Ohio State football experienced one of the most heartbreaking ends to a season ever on Saturday night. After falling behind 42-41 with less than a minute remaining in the Peach Bowl against Georgia, the Buckeyes quickly drove down the field to give themselves a chance at a game-winning field goal. Unfortunately for them, the kick hooked badly to the left, ending their national title dreams.
As much as the loss stung, the Buckeyes played a strong game, especially on offense. C.J. Stroud had a fantastic performance, completing 23-of-34 passes for 348 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers. Emeka Egbuka and Marvin Harrison Jr. both had outstanding receiving performances, despite the latter leaving with injury in the third quarter.
However, there have to be some people at fault for blowing a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, some more than others. Without further ado, here are the three Ohio State football people most to blame for the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia.
3. Ryan Day
Honestly, Day didn’t really do much wrong in this game. He led the team remarkably well, and if just one or two more bounces went the Buckeyes’ way, they win. However, there was a moment where the game seemed to unravel.
With Ohio State leading by eight midway through the fourth quarter, Day dialed up a fake punt on a fourth-and-1. It would have been a genius call if it worked, and it looked like it did at first. However, Kirby Smart sniffed it out, calling a timeout just barely before the snap to regroup and force an actual punt.
From that point on, Georgia had all the momentum. The Bulldogs connected on a 76-yard touchdown on the first play after the punt, then put together another quick touchdown drive on their next possession. It’s not unreasonable to say that Smart’s heads-up play saved the game for the Bulldogs and fueled their comeback.
There are some other minor critiques about Day’s game, such as not trying to get into better position for the final field goal after Stroud’s huge run put them in range. Still, those are nitpicks in the grand scheme of the game. Day didn’t have a bad coaching performance by any means, but the lack of adjustments late in the fourth deserve some criticism.
2. Noah Ruggles
It feels unfair to pile on Ruggles for just one bad kick. He was perfect on the night before that infamous attempt, making two field goals and five extra points. Furthermore, Georgia kicker Jack Podlesny had a worse game statistically, missing two of his four field goals.
Still, that kick had no chance at all of going through the uprights. If Ruggles had made an accurate kick that came up just short, that’s one thing. But this kick was way off the mark from the moment it left the ground, inspiring many memes at Ruggles’ expense.
Ohio State for the win pic.twitter.com/kHRrenZHUp
— NFL Memes (@NFL_Memes) January 1, 2023
To be abundantly clear, it is not Ruggles’ fault that Ohio State lost this game. He is just a college kid doing his best, and he does not deserve all the hate he is getting. However, his final collegiate kick will haunt him for a long time.
1. Ohio State secondary
The previous two entries on this list had some bad moments, but still had solid performances overall. That is not the case with the final entry. Make no mistake, Ohio State’s secondary had an awful performance on New Year’s Eve and is the main reason why the Buckeyes lost.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Stetson Bennett torched this secondary. The Georgia quarterback had a career game on Saturday, throwing for a career-high 398 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, he did throw an interception that led directly to an Ohio State touchdown, but Steele Chambers, a linebacker, was the one to make that pick. Bennett is a good quarterback, but allowing nearly 400 yards to him in a playoff game is unacceptable.
What’s interesting is that no one receiver caused problems for Ohio State’s defense. Arian Smith was Georgia’s leading receiver with three catches for 129 yards and a score, but 76 of those yards came on a single play. Instead, the Bulldogs spread the ball around more, as no receiver had more than five catches.
That said, there were a few plays where Georgia receivers just simply beat Ohio State’s defensive backs. The most obvious one is Smith’s long touchdown, as he embarrassed Buckeyes safety Lathan Ransom to get wide open behind the defense. Adonai Mitchell’s eventual game-winning touchdown was also rough defense, as he had plenty of space in the corner of the end zone.
GEORGIA LEADS WITH UNDER 1 MINUTE REMAINING😱
— PFF College (@PFF_College) January 1, 2023
If an offense puts up 41 points on Georgia’s vaunted defense, that team should win the game. However, that wasn’t the case in this game, and it’s largely the fault of Ohio State’s secondary. This was truly a heartbreaker for Ohio State football.