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Ohio State's defensive shortcomings cost dollars again in Peach Bowl loss to Georgia

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Heading into the 2022 season, Ohio State hasn’t been shy about setting high expectations for Jim Knowles’ freshman year.

At the Big Ten Media Days, Ryan Day said he thought the Buckeyes Should have a top-10 defense this year. A few weeks later, Knowles doubled down on those comments, saying he thought Ohio State Should have a top five defense. Teradja Mitchell went even further, saying he thinks Ohio State’s defense should aim for no. 1.”

For most of the season, Ohio State came close to meeting those expectations. The Buckeyes held opponents to averages of just 15.6 points per game and 271.5 yards per game in their first 10 games of the year – numbers that would both have ranked in the top seven nationally. if they had withstood Ohio State’s last three games.

In the big late-season games that really mattered, however, Ohio State’s defense fell short of those expectations, and the Buckeyes failed to achieve all of their major goals once in a while. more.

After giving up 45 points for 530 yards to Michigan in the final game of the regular season, Ohio State gave up 42 points for 533 yards to Georgia in Saturday Night Peach Bowlresulting in a second straight loss at the end of the 2022 season.

For the second game in a row, Ohio State gave up the worst yards per play in the program, with Georgia averaging 8.88 yards per play over 60 plays after Michigan averaged 8.83 yards. per game over the same number of games in the previous Buckeyes. competition.

Explosive plays killed the Buckeyes again as Ohio State gave up 10 plays of at least 20 yards to the Bulldogs, including four plays of 35 yards or more.

“If we’re going to win these games, we can’t give up on these big, explosive plays,” Ryan Day said in his post-game press conference. “They are difficult to come back.”

Ohio State’s defense particularly struggled in the first half, during which the Buckeyes allowed 24 points and 314 yards in just 32 plays. The Buckeyes’ halftime adjustments worked in the third quarter, in which Ohio State held Georgia scoreless and just 15 yards on their first three possessions of the second half. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, however, the Buckeyes gave up three straight hits.

The Buckeyes held Georgia to the basket on their first possession of the fourth quarter, but the dam broke on the Bulldogs’ next two drives. Arian Smith scored a 76-yard touchdown when Lathan Ransom dropped into coverage to make it a one-score game. Then, after Ohio State settled for placement on its next series to make it a one-scored game, UGA rushed for 72 yards in five plays, as Stetson Bennett connected. with Kearis Jackson on a 35-yard pass and followed that up with the game-winning 10-yard touchdown throw to AD Mitchell two plays later.

While Ohio State’s offense was stellar for much of the game, scoring more runs (41) than anyone against Georgia all year for 467 yards, the Buckeyes’ defense was no match. able to get the job done when the match was in play. Knowles said it fell on him.

“Ultimately it comes down to execution, and we failed to do that in the fourth quarter defensively,” Knowles said. And it’s up to me now to spend many dark nights figuring out (why it happened). It’s not the players, it’s up to me to put them in the right positions, and when you don’t you can always watch it and watch a call here or there and say, ‘Boy, I wish I was in a different call.

Ohio State was never expected to be so dominant defensively in its final games of the year as it was during most of the regular season, when the Buckeyes largely beat bad offenses. Georgia and Michigan ranked in the top 10 this year in points scored per game, so that’s why they were the most successful offenses against the Buckeyes.

Still, the Buckeyes allowed the Bulldogs and Wolverines to score and gain yards above their season averages. In games where Ohio State was supposed to rise to the occasion and play its best football, the Buckeyes’ defense was exposed rather than taking its game to the next level.

Why the defense faltered in those two games wasn’t necessarily for the same reasons. Knowles said the Buckeyes used a less aggressive game plan against Georgia than against Michigan; it just didn’t work the way it was supposed to.

“We played defensively to prevent the big play,” Knowles said. “We didn’t do a lot of blitz tonight. We really didn’t. We were pretty basic, giving our guys a chance to play. So it wasn’t aggression. We just missed a couple.

“If we want to win these games, we can’t give up these big explosive plays.” —Ryan Day

There should also always have been an expectation of growing pains in Knowles’ first season at Ohio State. His record at previous schools shows that his defensive transformations have generally taken several years to yield the desired results, and several returning Buckeye defenders said after the game that they expected another offseason with Knowles to lead to new ones. best results.

“I think with the guys coming back as well, and having just another year on defense will make a big difference,” defensive end Jack Sawyer said.

That said, Knowles is paid $1.9 million a year for making Ohio State’s defense one of the best in the country, and neither he, Day, nor any other Buckeyes have made an effort to reduce this expectation before the start of the season. Ohio State’s defense fell short of that expectation when a trip to the Big Ten championship game was on the line against Michigan and when a trip to the national championship game was on the line against Georgia , so Knowles knows it’s up to him to find answers so the defense will play better in big games in the future.

Like I’ve said all along, at Ohio State the expectations are different. That’s why we get paid the way we do. That’s why we get the resources we have. The expectations are different,” Knowles said. So do I think we played our best? I don’t know, I’ll have to watch the movie, but I know we gave up too many plays. And it’s my job to fix it and not let it happen. I didn’t do it tonight.

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