Skull Session: Ohio State's Defense Didn't Show Much, Comparing Luke Fickell and Ryan Day's Interim Stints, and a Look at Woody's Two-Point Try

By Kevin Harrish on September 6, 2019 at 4:59 am
Chase Young is ready to pounce in today's skull session.
Ohio State Athletics

I've never been more furious I wasted my life watching that NFL football game when I could have been watching this happen live:


Word of the Day: Kalon.

 THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW. Noted defense-knower Luke Fickell has absolutely no idea what to expect from Ohio State's defense on Saturday, and it's all because Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison didn't show shit last week.

From Gerd the Great of The Ozone:

“I think defensively, it’s really difficult going into a game where you don’t know that they showed a whole lot,” he said of OSU’s defense. “You’re not really sure with a new coordinator and a new system. A little bit more of ‘hey what are they,’ what are they really gonna be and do defensively, because they probably didn’t have to do a whole lot or didn’t do a whole lot. But maybe that’s who they’ll be too. So I think defensively you’re probably a little more curious than you are offensively.”

The Buckeye defense held Florida Atlantic to negative yardage in the first half before giving up three drives of at least 65 yards in the second half. Even without showing much, Fickell saw a defense that could do plenty. Offensively, he saw much of what he’s always seen from the Ohio State offense.

Though he isn’t sure they really showed all that much either.

“I don’t know that they had to,” he said. “I don’t know if they did. You know, but it’s still similar to what they’ve done over the last couple years with coach Day there, so I don’t think you’re as curious, or ‘hey, what else do they have in their bag?’ As good as they’ve been over the last few years offensively, how much more can you do or how much more do you need to do?”

The good news is, that's not just Fick blowing smoke up our ass. Our resident scheme-knower, Kyle Jones, agrees with his assessment.

"Super vanilla," Jones told us privately while watching the game on Saturday, having no idea he would ever be quoted. "This is not the D we’ll see. They’ve hardly shown a thing, and haven’t been 'multiple' at all, other than playing around with White/Wade."

First off, it's absolutely awesome that Ohio State held Florida Atlantic to -14 total yards in the first half using a defense that was more plain than soft serve vanilla ice cream. Second, maybe we can pump the brakes on the meltdown about the second-team defense giving up two garbage time touchdowns now.

 JUST A TAD DIFFERENT. As you all may or may not be aware, both Luke Fickell and Ryan Day served as an interim head coach for the Buckeyes, and now they're playing each other on Saturday.

It's something that's never happened before and it's definitely neat and unique and fun and good and we can definitely talk about it!

However, what it isn't is a good way to compare the two coaches. Cause their situations were wildly, wildly different, as Doug Lesmerises of points out.

But what would have happened if Day had been without Dwayne Haskins, Parris Campbell, Thayer Munford and JK Dobbins for those three games? Because that’s what it was like for Fickell in 2011, after the starting quarterback (Terrelle Pryor) left and the best receiver (DeVier Posey), left tackle (Mike Adams), and running back (Dan Herron) were suspended for half the season.

Let me finally get to the point I want to make. In the end, I think the situations that Day and Fickell were forced into were vastly different when it came to structure.

Ohio State, honestly, was built to run almost without Urban Meyer. That’s because, to his credit, he built it that way, and that’s why Day this season retained so many things, from the strength coach to the recruiting guru to the team slogans to the way players are evaluated off the field.

Ohio State football under Tressel, to my mind, was much more about the personal abilities of Tressel. That’s because he didn’t build a machine around him, he built a family. When the bosses -- Meyer and Tressel -- were both there, both worked. But when they were both taken away, the Tressel way crumbled more quickly.

Ryan Day may very well be the better coach of the two and the better fit for the Buckeyes in the long run, but their respective interim stints in Columbus sure aren't what prove that.

That comparison would be like telling two kids to make dinner and giving one of them a fully stocked refrigerator and a recipe with the promise that you'd be back to finish the job in 10 minutes and leaving the other totally on his own with some canned green beans, gummy bears, spam and and instant mashed potatoes.

 GO JEAUX. Joe Burrow's practically Louisiana royalty by now – and rightfully so, given that they hadn't had a competent quarterback since Zach Mettenberger – but he'll always be an Ohio legend, particularly to the fine folks in Athens County.

From Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report:

"He saved our ass," says LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

Burrow hears Orgeron's words, and his head drops. He has just returned from a trip to Athens, where so many live below the poverty line and have never made it out. A place that can swallow hope.

He sat for three years at Ohio State, backing up Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Dwayne Haskins was next in line when Burrow finally bailed.

He never wanted to go home to Athens during those three years at Ohio State, because he'd only hear the inevitable: Even he, a kid from a proud football family, was swallowed. May as well come back home.


High school athletes just don't leave Athens for Power Five schools. The talent level isn't there. It's just about unheard of for a native son of Athens to go play at Ohio State.

So when those first three years at Ohio State led to nothing for Burrow—when one of the few guys to make it out couldn't make anything from it—it was devastating.


"A lot of kids where I'm from ... they don't get a lot," Burrow says. "It's sad. There were kids who had to wear the same set of clothes to school every day and got made fun of because that's what middle and high schoolers do to each other. Looking back on it, that really sucks

"I want to be the person they can look at and say: 'He got out. So can I.'"

The article is a generally fantastic read (as are most things about Joey B), diving into Burrow's toughness, quirkiness, and his heart for his teammates and his hometown.

My lone beef is characterizing Burrow as a "castoff" who "bailed" out of Columbus.

The dude has a degree from Ohio State, returned to Columbus on LSU's bye week to hang out with his teammates (in the football facilities, I might add), is still beloved by his former teammates and still has the support of the Buckeye fanbase.

He's not a castoff, nor did he bail on anyone. His lone fault was coming to school at the same time as the most decorated quarterback in Big Ten history and the best passer in Big Ten history.

 BECAUSE HE COULDN'T GO FOR 3... We all know the legendary tale of Woody Hayes' decision to go for two up 50-14 in the 1968 edition of The Game, but what if what I told you that tale wasn't all the way true?

Since no record of the quote exists, some folks suggest that Woody never even said those words. But another theory is that he did, just seven years earlier.

Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic ($):

“Even though this is, like, the one legendary story of this rivalry, I left it out,” Rosenberg said. “And then I got an email after the book came out, from somebody who played at Michigan in 1961.”

That person said: That was our game. That wasn’t ’68.

If you comb through the play-by-play from the ’61 game, which Ohio State won 50-20, you’ll see a scenario that certainly matches the context for a quote about going for three. This theory has merit.

Here’s The Michigan Daily, from Nov. 28, 1961:

But Ohio State added further insult to injury by scoring in the final 34 seconds following Michigan’s kickoff. Sparma lifted a 70-yard pass to Warfield, who was stopped on the Wolverine ten by senior Bill Hornbeck. Three quick plays later Sparma hit Tidmore for the TD. Another Sparma-to-Tidmore toss scored the 49th and 50th points for the Bucks.

“You don’t do that unless you’re trying to run up the score,” Rosenberg said. “In ’68, it was an accident. In ’61, I’m sure it was intentional because they were trying to run up the score. I don’t know what he actually said at the time, but it made complete sense. That’s what happens with these rivalries, people conflate things and stories become legend.


There is no evidence in easily searchable archives from news coverage at the time that Hayes said “because I couldn’t go for three” in 1961, much like there isn’t evidence in the aftermath of the ’68 game. But Hayes certainly said it at some point, and it infuriated Michigan players and fans alike. Buckeye faithful still put it on T-shirts to this day

Don't let this history lesson and debate distract you from the important part of this entire ordeal: Woody Hayes went for two in two separate blowout wins over Michigan. Once would be legendary enough, but Woody did it twice. What a badass.

 TROLL STATUS: MASTER. For years I've struggled with my official stance on Bryce Harper's Buckeye fanship, but I think I've officially decided that it is fine. Maybe it is even good!

On one hand, the guy has no obvious connection to Ohio State or the state of Ohio in general, so it feels a little weird that such a notorious Buckeye fan and was even the guest picker on College GameDay the last time it was in Columbus.

On the other hand, why shouldn't we embrace anyone who decides to support the one correct and good football team? Especially if they're going to troll the hell out of the opposing team's fanbase for an entire baseball series.

His Phillies played a series against the the Reds in Cincinnati this week. We've already had him O-H a Bearcats fan after crushing a home run, and now we've got this:

I will claim him. He is a Buckeye. I have decided.

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