Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Ladies and gentlemen,
After witnessing last night’s Buckeye victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide, it suddenly occurred to me that I have maintained silence for far too long. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to share some glorious benchwarming tales with all of you; it’s just that I honestly ran out of good stories to tell. At any rate, Ohio State’s third-string quarterback, Cardale Jones, has caused my creative juices to start flowing again.
You see, that’s just it, Cardale Jones used to be one of us. Two games ago, he was sitting on the bench waiting for the hot dog vendor to come by and break up the boredom. I mean sure, he was “technically” just a second-stringer at that point, but only because of injury. The reality of his situation was that he was only going to see the field when the game really didn’t matter any longer (sounds familiar), and his job was to stay positive and try not to spike himself when the time came.
Then J.T. Barrett broke his ankle.
Taking over for an injured player is quite possibly the worst way to come into a game. I know this from personal experience. In one particular contest, the best player on our team pulled a hamstring running to first base, and my coach thought it would be funny for my rotund frame to fill in for him as a pinch runner. I remember that my mind was instantly running with an infinite number of thoughts simultaneously, the most important of which was, “Don’t screw this up.” At any rate, injury substitutions put us benchwarmers under a tremendous amount of pressure.
When Cardale Jones entered the Michigan game, it was far from over. He realistically could have lost Ohio State the game if he had made a few mistakes because there was certainly enough time left on the clock. But he didn’t. He made smart plays, distributed the ball, and led the team to an ultimate victory.
A week later, after much speculation about his leadership abilities and skillset had successfully made its way around the sports media world, good old “12-guage” showed us all what he was really capable of with a 59-0 ass-whooppin’ of the Wisconsin Badgers. Now, he certainly didn’t beat up on the Badgers all by himself. It was definitely a team win, but Cardale Jones stepped up and led that team as if he had been doing it for multiple seasons already.
But that was against a three-loss team in a “questionable” Big Ten Conference.
No matter what the selection committee decided to do with the Buckeyes and the College Football Playoff Rankings, surely a bigger test was ahead of Jones than those lousy Badgers.
As fate would have it, the Playoff Committee announced that Cardale Jones would have to prove himself against the top-ranked team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Instantly, Ohio State fans voiced their mixed emotions, and national pundits everywhere began to talk about how royally screwed The Ohio State Buckeyes were going into the Sugar Bowl. Surely Jones just got lucky. There couldn’t possibly be any way that he would repeat the performance he put up against the Badgers against the Crimson Tide. It was as if the entire sports world was saying, “Okay, you had your fun little man, now prepare to meet reality.”
Well, the reality is that Cardale “12-guage” Jones did a pretty darn good job against Alabama. Was it as clean of a game as he played against Wisconsin? Certainly not, but as we already discussed, Alabama is certainly not the Wisconsin Badgers…any idiot, especially me, can see that difference. Yes, Jones made some bad passes. Yes, Jones held on to the ball too long in the pocket at times. Yes, Jones is still trying to hurdle players when he’s the third string quarterback. But ultimately, it was enough to get the job done. (Ezekiel Elliott’s amazing 230-yard performance didn’t hurt either.)
You see, I think that’s exactly why Cardale Jones is doing so well right now. It’s not that he’s some amazing talent that got mistakenly buried in the depth chart (although you could make a strong case for that argument). Jones is simply a benchwarmer with nothing to lose. He knows that if the quarterback competition kicks off next spring, he’s going to have to win the starting job, and the result could turn out the exact same way. So he might as well let it all hang out while he’s here and see if he can just impress some coaches while he’s at it.
I have been a Cardale Jones fan all season long, cheering loudly for him whenever he came into games during “clean up” time. I’m going to keep cheering. Why not? Just like Jones, I’ve really got nothing to lose.