Tightrope Walking

It was down to this.  Ohio State was punting from their 38 yard line.  With a good kick, Arkansas would have the ball back needing a touchdown to win, but they’d have to drive the length of the field, and they’d only have about sixty seconds left and no  timeouts. 

The TV broadcast was showing Ohio State’s punt formation from behind.  I remember thinking two things.  First, the line seemed awfully widely spaced.  Second, I hoped the kick wasn’t blocked.

It was.  Once the commotion stopped, Arkansas had the ball at Ohio State’s 18 yard line, 1:09 on the clock, and still needing a touchdown.  Ohio State’s season seemed to have careened off the road to victory and right off the side of a cliff. 

Ohio State had no time outs left.  I was wondering if the best strategy might be to let Arkansas score a touchdown to give Ohio State as much time as possible to respond.  It was just asking too much for the defense to force one more stop.

Fist down.  Incomplete pass.  Three more downs to weather.

Second down.  That’s when it happened.  A defensive end dropping back into coverage intercepted the ball.  Ohio State had it back.  Two kneel downs and the game was over.  Emotion had swung from a confident expectation of a win to a looming disaster of a loss and then back to actually celebrating the win.

These swings were the story of the game.  An Arkansas receiver would be wide open, only to drop the ball.  Ohio State would convert a fourth and short in their own territory only to fumble the ball back behind the original line of scrimmage.  Like the truly great games, it seemed to come down to a handful of plays, and like the truly great games, just enough of those plays went Ohio State’s way.


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