Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The performance by Ohio State football’s offensive line against Michigan State elicited descriptions like “awesome, “redemption” and “hell of an effort” from players and coaches. However you want to say it, the simple fact is that the Buckeyes’ offensive linemen played a major role in clinching the team’s Big Ten opener against the Spartans.
With 4:10 to play and OSU leading MSU, 17-16, the OSU offensive line bullied its way down the field, allowing sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and junior running back Carlos Hyde to gain the yardage necessary to bleed out the clock. That drive, which lasted nine plays and ended with only zeros on the game clock, helped then-No. 14 OSU (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) knock off then-No. 20 MSU (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) and remain undefeated heading into its homecoming weekend game against Nebraska.
OSU needed to run the ball on the final drive in East Lansing and the whole world knew it. First-year coach Urban Meyer still challenged his lineman anyway, and they accepted.
“Against (MSU’s defensive line), when they knew it was coming … to just take the ball and end the game like that tells you a lot,” Meyer said. “I didn’t know if we could do that … I mean, that was a hell of an effort.”
Prior to that series, Meyer said he wasn’t sure the line was capable of controlling the game as it did in the closing moments of the contest, and for good reason.
OSU junior left tackle Jack Mewhort said he hadn’t forgotten the team’s prior failings in short-yardage situations, particularly when the team unsuccessfully attempted to punch the ball into the end zone from one yard out during the season-opener against Miami (Ohio).
“I’m really proud of our guys. The offensive line made plays. It was redemption for us,” Mewhort said. “The first couple games we had those 4th-and-1s on the goal line and 4th-and-1s in our territory that we didn’t convert. Coach Meyer challenged us and we accepted. Today was a good day for us because we came together as a unit like I haven’t seen in a long time.”
The push generated by Mewhort and his fellow lineman allowed Miller and Hyde to combine for 38 yards and two first downs on the final drive. Hyde’s first down was the clincher, he dove for five yards on 3rd-and-4 from the MSU 49-yard line. After the play, Meyer raised both hands above his head to signify he knew the game was over.
“Did I think we could line up and just knock guys and make holes and guys run through holes like (Hyde) did?,” Meyer said. “If I knew we’d do that, we would have done that earlier in the game.”
OSU junior center Corey Linsley agreed.
“We may not always be at the peak of the roller coaster every minute of every game but, like what coach Meyer said, when we need to go win a game, we go win it,” Linsley said. “I feel like that last four minutes was everybody ripping their heart out and giving it to the team and doing what we talked about all week. And, really, putting the team on our back as an offensive line.”
The Buckeyes, which moved up to No. 12 in Sunday’s Associated Press Top 25 poll, will host now-No. 21-ranked Nebraska (4-1, 1-0 Big Ten) Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The Cornhuskers defeated unranked Wisconsin, 30-27, in a come-from-behind fashion Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. Saturday’s kickoff at Ohio Stadium is scheduled for an 8 p.m. and will be televised on ABC.