Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Ohio State (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) scored so many points Saturday that coach Urban Meyer lost track.
He came into the locker room after the game and, amid the victory celebration, had to ask the team how many points they ended up with.
“(Meyer) didn’t even know what we put up. He was like, ‘How many points did we put up again?'” sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller said.
The answer was 63 – nine touchdowns – against a Nebraska defense that coming into the game had given up an average of 21 points per game.
It was the highest point outburst since OSU dropped 73 points against Eastern Michigan in 2010.
Nebraska is no MAC team, though. Traditionally a defense-first squad, the Cornhuskers came into the game ranked as the No. 21 team in the country whose only loss came against a ranked UCLA team on the road.
Meyer brushed off his forgetfulness after the game.
“Braxton said that?” Meyer asked, laughing. “No comment. Just got caught up in the moment, caught up in the moment.”
That moment might have been significant. With the win the Buckeyes moved up to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and became the only remaining undefeated team in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes, which were seen by many as a team in the middle of a rebuilding process under a first-year coach, are now the team to beat in the Big Ten, as no other team is ranked in the conference.
It’s a distinction that didn’t always seem likely.
Meyer inherited a team that didn’t have the type of players to fit his typical spread offensive system, and many considered the Buckeyes at least a year away from being competitive on a national level.
Despite winning its first four games, OSU – which was heavily favored – struggled at times against Central Florida, California and Alabama-Birmingham, causing concern from players and coaches.
Every week during the three-game span, Meyer opened up his postgame press conference saying he was pleased with the win, and then delved into his team’s inadequacies and shortcomings.
“It’s glaringly obvious we’ve got to get a lot better or we won’t win next week,” Meyer said after his team’s 29-15 win against UAB.
But after beating Nebraska and Michigan State in consecutive weeks, the mood has changed.
Meyer has given his team glowing reviews in each of the past two weeks and said the team – and especially the offense – is further along than he thought they’d be.
“Being as honest as I can, they weren’t very good,” Meyer said Saturday. “They didn’t look the way we wanted them to look in January … And even early in the season I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel us change the line of scrimmage against those early teams. I’m starting to feel us change the line of scrimmage … They’re changing the line of scrimmage against some very good defensive lines. The last two we played, those are very good defensive lines.”
The last two wins have come in completely different fashions.
Last week, in Meyer’s first Big Ten conference game against Michigan State, the Buckeyes won a physical, 17-16 game where points were scarce.
Those hard-fought grind-it-out games are what the Big Ten is known for, but Meyer made it clear afterward that he’s not one to fit into stereotypes.
“I like 70 (points) every once in a while,” Meyer said.
They came close Saturday.
After mounting just 17 yards in what Meyer said was a “train wreck” of a first quarter, the Buckeyes exploded for 482 yards of offense and 56 points in the next three quarters to win the game 63-38.
Junior running back Carlos Hyde ran for 140 yards and four scores, and Miller broke his own single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 186 yards of his own.
At the end of the day, OSU totaled 371 yards on the ground.
“We’re kind of a pound-ya offense right now,” Meyer said. “I don’t mind that. I’ve not had a lot of those. But that’s a pound-ya offense.”
The X’s and O’s are not what Meyer said is important, though. Meyer said this team has come together in a way he’s only seen six or seven times in his 26 years of coaching.
That cohesiveness has changed big dreams into big expectations.
“We’re trying to go 12-0, win every single game,” said redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby, who had two interceptions against Nebraska. “Trying to get that AP No. 1, go and win the national championship. That’s our goal.”
OSU is slated to play Indiana next Saturday in Bloomington, Ind. at 8 p.m.