the second quarter, but a flag on the play should have brought the play back. Scarlet inexplicably declined the penalty and kept the Gray drive alive. I’m not sure which coach was responsible for deciding whether penalties were accepted or refused, but that was a real head scratcher for all involved. Of course, it’s possible the referee announced the penalty for the wrong team.
Close runner-up was when Team Gray kicker Kyle Clinton missed a field goal and Scarlet kicker Sean Nuernberger connected. Urban Meyer backed them up and Clinton again missed and Nurenberger hit. Gray somehow got three points even though Clinton missed twice and Scarlet’s kicker didn’t. Integrity of the game, man.
Jim Tressel's Least Favorite Moment of the game
Tressel watched the Spring Game in his bathrobe and slippers while he and Ellen made hundreds of “Win with Jim” campaign buttons for his run at the Youngstown State presidency. He was shaking off a hand cramp when — with less than 30 seconds remaining — Team Gray dumped a bucket of ice water over winning coach Kerry Coombs.
“Oh man, I’ve been there, coach,” Tressel said, shuddering. “That’s the worst part of winning, right there.”
Then he grabbed another button insert and scrawled “I’m so chill” on it. He smiled at Ellen and said, “I know which button I’m wearing tomorrow.”
What you texted your friend at the end of each quarter
First: Rashad Frazier looks good. The receivers…not so much.
Second: Michael Thomas is Mr. Spring (again). No one else can catch – DBs or WRs.
Third: Tyquan Lewis will be a beast.
Fourth: No more Buckeye football until Aug. 30. :(
It was over when
Warren Ball went up the gut for a touchdown behind a huge Billy Price block, putting Gray ahead 17-7 with less than three minutes to play. Ball and Dunn both looked good running the football between the tackles even though the offensive line play was iffy at times.
It’s a long wait for the Aug. 30 showdown against Navy in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. Not to depress you, but there will be no more Ohio State football until then. Fall (late summer) camp will provide interesting stories and feed your excitement. Until then, let’s hope there are no Buckeyes in the news unless it’s Noah Spence magically getting his suspension lifted.