Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Unlike his Ohio State football team, Urban Meyer has been defeated during the current season.
The Buckeyes fought back in the closing seconds of regulation Saturday to force overtime against Purdue at Ohio Stadium. OSU prevailed, 29-22, and along the way, Meyer lost a battle to an assistant coach at a critical moment in the game.
With time running out, OSU’s first-year coach watched his backup quarterback, redshirt junior Kenny Guiton, ably steer the Buckeyes toward a touchdown and a chance to tie the contest with a two-point conversion with three seconds to play in regulation.
Guiton came on after sophomore Braxton Miller left the game due to injury and was taken to the Wexner Medical Center. Miller was eventually released after passing all medical tests.
OSU needed to convert its two-point conversion to send the game to overtime and a debate ensued between Meyer, OSU players and offensive coordinator Tom Herman on the sideline.
Guiton completed a 2-yard pass to junior receiver Chris Fields to cut OSU’s deficit to 22-20 – the first step in drawing level with the Boilermakers.
The second part of the process was converting a two-point conversion and it was there that Meyer, the players and Herman disagreed.
With the game and a chance at an undefeated season at stake, Meyer wanted to run the ball.
“The offensive line was screaming at me to run the ball. I mean, like screaming. And same with (junior running back) Carlos Hyde,” Meyer said. “And I almost changed that play. And I said, ‘Tom, let’s pound it at ’em.’ He said, ‘No, let’s go with this.'”
Herman’s preference was to pass with the game on the line. The decision worked.
Meyer had been overruled and lost the debate, but it was for the better.
It was a slow-developing play, but OSU sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman finally released into the end zone. Guiton lofted the ball and Heuerman snatched it up to tie the Boilermakers at 22.
The rest of the game is the stuff of OSU folklore – the Buckeyes took the ball first in overtime, Hyde scored his second touchdown of the game to make the score 29-22, and the OSU defense forced a turnover on downs to win.
The improbable come-from-behind victory might not have been possible without Herman’s insistence to throw for the two-point conversion.
“The last few weeks we’ve been practicing that, and when the game is on the line is not a time to go against what you’ve practiced,” Herman said after the game.
Herman had to endure a few long, nervous moments before he knew the play would succeed. Heuerman ran a tight-end delay, and was tied up in the trenches near the line of scrimmage when the play was originally snapped. He didn’t begin to track into the end zone until the play was about four seconds old.
Once the ball was thrown, it was Heuerman’s turn to wait. He was confident, though, saying the play works almost every time in practice.
“It’s like coach (Mike) Vrabel was telling me after the game – those are the hardest ones to catch,” Heuerman said. “Ball was in the air for a while. That was just a play we’ve repped over and over in Thursday practices for our two-point play. Came down to it and the whole offense executed and it worked out.”
Vrabel would know – he caught 10 touchdown passes despite being used primarily as a linebacker during his 14-year NFL career.
Ultimately, Meyer’s defeat appeared to be for the greater good. He was gracious in defeat, too. Victory might very well make a small defeat easier to handle.
“So, (Herman) won that battle,” he said, “and great call. Great execution.”
The Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) are scheduled to continue Big Ten play Saturday in State College, Pa., against Penn State. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story was written to reflect that Carlos Hyde is a sophomore running back. In fact, Carlos Hyde is a junior.