It’s just that they might not have seen much football art as high as what they’re beholding in autumn 2019, from the No. 3 Ohio State team that just finished giving a manhandling to No. 13 Wisconsin, 38-7. This kind of smashing mastery — eight wins with no margin narrower than 24 — leaves the onlookers’ central nervous systems unchallenged. It leaves their hearts in pretty much the same condition as had they spent Saturday in a park.
For any threatening of the arteries, the announced 102,998 in Ohio Stadium on Saturday would have had to try certain inadvisable concessions.
Around here, those who study the Buckeyes are forced to dine on morsels. A mere 10-0 halftime lead against a top-15 team becomes a “slow start.” We all should start our days so slowly. A lead suddenly pared to 10-7 in the third quarter becomes something to which to “respond.” Oh, the unmanageable stress. (Ohio State went 75 yards in eight plays.) Wisconsin (6-2) shut out Ohio State (8-0) in a first quarter in which Ohio State also shut out Wisconsin, marking the Buckeyes’ fifth scoreless quarter out of 32 this season.
Around here, the players seem so doggedly immune to complacency that they must belabor themselves with trivial worries. Said cornerback Damon Arnette, Jr., “We really should have shut ’em out. But, we can’t take that back.” (The intractable agonies!) Said quarterback Justin Fields, the multifaceted transfer from Georgia, “I think, in all honesty, we could have put up 50. If the weather was different, I think we could have threw the ball more and put up way more points than we did.” (How will they overcome?)
Said the 5-foot-10, fast, strong, compelling running back J.K. Dobbins, who rushed for 163 yards, “I’m [still] trying to find a way to have that outstanding performance.”
What’s his grade for 163 rushing yards and two touchdowns on Saturday, then?
How would an A look, then?
Said Chase Young, the defensive end who doubles as surely the best player in college football, “I feel like you’ve got to maintain that focus going into the bye week.”
They’re apparently going to destroy Bye.
Broadly, this 2019 version of Ohio State is particularly towering, just two Tuesdays shy of the first College Football Playoff rankings. Where these teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in yards-per-play defense with Wisconsin at 3.43 and Ohio State at 3.57, Ohio State helped itself to a nutritious 5.99 toward 431 total yards. (Now they stand at Ohio State at 3.58 and Wisconsin at 3.82.) Where the fantastic former Heisman Trophy candidate Jonathan Taylor arrived at “The Horseshoe” with 136 rushing yards per game, Ohio State held him to 52 rushing yards on 20 carries. Where Wisconsin arrived with the best third-down defense in a country desperate for third-down defense, Ohio State treated it to 9-of-14 conversions.
Individually, this team can bring the art patrons to exhilaration even if they watched only the two players who wear No. 2.
The one on defense, the 6-foot-5 Young, from Hyattsville and Pallotti High and then DeMatha, is, by himself, a reason to leave the house in the morning and go to the stadium. With his four sacks and five tackles for loss plus other forced inconveniences on Saturday, he seemed to ransack the entire game.
There’s an old category known as a “hurry;” Young’s very presence should count as a hurry.
Asked to speak as a former college quarterback, Ohio State Coach Ryan Day said of Young’s presence, “Ooh. Yeah. It’s hard. It’s real hard. Yeah, you start to feel ghosts, see ghosts, especially when he’s on your back side. Are you getting the ball out fast enough? And then the other part of it is, a lot of times they have to put an extra guy in protection, so if they’re gonna go to seven-man protection, now there’s only three guys out on the route. So his impact is felt throughout the game schematically, but also, if you’re a quarterback, and you certainly know he’s over there, you want to keep half an eye on him, which certainly affects your game.”
And as he’s among the most watchable players they ever saw around here (among many), now the eyes might watch him all over the place.
“We’re going to have to start moving him around and being more creative,” co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said, “because everybody knows who he is, right? So if we always line him up to the left, they can slide to him, they can chip him. If we line him up to the right, they can slide to him, put the back on him, chip him. But now if we start moving him around a little bit, we can kind of put him where we want him, and we can make them adjust.”
Of any quarterback facing Young, Fields said, “Yeah, I just feel bad for him to be honest.”
Of covering people behind Young, linebacker Justin Hilliard said, “When you’ve got a guy who gets to the quarterback in less than two seconds, the coverage is easy.”
Of the Ohio State season sack record of 14, which Young will pass with one more sack, which will happen unless the stat person tires of counting and falls asleep, Young said, “I feel like right now I can’t be worried about a sack record. I’ve just got to try to keep on trying to perfect my craft and do what I do and those other things will come.”
He’s perfecting his craft while Day calls Young both “the best I’ve been around” and “as good as I’ve been around” — and his “around” includes the NFL — and Fields calls Young “the best defensive player in the country,” and Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst says, “He’s obviously a really, really good player.” Then Day also looks over at that No. 2 on offense, Dobbins, and says, “I think he’s the best running back in the country.”
Dobbins’s teammates teased him about Taylor coming in. Dobbins may have responded, except it looks like he didn’t much need to respond. This particular Ohio State team seems to be responding to itself, as when Fields said of the 10-7 “inconvenience,” “We just kept our heads straight,” and when Fields said, “I think the team definitely has more confidence now, but we can’t get complacent at all.”
All this has happened this fall after the abdication of a guru, Urban Meyer, very much present at the art gallery on Saturday in his role as Fox studio analyst. Said Day, “Boy, it’s hard to follow up a guy who’s one of the best college football coaches in the history of the game.”
We’ll have to take his word for it.