A 12-point win over a then-ranked opponent in Week 3 without its head coach was supposed to set the tone for Ohio State’s title-contending season.
Acting head coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day and company went down to Arlington, Texas, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins earned his second 300-yard passing game and the Ohio State defense forced three turnovers in the 40-28 victory against TCU.
One of those turnovers was forced by junior defensive end Nick Bosa, who jarred the ball loose in the endzone, only for it to be recovered by redshirt junior defensive tackle Davon Hamilton for a touchdown.
That would be Bosa’s last impactful play as a Buckeye.
Bosa tore a core muscle early in the third quarter against TCU on Sept. 15, and on Tuesday, Ohio State announced Bosa will not return to Ohio State, instead shifting his injury recovery toward the NFL.
Now, Ohio State will have to make temporary fixes for the absence of one of the best players in the NCAA into permanent ones.
“In sports, you don’t have a choice, right. You play with who you have,” defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “Every once in awhile you get one of those magical years where everybody stays healthy the whole time, but, especially in our sport, it’s not very common.”
In just over a half against the Horned Frogs, Bosa had five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. His stats on the season went up to 14 tackles, six of which were for a loss including four sacks, as well as the forced fumble.
Bosa’s career stats were at 77 tackles, 29 for loss, 17.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 29 games.
That’s where Bosa’s collegiate stats will stay, leaving the remaining defensive ends to fill the unexpected void in Ohio State’s pursuit of a national championship.
Ohio State has always preached the idea of “next man up” when a player goes down mid-season. The idea that depth players must step into these major holes and contribute immediately until they get back is something head coach Urban Meyer has preached for years.
Now, the next man up isn’t the next man anymore. He will be stepping into some of the biggest shoes in college football permanently.
“The common phrase, I guess, is next man up. It’s probably overused, but it’s a reality in sports,” Schiano said. “You have to, but you lose a player of Nick’s ability, there’s not anyone else like him. But that’s the nature of athletics.”
Bosa’s impact on the defensive side of the ball goes past his impressive stats. Without the junior on the field, the attention gets shifted more toward other major contributors, including sophomore defensive end Chase Young and redshirt junior defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones.
Young earned two sacks against Penn State, but has not earned another in any game since Bosa’s absence. Redshirt freshman Jonathon Cooper became the starter on the other side of Young before he too was injured, who left in the second half of the Indiana game and missed the Minnesota matchup while in concussion protocol.
Meyer said there is a long list of names for players who can step up into Bosa’s place.
“You wish Tyreke Smith, who is a very talented guy, was a little more established and experienced, but he is getting better every week,” Meyer said in Tuesday’s Big Ten Teleconference. “Obviously you have [Jonathon] Cooper, Chase Young, Jashon Cornell and Tyler Friday as the other guys right now.”
Since Bosa’s injury, the Buckeyes’ rush defense has shown inconsistency, twice holding teams to 100 yards or less, and twice allowing a rusher with more than 150 yards on his own.
Ohio State’s rush defense currently sits at No. 55 in the NCAA, and Purdue redshirt senior running back D.J. Knox, who has run for 236 yards and two touchdowns over his past two games, awaits the Buckeyes in their next matchup.
Ohio State has been left without Bosa for three full weeks, but now has to prepare for a bulk of the season without arguably its best player.
Schiano said Purdue is just another game, with or without Bosa or anyone else for this defense.
“Everybody has situations … you know, the game is coming on Saturday night at 7:30 whether we are healthy, not healthy, ready, not ready, it doesn’t wait for anyone,” Schiano said. “They are on a journey and on a mission and they are focused on what they have to do.”