Buckeye defense rains on Hurricanes’ parade, propels OSU to victory
Published: Saturday, September 11, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
Any time Ohio State and Miami (Fla.) square off, expect the unexpected.
The Buckeyes and Hurricanes weren't battling for a national championship Saturday, but the game had its share of memorable plays as OSU topped Miami 36-24, in front of 105,545 at Ohio Stadium.
A week of reminiscing about the infamous pass interference call that quelled a premature Miami celebration and Maurice Clarett chasing down and forcing a fumble of Sean Taylor culminated in a series of head-scratching plays, turnovers and long returns.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw four interceptions, which the Buckeyes converted into 20 points.
"When you can create four takeaways, you're going to have a chance," OSU coach Jim Tressel said. "When you have zero giveaways, you're going to have a really good chance."
Defensive end Nathan Williams, out of action last week with a knee injury, hauled in a deflected Harris pass on Miami's opening possession and set up the game's first score, a 24-yard field goal by OSU kicker Devin Barclay. Barclay tied a school record by making five field goals, a mark shared with Josh Huston (2005), Mike Nugent (2004) and Bob Atha (1981).
OSU's lead was short-lived, however, as the Buckeyes' special teams struggles continued. Miami's Lamar Miller returned the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
OSU allowed a number of long returns in its Rose Bowl victory over Oregon, and Marshall returned a blocked field goal for its only score in its season-opening 45-7 loss to the Buckeyes last week.
Following Miller's touchdown return, the Buckeyes kicked away from Miami's returners.
But special teams burned the Buckeyes again in the second quarter when Miami's Travis Benjamin took a punt back 79 yards to bring the Hurricanes within 20-17. It was the first time in team history that the Buckeyes allowed both a kick return and punt return for touchdowns in the same game, according to the OSU sports information department.
"I'll put that in my memoirs," said Tressel, a stickler for special teams play. "What do you want me to do? They ran them. Are we concerned? Of course. Can you win, typically, when that happens? No. But the good news is, our guys didn't fold and they know we have to get better."
The Buckeye offense struck on a 2-play, 80-yard drive to tie the game at 10-10. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw over the Hurricane defense for a 62-yard connection with receiver DeVier Posey. On the next play, Pryor found running back Brandon Saine for an 18-yard touchdown.
"We got 80 yards and a huge score," Tressel said. "I think there was just a little belief that started happening from there that, ‘Hey we can pass protect and throw and catch.' That was a great drive."
Pryor never got into a passing rhythm, finishing just 12-27, but he threw for 233 yards and added 113 more on the ground.
"He didn't have any interceptions, so that's huge," Tressel said. "We'd like to be a little bit better than (12-27)."
The Miami offense never got on track in the first half, as Harris had a number of passes deflected and others intercepted.
Cornerback Chimdi Chekwa picked off a pair of Harris heaves, both after the ball had been deflected. His first interception set up a quick, 19-yard drive that running back Dan Herron capped with a 4-yard touchdown run to give OSU a 20-10 edge.
Trailing 26-17, Harris had the Hurricanes at the OSU 5-yard line when he found the wrong-colored jersey for the fourth and final time.
Buckeye defensive lineman Cameron Heyward picked off the pass at the OSU 5-yard line and returned it 80 yards. Like a car on empty, the 6-foot-5, 288-pound senior started sputtering midway through the return before running out of gas inside the Hurricane red zone.
"I was shocked at how far he got," Tressel said. "I kept thinking that someone was going to catch up to him and strip the ball a la Clarett and Sean Taylor. I was petrified. … He was tired for about 15 minutes. That was a long run for a big guy."
"I'm still tired," Heyward said after the game, about two hours after the fact.
The interception set up another brief, yet successful, drive for the Buckeyes. Pryor scrambled 13 yards for a touchdown to provide OSU a 33-17 advantage.
Miami tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown and OSU ran out the clock with a 14-play drive.
Saturday's matchup featured storylines much different from when OSU and Miami last met, in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. On that night, the Hurricanes were a heavy favorite, entering the game with a 33-game winning streak.
But in the end, as it did in Tempe, Ariz., to earn the Buckeyes a national title nearly eight years ago, the OSU defense stepped up to the challenge to deliver a victory.
"We expected those guys to come out here and jump up and down and they did," said OSU linebacker Brian Rolle, an Immokalee, Fla., native. "But we have a little swagger ourselves and I feel like our defense, if I may say, we ‘out-swagged' theirs and came up with the win."