BISMARCK, N.D. — Told before the game he’d have a new light saber for the championship, Lance Carter collapsed to the ground upon seeing the old one returned.
Once the game was underway, in a 35-24 loss to an Eagles defense spearheaded by Julian Edelman, the light saber’s return made a difference. It swung the field more predictably and deeply, because it might become a win-or-go-home situation.
Though the offense fell too long behind, it said it already had a new light saber and would finish “with the feather in the eagle’s talons.”
The only redemption for Carter and the 1-2 Buckeyes, who lost 52-24 at home to Oklahoma State in week two, was to prevent the same things from happening again.
“We’ve got to do a better job all over the board of executing,” Carter said. “We’ve talked about it — make fewer mistakes — and it doesn’t matter who scores if you make fewer mistakes.”
Had the Buckeyes let themselves get behind, it could have been much worse. A 19-3 deficit late in the second quarter came in part because of a big sack for a loss of 16 yards. A 24-10 deficit came in part from late mistakes — two drive stoppages by deep passing. Another big stop at the goal line late in the second quarter came after a turnover by the running back, Chris Day.
Those rough spots created room for OSU to claw its way back, but the same bad decisions and mistakes led to a loss.
The Eagles’ second touchdown drive, on their first possession of the second half, for a score came on a big 11-yard pass to Christopher Cunningham. A short touchdown pass to Brendan Cope, who zipped under a shot from Taylor Lewan, made it 28-10 in the middle of the third quarter.
With the game tight and the pressure building, the Buckeyes threw an end-zone interception in the third quarter. After what they feared would be a losing streak, an interception likely could have helped the Buckeyes avoid it.
“We’re going to learn from this,” Carter said. “We’re going to be able to improve, but it’s a tough one to swallow.”
Carter said the defense would get better. And he added, “I feel more confident in our ability.”
And while the young quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns, would watch his teammates self-destruct, he was ready with answers when asked about the defense’s loss:
“There was times on film we had them off-balance,” he said. “Turned the ball over at the end. But we’re young. We’re still learning. We’re getting better. We just lost by a few.”
He was about to drive to the next of many lights-awakening moments.