Zeke Elliott, Ohio State, and handling frustration the wrong way

When you flood the basement, the rats come out.

It was a long time coming for Ohio State — the loss to Michigan State, that is. The other stuff is just a lead-up to it. The fact that Ohio State had ripped off more than 20 straight wins is truly remarkable, even more so when you consider what was going on behind the scenes.

On Saturday evening, Michigan State came with a hose and closed the shudders. Then, guys like Ezekiel Elliott came out.

Elliott destroyed the coaching staff shortly after the game in an act of selfishness that tells you all you needed to know about what was going on behind the curtain on the way to defending a title:

The even lousier part of it is that though he may have a point, that gets lost in the wash when you don’t go about it in the mature fashion of having a grown-man talk behind closed doors, rather than blast off to the salivating media, always desperate for a back story to explode.

In the wake of actual disappointment … something not seen around these Ohio State parts since losing at home to Virginia Tech early last year … young men took a wrong turn in the heat of a highly emotional and painful moment. Rather than huddle together and show solidarity, a few players, led by Elliott, decided to take all the food they could fit in their satchel and head off on their own.

Cardale Jones, recently supplanted as the starting quarterback, also took the loss as a time to tweet (of course) that he spent his last days as an OSU player in the Horseshoe in spite of having one more year of eligibility.

Jones would go on the next morning to remind folks that they’re inferring too much from his tweet, but anyone with common sense would:

1. Suggest when someone says it’s their last time somewhere, it’s their last time somewhere;

2. Not use Twitter right after losing an emotional game.

Either way, Elliott gave an insight into the selfishness that has crucified a defending-title run for the Buckeyes. Elliott not getting enough carries has been a common complaint of OSU fans and apparently, himself, all season.

That said, ripping the coaching staff publicly rather than behind closed doors is child’s stuff, and that type of attitude — whether the world gets to see it or not — is the stuff that cracks a team’s foundation from within.

When guys are worried about personal success versus the success of the whole, it is often the case that no one will taste success. This isn’t to say OSU is dead to rights, but it’s clear that this has been a taxing title defense to the point where personal agendas have overtaken the greater good of winning however it happens.

This is a weird place for OSU to be, especially after guys like Braxton Miller laid down their personal success to change positions at the expense of the limelight. It looked like the perfect Petri dish of an ensuing successful title defense. Somewhere along the line, though, personal success overtook team success for guys like Elliott.

To be fair, it could be just him. That’s highly doubtful, though.

Look, has OSU given him the rock enough? Nope. That’s a genuinely fair criticism of the play calling this season. Why is that the case? Who knows. Coaching is like any other job. Sometimes, it becomes a grind and things that seemed to flow seamlessly become as fluid as walking through a wet asphalt patch.

Still, you have to keep that stuff behind closed doors. You have to hold a meeting with your coaches where you plead to understand why you’re not getting the ball more, and ask what you can personally do to change that fact.

“Coach, I’m not getting enough touches. Am I not doing things right in practice that give you the confidence I can take the ball more, and if so, what can I do to change that?”

Circle back to last weekend, trying to preserve an easy win over Illinois. Elliott was getting carries, late, and put the ball on the ground for a turnover. In the NFL, that stuff gets you hanging on the pine. Given the rainy conditions in Columbus against Michigan State, that kind of detail could have mattered. At any rate, Elliott needed to make his case in private and not vent in public.

The epilogue has not been written on the Buckeyes’ season quite yet. There’s The Game, and then there’s a bowl game, and then there’s the outside shot of still getting into the CFB Playoff for a title defense. As we see every year, the only thing consistent in college football is the craziness once the pressure turns on.

Elliott provided a window into why things have been such a struggle all season for OSU, and why it eventually culminated in a loss.

The only problem, though, with flooding out the basement, is that you can damage the foundation. Then you have no rats, but a wholesale fixing needs to occur.


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