After reading Dan Hope's article on how Bosa's injury changed the season, I started thinking about what 10 moments from this past season best captured how I experienced the season. This is not a greatest moments list, far from it, but rather a subjective description of both the peaks and valleys of a season filled with plenty of both. The list isn't ranked but goes through the season the way we all experienced it, game by game.
1. At the 11:06 mark of the 3rd quarter against Oregon St., Artavis Pierce runs 78 yards for a touchdown. I list this as a critical mark rather than his earlier run of 80 yards just a few minutes before because one such run can be written off as anomalous, but two? That was the first moment I realized our defense might have some problems that weren't getting fixed in the film room.
2. Nick Bosa's injury against TCU. It's the play that Dan wrote about, so I won't try to add anything other than to repeat "that changed our team."
3-4. Two plays from PSU, one good, one real bad. Let's start with the bad. On 3rd and 5 from deep in their own end of the field, McSorely hits KJ Hamler catches a simple slant that should've been stopped for a 10-yard gain and takes it for a 93-yard TD and 13-0 PSU lead. Big plays continue to burn our D. These first three plays all showed that this season was going to be tough, and that this Buckeye team had some issues that might not get resolved. The second play from the PSU game showed that despite those issues this team wasn't going to quit. Down 26-14 deep in the 4th quarter and it wasn't looking good until Bin Victor made one of the great individual efforts of the season, pulling down a high pass from Haskins, breaking tackles, switching fields, and taking it 47 yards to the house. That play didn't give us the lead, but it did give us life. The lead would come around soon enough.
5. Midway through the season the patterns were set, and they were weird and unfamiliar. Defense kept giving up big plays, and even stranger, we couldn't run the damn ball. We also couldn't pull away from lesser opponents the way we (almost) always have in the Meyer era. No play better represented the frustrations of the middle of the season more than the 4th and 1 play at the Minnesota 17. Minnesota had just scored a TD to take a 14-10 lead. Buckeyes march right down the field into the red zone and pass up a FGA for what should be a sure 4th down pick up . . . and Dobbins gets stuffed for a 1-yard loss. This bizarre inability to run the ball marked the middle part of the season and was one of the main reasons for the biggest collapse of the season the following week.
6. You could pick a dozen lowlights from the Purdue game, but I'll just name one and amazingly did not involve Rondale Moore making our defense look like the Keystone Cops. It was early, and the Buckeyes were clearly, and unforgivably, flat. With a 7-3 lead and deep in our red zone Purdue lined up for a FGA, and ran the fake. They barely picked up the 1st down, but they got it, and the TD that followed. They took a 14-3 lead instead of a more modest 10-3 lead. That two-score lead served notice that they came to play and were playing to win. Win they did, and in a manner that ultimately cost the Buckeyes a chance at the playoff.
7. For those who think this list is overly negative, well, this season wasn't easy. Haskins went nuts against Maryland, and I could choose any of his 6 touchdowns as a highlight, but the play that best captures that game for me was Maryland's QB missing an open receiver in the end zone for a failed 2-pt conversion that could have won them the game. We escaped, that's it, but man did it set the table for one of the most satisfying wins of the Urban era.
8-9. No blocked punt on my list, no muffed kick either. This season had been plenty frustrating, but this game was a joy, and the tone was set early by two plays. Our defense had been a liability all season long, and I didn't have high hopes for us against UM. On the first play from scrimmage they picked up 8 yards, and I'm already hoping "no big plays, just hold them to a FG" when Malik Harrison comes barreling through through the Michigan OL to sack Shea Patterson for a 7-yard loss leading to a rare 3-and-out on their first possession. Leading directly to the next great moment, Haskins hitting Olave for a 24 yard TD and a simple 7-0 lead that we would never relinquish. Early as it was, and even with the near choke toward the end of the half, it was clear that this would be the Buckeyes' day.
10. The Northwestern game was more of a return to the frustrating patterns of the season than a continuation of the way we played against Michigan. The talent level was clearly in our favor but we just couldn't seem to put them away. The biggest play of the game for me came just before half. First and 10 and driving at the NW 32, OSU is about to have the most representative series of the season. 1st and 10 become 1st and 20 after a holding penalty. 1st and 20 becomes 3rd and 20 because of a combination of bewildering play calls and a recurring problem with running the ball. And then Haskins showed us just how damn good he is. 3rd and 20 and he throws one of the prettiest deep balls you're ever going to see to give us a 24-7 lead to close the first half. Given the way we started the 2nd half, we needed each bit of that lead.
So, that's my Buckeye season in 10 plays. What are yours?