Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
There was only enough time for one play. With just three ticks of the clock separating Urban Meyer from halftime and just one yard separating Ohio State from the end zone, the first-year head coach had a decision to make.
Would he take the easy points and kick the field goal, or would he roll the dice and try to punch the ball into the end zone to extend a rapidly expanding 18-point lead?
Under previous regimes, OSU was known for being conservative, almost to a fault. Going for it on fourth down – even with just one yard to go – was often a foreign concept when Jim Tressel was at the helm. And after losses, angry callers flooded radio talk shows pleading the former coach to have a killer instinct and be more aggressive.
The outcome of the game was not in doubt Saturday, but Meyer showed no hesitation.
He was going for it.
For one of the few times in the game, sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller lined up under center and aligned OSU in a power formation.
Miller handed the ball off to junior tailback Carlos Hyde right up the middle. When the clock expired, Hyde was brought to the ground short of the goal line and OSU jogged into the locker room with nothing to add to its 21-3 lead.
But Meyer’s message was clear.
Things will be different as long as he’s the coach.
After the game, Meyer showed regret, but not for leaving the kicker on the sideline.
“Ohio State should be able to knock it in from the 1 (yard line) ,” he said. “That’s bad. That’s absolutely non-negotiable. Nonsense. And we’ll hit that with a sledgehammer Sunday because that can’t happen … The Ohio State University with a 220-, 230-pound tailback can smash it in from the 1-yard line and that didn’t happen.”
In fact, Meyer was going for it whether he was on the 1-yard line or not.
Hyde said Meyer was under the impression the Buckeyes were a few yards farther back and even then, the Buckeyes were going for the end zone.
That type of confidence is something Hyde said motivates him and his teammates.
“That makes me excited just to know my coach has that much confidence in us to not kick a field goal and go for it,” Hyde said. “It makes me excited as a running back because the ball is going to me.”
The newfound aggression worked for the Buckeyes even if they did not find the end zone in the three seconds before halftime.
OSU beat Miami (Ohio) 56-10 in Meyer’s debut and racked up more than 500 total yards with much of the same personnel from the 2011 team that finished 107th in total offense.
But after the game, Meyer’s comments kept returning to the game’s first quarter, when the Buckeyes struggled to move the ball and trailed, 3-0, with three quarters left to play.
“Obviously, the first quarter was very poor football on our end,” Meyer said. “That darned first quarter, I don’t want to say I was embarrassed with the way we were playing. We worked so hard and didn’t play very well in all phases.”
But instead of going the conservative route and sticking with up-the-middle run plays, Meyer consulted with his quarterback about how to open things up.
“(Meyer’s) like, ‘What do you want? What do you want us to throw, what do you need to make you more comfortable?’ And that’s what I tell him,” Miller said. “He works with you.”
By game’s end, Miller accounted for 368 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.
Saturday was about Meyer, though.
His face was on the game program, his new “quick cal” pregame tradition with students made its debut and fans chanted his name as he left the field.
Meyer said he didn’t get too caught up in the festivities surrounding the contest. He was focused on the game – except for just a few seconds.
“‘Hang on Sloopy’ kicked it off in the fourth quarter and I just stared at that for a while, watched it. Told a couple of people that had never seen that before,” Meyer said. “For years and years I’ve always remembered the change in the third and fourth quarter, what happens in that stadium. That’s about it, though.”