Andy Gottesman / The Lantern
Ohio State will play under the bright lights of Memorial Stadium against Indiana Saturday night without senior safety and captain Kurt Coleman.
The Buckeyes’ second-leading tackler, Coleman was suspended by the Big Ten for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Illinois’ backup quarterback Eddie McGee in the final minute of OSU’s 30-0 victory.
That’s right, in garbage time against a backup quarterback in a steady downpour, the OSU coaching staff left its top defensive back on the slippery field.
The slick conditions alone should have been enough reason to pull the first-string defense to evade any potential injuries.
All but accepting defeat, Illinois pulled starting quarterback Juice Williams.
But Coleman and Co. were kept in the game in a 30-point blowout as the clock wound down toward zero.
So, Coleman, the team’s vocal leader, cannot be blamed for his aggressive instincts. Yes, under Big Ten rule, his “illegal” tackle might have warranted the penalty.
But had the OSU coaching staff used enough common sense to pull Coleman from the game, the suspension could have been avoided completely.
This isn’t the first instance of late-game incompetence on the part of the Buckeye coaches.
Last season, running back Chris “Beanie” Wells injured his foot during the third quarter of the season-opening destruction of lowly Youngstown State.
Coach Jim Tressel received plenty of heat for leaving his star rusher in the game when the contest was already out of hand.
Wells needed the next three weeks to recover, missing OSU’s 35-3 letdown against Southern Cal.
The dynamic of the Buckeye defense won’t change as much as the offense did during “Beanie’s” absence.
Anderson Russell, a starter last season and the first two games of this year, will swiftly step into Coleman’s place.
Still, this must serve as a notice to the OSU coaches who continue to play with fire by leaving their key players on the field when unnecessary.
The team has nothing to gain by leaving its most crucial players on the field for mop-up duty. Hopefully, this serves as a much needed wake-up call.