THE SITUATIONAL: Night Will Find You

By Ramzy Nasrallah on September 20, 2023 at 1:15 pm
marvin harrison jr is good at football

Aristotle believed wind was created when the earth exhaled.

Air occupies an elemental space between fire and water, which are mutually destructive. Air is their common constituent. You can draw an elegant Venn Diagram out of that.

You know who never drew a Venn Diagram? Aristotle. The Venn guy was born 2,000 years after he died. The point is wind comes from somewhere and Ancient Greeks are still known for their scorching takes.

So what does this have to do with giant teenagers playing what current English refer to as armored American wankball? This is why you clicked here, reader - let's take a trip back to Saturday's game. Eight minutes remain in the 2nd quarter. Western Kentucky has just cut Ohio State's lead to 14-10.

The Hilltoppers matriculated 75 yards in seven plays, punctuated by a 2-yard bubble screen from QB Austin Reed to WR Malachi Corley which required no fewer than three uncalled holds to be successful. WKU players celebrated with vigor in the Horseshoe's closed end and took their feistiness to visitors' sideline.

They were not carrying themselves like four-touchdown underdogs, content to collect $1.8M for the privilege of losing badly on national television before returning home. Instead, they were brimming with confidence, and for two conspicuous reasons - one, Reed and Corley will collect NFL paychecks. They'd be good on any roster.

WESTERN KENTUCKY'S ONLY touchdown was the MOMENT THAT RETIRED OHIO STATE'S talented robots and replaced them with THE disciplined monsters EVERYONE HAS BEEN WAITING FOR.

Two, Ohio State was now into its 10th straight quarter of robotic football, with high-ceiling recruits at every position all working on doing exactly what they were supposed to do, being exactly where they were supposed to be, not screwing up assignments and playing Ohio State football, whatever that happens to be these days.

Is it three yards and a cloud of dust? Power-spread option? Stifling defense? A quarterback throwing pretty ropes to unguardable aliens? At least two of those things, but probably not three. Ten quarters of trying to show up and look the part.

Western Kentucky was not shying away from the moment. A fearless bench divergent from the host's side of the field, where emotions three weeks into the season sat somewhere between vacant and contrived. Plodding in Bloomington. Playing courteously with Youngstown State.

And now, in a battle with the Hilltoppers. Let's bring Aristotle back into the conversation. Reader, this was the precise moment the earth exhaled.

Ohio State's tepid psyche abruptly switched to full-bluster. The Buckeyes got the kickoff and scored in one play - a fly pattern from their 5-star cannon-armed quarterback to their best player. That play is always going to be there.

Ohio State's first play following Western Kentucky's only touchdown was the beginning of an avalanche.

The Buckeyes could dial it up on every snap if they wanted to. The Marvin Harrison Jr. button.

Ohio State got the ball back barely three minutes later and executed another one-play scoring drive. Forced a fumble 50 seconds after that and returned to the endzone in four plays. Got the ball again 87 seconds later and scored after three snaps.

They went on a ferocious and unforgiving 49-0 run to end the game, all starting with that WKU north endzone riot. Ohio State scored 3.5 points per minute for the remainder of the 2nd quarter, a clip that would produce 210 points over a full game.

So the visitors were paid handsomely for the privilege of losing badly on national television.

WKU graciously provided earth with a reason to exhale. The Hilltoppers' touchdown - their only one of the day - was the moment that retired Ohio State's talented robots and replaced them with the disciplined monsters everyone has been waiting for. Now they're here.

And on Saturday night they'll be in South Bend. Let's get Situational!


Cody Simon, Lathan Ransom and JT Tuimoloau celebrate Steele Chambers' interception on Saturday © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

I'll say it: Screaming FIGHT and TOUGHNESS repeatedly doesn’t create fight or toughness.

It’s blunt, primitive and a flat campaign - and the basis for the program's strategy to install a sustainable competitive edge in a team full of young adults. Ryan Day invokes it just about every time he's behind a podium.

And sure, 4 to 6, A to B is also blunt and primitive, but that's a simplified instructional blueprint for the 100+ snaps a team sees every Saturday. It's not an emotional mandate. Completely different.

Manufacturing authentic, violent rage through a simplified crusade is wishful thinking. That's not how normal people get amped up or inspired, and football players aren't any different. You need more. Tom Rinaldi doesn't narrate his gripping stories of triumph by barking CRY and WEEP on camera.

But everyone still does. His words and stories produce the desired outcome. Getting guys to FIGHT and be TOUGH requires more than printed banners, and the reason we're discussing this is the Buckeyes have gone on significant stretches where FIGHT and TOUGHNESS seemed...sheathed.

Here, this guy has the right idea:

Controlled degenerate behavior is absolutely it. Much of the Urban Meyer era has aged like milk, but among the numerous elements that made him one of the very best to ever do it was his method for installing maximum rage in his teams.

Fake news clippings to rile up his 2006 Gators ahead of the BCS title game? Brilliant, and both you and I died that night as a result. Informing his new program in 2012 he had no interest in coaching anyone who was happy being average, then leading a team with no championship possibilities to an undefeated season? Probably his greatest coaching achievement.

You don't tell college kids to be tough. You mold them into the toughest possible versions of themselves. You assist them in unlocking whatever anger is inside them that allows them to play in the most relentless, violent and productive way possible.

Or you can just find guys naturally wired that way. Let's get back to this guy:

Seeding violent tendencies is more nuanced than printing banners. That turning point on Saturday had nothing to do with hearing FIGHT and TOUGHNESS or bouncing around midfield manufacturing artificial hype prior to kickoff. It had to everything do with seeing a four-touchdown underdog dancing happily in the endzone.

You can bottle moments like that. There are creative, effective ways to do it. Sprinkle that in increasing amounts over the course of a season. Coach Day still has Urban's cell if he needs pointers.


The Solo

CONTENT NOTE: This season Situational enthusiasts are controlling the Intermission jukebox, and as is the case in your local tavern - nobody knows who's choosing the songs. You have the right to get mad. If this goes off the rails, good.

I knew outsourcing song selection to Situational shirt wearers would carry risk, and we made it five beautiful weeks before my decision reared its hobgoblin head. Okay, here we go.

When Freekbass' We Are Notre Dame dropped 13 years ago in April the world looked a lot different. The iPad debuted that month. Hollywood was still making comedies. And the philosophy of creating performative online nonsense for the sake of clicks was still dabbing in its own embryonic fluid.

The video arrived prior to the song itself, which gave the world no time to prepare for the Freekbass experience. Seeing this spectacle as a fan of not-Notre Dame delivered a jarring emotional concoction of euphoria and disgust. Spencer Hall, upon watching it for the first time:

It is a Chumbawumba song fed to the Black Eyed Peas playing a Mexican Quinceañera in Hell. Then the Black Eyed Peas eat Nick Lachey attempting a clubthumping anthem. This gives the Black Eyed Peas explosive diarrhea; as a result, they spray-poop the entire mess onto an Elmo record. This then is combined with the noises of Satan's galley slaves moaning beneath the fiery whipstrokes of their demon masters, remixed by Ke$ha, and rapped over by Fred Durst

We Are Notre Dame was soundly ridiculed upon arrival and practically shamed out of existence - the only serviceable version on Youtube today is a degraded rip from a Michigan fan blog refusing to let it die. The song does not appear in Freekbass' Spotify discography to this day. Everyone has disowned it. There are reasons.

It features a rap interlude. *sigh* Let's answer our two questions.

Is the guy rapping in this video actually rapping?

That's sound engineer Tobe Donohue. I briefly considered parsing the lyrics and breaking them down in the same manner a college student would interpret Keats, Dickinson or Plath. Briefly. That wasn't part of our deal, shirt buyers. VERDICT: Yes.

Does this rap interlude slap?

Look, it takes bravery and a wholesale disregard for personal brand equity to put your performative nonsense on the Internet - I do it every Wednesday so I cannot help but empathize when a particular cut goes sideways. Donohue laid down rhymes in a manner that would have sent the dead priests of the Congregation of Holy Cross who founded Notre Dame straight into an infinite Mother Theresa prayer spiral.

Play Like a Champion Today.

It was easy to make fun of this contribution to the college football ether back when it first dropped because it was corny and involved a school paying Charlie Weis $19M to not coach its football team.

During Brian Kelly's first season in South Bend the university was also still paying Ty Willingham to not coach. We needed this song more than Notre Dame did. It was inadvertently for the rest of us. Oh, Kelly appears in the video, as does Mike Golic. Its authenticity was not mysterious. It was just hard to believe.

The Athletic published something resembling an oral history about it during the pandemic and it just made me miss the relative innocence of 2010, before every fan base's own version of Freekbass created corny versions of We Are Notre Dame for clicks. That makes him a pioneer, a pied piper for niche Internet infamy.

Okay, we're done here. VERDICT: Absolutely does not slap.

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The Bourbon

There is a bourbon for every situation. Sometimes the spirits and the events overlap, which means that where bourbon is concerned there can be more than one worthy choice.

Panty melter. You're welcome.
Kentucky Owl St. Pat's. As Irish as Notre Dame.

One, Jameson and Bailey's, nestled in a shot glass dropped into a half-pint of Guiness and consumed in a single motion at about two dozen Chicago bars.

Two, a Jameson Orange floater - it's real - in a plastic cup of Hoop Tea - also real - on ice at the High Street Donatos last Saturday before the WKU game. That's the extent of my Irish whisky consumption since roughly 2005.

The American stuff is better. There's no reason to choose Irish whisky in the presence of bourbon, especially this week.

But bourbon's comprehensive superiority created a cultural mismatch for March 17 and St. Patrick's Day-adjacent pub crawls. Bourbon on the Irish high holiday? That just feels disrespectful.

Enter Kentucky Owl, a distillery killed off by Prohibition in 1916 which roared back from the dead nearly a century later and is now producing $100+ bottles of juice which largely justify their price tags.

Owl's St. Patrick's Edition absolutely screams gimmick - except this is a high-end operation not prone to ripping bourbon enthusiasts off. Its 2014 return has been a premium experience from the jump, with a nod to Owl's Stoli overlords for seizing the opportunity and breathing life into the brand.

The green label doesn't reach the heights of Batch 12, but it was still fun to sip while watching Farleigh Dickinson send Purdue home from the NCAA Tournament on St. Patrick's Day. It will come in handy this Saturday night. Respectfully.


Then & Now: Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman as a freshman at Wake Forest in 2018 vs. last weekend in South Bend. © Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State's quarterback has thrown 134 college passes. Notre Dame's has thrown 1,687.

Sam Hartman is the first old quarterback the Buckeyes will face since Stetson Bennett IV all of four games ago. He'll turn 26 next month. Hartman is only 24, which makes him one of the oldest players in the sport.

Despite arriving in the offseason, Hartman is already a Notre Dame captain because just about every ancient starting quarterback is a captain. If you're curious, Kyle McCord turned 21 yesterday. Not old. And not a captain yet.

For Notre Dame's freshmen, Hartman is like having a surrogate dad on the team - he was starting in college football games when they were still eighth graders. Hartman is older than Desmond Ridder, Trevor Lawrence, Brock Purdy, Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Anthony Richardson.

If that's a confusing list for you, those guys are all current starting NFL quarterbacks.

Ohio State's oldest starting quarterback of late was J.T. Barrett, who as a senior in 2017 was still barely older than Stroud is right now - he just started for so long it only felt like he was 30. The program has largely avoided the Old Quarterback strategy, even after seeing Joe Burrow win the Heisman at LSU at the ripe old age of 23.

The Buckeyes have had one old quarterback - you might remember him. Threw for a gaudy 5,000 yards and 56 touchdowns as an upperclassman in high school. He was all-state in both football and baseball in Virginia, and after he verballed to Ohio State he spent three years in the minor leagues collecting baseball paychecks.

When he finally left baseball behind and arrived in Columbus, he was never supposed to see the field outside of garbage time. He wasn't too shy to smoke cigarettes in public or even during the season - peak Old Man behavior.

He was at Ohio State for a reason. His reason. College football was supposed to be his sendoff in the twilight of an athletic career 99.9% of American boys could only dream of having.

But a series of mishaps ended up thrusting him into action, and it was the week of his 26th (!) birthday when Joe Bauserman found himself under center in Lincoln with the Buckeyes clinging to a two-touchdown lead over Nebraska.

That night was his final appearance in a game. Yes, just about every old quarterback is a team captain. But some guys just have to settle for being the stuff of legend.

Thanks for getting Situational today. Go Bucks. Beat Notre Dame.

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