Kickers, am I right?
You don’t think of them when they knock it through the sticks, but man, if they miss one kick, they should be cut.
We need to show more love to the special teams unit for a change, and this week’s Casey’s Callouts does just that, reminding me of a cult classic where a kicker comes in clutch: “The Longest Yard” — yes, the 2005 Adam Sandler version. Sorry to our readers who were hoping I would be using the 1974 version with Burt Reynolds as Paul Crewe instead of coach Nate Scarborough.
After Crewe agrees to the warden’s deal to intentionally throw the game, Brucie is called on to play quarterback, saying, “Yeah, it’s Brucie’s time to shine,” as he breaks the huddle.
He didn’t exactly shine as a quarterback, but turned into a star on an attempted kickoff. He tried to kick it deep, but his lackluster leg resulted in an onside kick that the convicts recovered, leading to the game-winning drive.
This week was Ohio State graduate kicker Noah Ruggles’ time to shine, going 4-for-4 on field goals to remain perfect on the season.
On a day where the Buckeyes’ offense couldn’t punch it in when they were in the red zone — scoring just one touchdown in six trips — having Ruggles at their disposal was a weapon.
Without his four field goals, No. 5 Ohio State would’ve lost 24-21 to the then-No. 20 Nittany Lions, the fans wouldn’t have stormed the field, the “scarlet-out” would’ve been for naught and the Buckeyes would’ve had to set their sights on 2022.
Instead, he drilled chip shots from 23, 25, 26 and 35 yards to lift the Buckeyes ahead, but the postgame conversation surrounded freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson’s bounce back and how poor the officiating was — both valid points, but Ruggles didn’t get the love he deserved.
You might be saying, “Well Casey, you said it yourself, ‘They were chip shots.’ ” Yes, I did, but I know for myself, set up on a tee with no one rushing, I’m not making a 23-yard field goal.
Ruggles managed to split the uprights with 11 Nittany Lions attempting to block the kicks — which infamously was the difference in Ohio State’s 24-21 loss to Penn State in 2016 — in addition to a season-high 102,951 pairs of eyeballs beaming down on him as the bright lights of Ohio Stadium shone.
Not exactly the easiest of tasks, but that’s why my name is on the byline and Ruggles’ is in the box score, because he made it look like a non-factor.
His efforts were crucial, adding a combined 3.7 percent to Ohio State’s win probability, according to ESPN’s Win Probability tracker.
The Odessa, Florida, native remains perfect on the season at 11-for-11 on field goals and 47-for-47 on extra points.
Ohio State’s final four games are against defenses that are T op 40 in Expected Points Added per Play , according to CFB Graphs, so scoring won’t be easy to come by like Saturday, in contrast to the torrid stretch from Weeks 4 to 7 in which the Buckeyes outscored opponents 231-44.
So, this may have seemed almost like one shining moment for Ruggles, but expect him to exceed Brucie with multiple games like this down the stretch.