Let’s get this out of the way: this loss is not Corey “Philly” Brown’s fault.
If there was ever a time to play the “what-if?” game, tonight’s Orange Bowl lose to Clemson is certainly one of them. There were so many turning points, so many opportunities to question play calling, officiating, decision making, the whole nine yards. Let’s look at a few of them.
We’ll start at the end. The Stephone Anthony interception of Braxton Miller. First off, what happened there? Brown was open behind Anthony. That’s a pass Braxton makes every time, but it was awfully under thrown. Was that because of Miller’s already broken down body? Either way, we can all agree that that play should have been reviewed. It may not have been overturned, but how you don’t do everything you can to get that play under review is bad. Just bad.
The curious case of Carlos Hyde: It took a little while to get Hyde in gear, but it was clear by the 2nd quarter that he had the wheels turning. He wasn’t picking up his usual seven yards a carry but he was still moving the chains. His last rushing attempt was the last play of the third quarter. He had over 100 yards through three quarters. He touched the ball TWICE in the fourth quarter, two passes from Braxton Miller. Where did he go?
Wherever he went, he took the tight ends with him. After hitting Heuerman for a touchdown in the second, they became non-existent. That was also troubling.
And yes, the Philly Brown muffed punt. That hurt the worst. At that point, Ohio State was up 29-20 and had all the momentum in their favor. They had just forced a three-and-out and had an opportunity to put points on the board and force Clemson into two huge scores. Instead of waving a fair catch on a punt that hung in the air forever, he tried to get away with bringing it down and took off before having complete control of the ball. Clemson took possession, scored 14 unanswered points and had the Buckeyes reeling after that.
And if we go all the way to the beginning of the game, let’s talk about missing Spence, Roby and Grant. Jamal Marcus played magnificently in relief duty of Spence. He deserves major kudos for that. But Roby’s absence forced defensive backs into a game they were not ready for, against a couple receivers that were flat-out better than they were. And CJ Barnett played as bad as I remember him playing. Defending the pass is not his jam, and it showed.
Finally, Braxton was battered and beaten. He played with heart but sometimes without his head. A couple really bad reads on the read option and some very unfortunate decisions on passing plays. But without him, we aren’t in a position to win anyway. I don’t fault Braxton one iota.
So that was that. With all this, Ohio State still had plenty of chances to take control. Clemson gave them multiple opportunities, especially at the end. They had their chances and they just weren’t able to capitalize.
And yes, there’s coaching. I’m not going to harp on it, but some of this can be laid at the feet of both coordinators. But Defensive Coordinator Luke Fickell was playing with a short hand to begin with. I’m sure there were tons of things he could have done differently. Things he probably should have done differently. But this isn’t a time to turn this into a bash Fickell party. Enough has already been said.
And so the 2013 Ohio State football season comes to an end. Not with a bang, but with a floating, errant pass into a Clemson defender’s hands (that he probably didn’t catch, but who cares). 12-2 is still a heck of a record. We’ve had some great moments this season. We witnessed a magical performance by Carlos Hyde. And the future is still bright. This game was not the end of the world.
Just the end of the season.