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Analysis: Ohio State’s roller coaster football season

The Buckeyes Offense celebrates after sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins (2) scored a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against Penn State on Sept. 29. Ohio State won 27-26. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

After 14 games, 13 wins, a Big Ten title, a Rose Bowl victory and head coach Urban Meyer’s retirement, Ohio State’s season is finished.

And after scoring the most points the program has ever scored against Michigan in a single game while also losing to seven-loss Purdue by 29 in the same season, it’s hard to wrap up the year as a success or a letdown.

The Buckeyes were a team that, week after week, felt as if they had a world of potential at their fingertips.

It was clear from the start that redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins was much more than a substitute for J.T. Barrett, and a comeback effort against Penn State in Happy Valley seemed to be a strong sign that this team could compete for a national title.

Closer-than-expected games against Indiana and Minnesota were seen as the team playing down, but did not feel like warning signs until the debacle that occurred against the Boilermakers on Oct. 20.

From there, it felt like every positive that came from the season had something negative to cancel it out.

Meyer’s head coaching tenure ended with a win in the bowl he had never coached in. It came during a year that had off-the-field issues before the team played a single game.

A Rose Bowl win is a major feat for most programs. But for Ohio State, it was more of a consolation prize after failing to make the College Football Playoff for the second straight season.

Standout wins against the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines couldn’t overshadow the loss in West Lafayette or the should-be loss to Maryland that was saved by a missed throw in overtime.

Haskins was No. 1 in the NCAA in passing yards and passing touchdowns and finished No. 3 in Heisman voting. Sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior running back Mike Weber failed to reach their full potential as a dynamic running back duo as they struggled to gain momentum splitting carries.

The defense, after finishing in the top 10 the past three seasons, was No. 72 in the country, allowing 403.4 yards per game and 39 plays of 30 yards or more.

But regardless, after all the highs and lows, the Buckeyes ended their season with a 28-23 victory against Washington in Pasadena.

That win was the near-perfect amalgamation of Ohio State’s season as a whole.

Ohio State went up 28-3 in dominant fashion through three quarters behind a strong three-touchdown showing from Haskins.

After outgaining Washington 349-274 in yards through the first 45 minutes, the Huskies had 170 total yards in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 unanswered points and having their comeback effort stopped short by a failed onside kick.

The Buckeyes had 15 total yards and zero points in the final 15 minutes.

In a game that looked too good to be true, in a season that started too good to be true, both ended up being just that.

Ohio State’s season had cons to match all the pros, and the upcoming 2019 team comes in with new additions to match all the departures.

Now, Meyer is gone, but Ryan Day is stepping into the head coach position, already putting his stamp on the Michigan rivalry by hiring two former assistants from Jim Harbaugh’s coaching staff.

Haskins is gone, but freshman quarterback Justin Fields is coming in with a reputation as one of the highest-rated recruits in history.

A veteran receiving corps is gone, but redshirt junior K.J. Hill is returning along with a healthy Austin Mack, and will be joined by five-star prospect Garrett Wilson in Brian Hartline’s second season as wide receivers coach.

Weber is gone, but Dobbins now has the backfield to himself, something that helped him run for more than 200 yards against Maryland when Weber was injured.

The future of the cornerback room is uncertain, but junior safety Jordan Fuller and sophomore safety Brendon White give the Buckeyes consistency at a position it lacked for half the season.

After one of the most up-and-down seasons in the program’s recent history, Ohio State comes out as the No. 3 team in the final Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

After losing one of the winningest coaches in NCAA history and arguably the best quarterback in program history, Ohio State comes out with the potential to make a playoff run that it has sought and failed to earn for two straight years.

 

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