Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
For football-starved Ohio State fans, Saturday finally came.
Wrapped in an intoxicating frenzy, Urban Meyer’s debut as the Buckeyes’ football coach finally came.
And it didn’t disappoint.
After routing Miami (Ohio) 56-10, the program’s first triumph since a shaky 34-20 win against Indiana on Nov. 5 finally came.
On an oppressively sultry afternoon in Ohio Stadium, eight months of anticipation – eight months of wondering what the “Urban Era” had in store – finally came.
Who would have thought, then, that there could have been an entire quarter’s worth of anxiety-ridden restlessness as the first quarter of Saturday’s game seemed like a continuation of OSU’s historically bad 6-7 season last year.
Down 3-0 after being outgained 172-48 by the RedHawks in the first quarter, a wave of uneasiness left a once-euphoric crowd of 105,039 subdued as Miami’s senior quarterback Zac Dysert and junior wide receiver Nick Harwell gashed the Buckeyes’ defense with big play and after big play.
Suffice to say, Meyer wasn’t particularly pleased.
“Well, not fortunately or unfortunately – whatever it is – that darned first quarter, I was embarrassed with the way we were playing,” he said. “We worked so hard and we didn’t play very well, in all phases. Defense let a couple of passes go that we shouldn’t have.”
Meyer’s vaunted spread offense, which was was supposed to allow sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller room to thrive, amassed five yards on 1-of-7 passing.
Through it all, though, Meyer said Miller kept his poise.
It was one of the things he wanted to see out of the sophomore on Saturday, he said.
“I think one of the things about Braxton Miller that I really had to see, and I did see today, is that the objective with Braxton is to make him from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback that manages,” Meyer said.
“And a quarterback position is a unique position in all sports, where he’s got to manage so much. He’s got to manage basically the entire offense,” he said. “He’s got to stay positive – his leadership. He has to be a leader.”
Football is “not a game of anger,” Miller said.
“Go out there, have fun, enjoy the time with your teammates and make sure you’re doing all the right things positive ways; if you’re doing anything in the negative way there’s nothing that’s going to get done at that point,” he said.
And at the outset of the second quarter, that leadership seemed to finally manifest itself on the field.
Finally, the Buckeyes sunk into a rhythm with their up-tempo style of play and burst out for a four play, 83-yard drive that ended in an acrobatic, one-handed touchdown snag from sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith.
“I don’t know if Devin has been saving that, but I’ve not seen him do that. Now that I know he can, I expect – he’s actually been playing pretty good for us,” Meyer said.
“But that was a wild moment. And that was a moment that ignited the stadium. The stadium got quiet,” Meyer said. “Our sideline got quiet and we were waiting for a play to happen and he went out and made a play. That’s football.”
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby said the catch was “fantastic.”
“If you go back to the replay, I actually ran on the field,” he said. “So I’m not sure if that’s a penalty or anything, but I actually run on the field and gave him a high-five.”
With momentum and the lead in their hands, OSU’s offense exploded for 35 unanswered points while its defense found ways to entirely suffocate the RedHawk’s run game and slow their aerial assault down.
Near the end of the third quarter, Meyer said he was finally able to find a time for mental snapshots and soak in the magnitude of his first game calling the shots in Columbus.
“The day overall, it was a great day. ‘Hang on Sloopy’ kicked it off in the fourth quarter. And I stared at that for a while, watched it. Told a couple of people that I’ve never seen that before. Checked that out,” Meyer said.
“Just for years and years I’ve always remembered the change in the third and fourth quarter, what happens in that stadium,” Meyer said.
But such a moment for reflection, Meyer said, was limited.
Until the game clock struck zero, at least.
In the footsteps of the tradition that former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel started in 2001, Meyer locked arms with his players in the south end zone and sang “Carmen Ohio” with the rest of the team and the tens of thousands of fans still remaining in the stadium.
“You look like you were really enjoying the alma mater. And I’m just wondering if that was the one point when you finally got to a point where you could enjoy being the Ohio State coach and just being in the stadium and the whole thing,” one reporter asked at Meyer’s postgame press conference.
The 48-year-old sidestepped the essence of the question.
“I’ve been enjoying being Ohio State coach for about seven months now,” Meyer responded.
Meyer, though, said he didn’t want to deflate that moment.
“I’m with a bunch of guys I care about. Love our players. Two guys next to me – and (Garrett) Goebel’s to my left, and I love that guy,” he said regarding the Buckeyes’ senior captain and nose tackle.
“There’s a lot of guys on this team I have a lot of respect. And saying the alma mater, I’m a graduate, and the fight song, that was a special moment. And we got to sing the fight song in the locker room as well.”
Despite being anxious for the game, Meyer said he got about six hours of sleep the night before.
“I like this team. I like these guys,” he said. “When you like that, you sleep pretty good.”