With Ohio State leading Miami (Ohio), 21-3, a mere three seconds before halftime, first-year coach Urban Meyer tried for a touchdown from the 1-yard line rather than take the easy field goal.
“Ohio State should be able to knock it in from the 1-yard line,” Meyer said after the game. “I wanted to see how they would do.”
The attempt, a desperate lunge by junior running back Carlos Hyde, fell short and OSU came up empty handed at the stroke of half time. Nevertheless, an impression was made – Meyer and his aggressive play-calling style had officially arrived in Columbus.
It was that same aggressive style that allowed Meyer’s No. 18 Buckeyes (1-0) to cruise to a 56-10 win against the unranked Miami RedHawks (0-1) Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
The offense sputtered in the first quarter while Miami jumped to an early, 3-0, lead, but the Buckeyes, led by sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and his receiving corps, scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions to go up, 21-3, before the half. OSU didn’t look back.
Miller set an OSU single-game rushing record for quarterbacks in the win with 161 yards and one touchdown, breaking Cornelius Greene’s 1974 record. Miller also tied Greene for the most 100-yard rushing games in OSU history with four.
“The objective with Braxton is to make him from an athlete playing quarterback to a quarterback that manages,” Meyer said. “He has to be a leader and he showed that today.
By game’s end, OSU junior Carlos Hyde collected 84 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and receivers Corey Brown, a senior, and Devin Smith, a sophomore, each collected a touchdown reception before a chorus of Buckeyes added scores of their own.
There were frequent off-field reminders that Saturday was Meyer’s first game at OSU, from the game day program, which featured Meyer’s likeness, to a banner unfurled by the Block-O student cheering section.
Meyer, squinting from the sideline, focused his attention not on the celebration that was his first game as OSU coach, but the Silver Bullets defense, which was on-field for the first official snap of his Buckeyes coaching tenure. OSU eventually forced a Miami punt on its first series.
Then, at the 13:34 mark of the first quarter, Meyer’s spread offense made its Ohio Stadium debut. Miller took the first snap and rushed for three yards. The possession, which began deep in OSU territory, eventually stalled, ending in a punt.
Twice in the first quarter, Meyer’s defense had its collective back pressed against its own end zone. In the first instance, Miami freshman kicker Kaleb Patterson missed a 24-yard field goal attempt about seven minutes into the game. OSU was unable to dodge a second bullet, however, and Patterson redeemed himself on Miami’s next possession with a 23-yard field goal that put his side up, 3-0, with 5:06 to play in the first quarter.
The Buckeyes, perhaps fortunate not to be trailing by two touchdowns, staggered into the second quarter trailing 3-0. Meyer said the first 15 minutes were embarrassing.
“Obviously, the first quarter was very poor football,” Meyer said.
Not only was OSU’s offense sputtering early, but Miami’s offense was stealing the show. The RedHawks outgained OSU in the first quarter, 178-42, and the partnership of Miami senior quarterback Zac Dysert and junior receiver Nick Harwell gashed the Buckeyes’ defense several times.
Dysert finished the game, 31-of-53 passing for 303 yards and two interceptions while Harwell ended the game with 8 receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown.
The second quarter yielded different results from the very beginning.
The first big blow for OSU came when Miller lobbed a 38-yard pass to Brown, allowing OSU to cross into RedHawks territory and down to the 23-yard line for the first time in the game. On the next play, Smith hauled in a one-handed circus catch in the back right corner of the south end zone to bring OSU fans to their feet – it was the first score and lead of the Meyer era.
“It was definitely my best all time catch,” Smith said. “I’ve had some catches at practice but nothing like this one.”
The touchdown catch by Smith, who dropped down on his side after corralling Miller’s pass with only his right hand, capped an 83-yard drive that put OSU up, 7-3.
The Buckeyes came right back down the field on their next drive and tacked on another touchdown when Miller found Brown on a five-yard touchdown catch to cap a 57-yard drive.
OSU’s offensive stagger was gone – now it was swaggering, marching to two touchdowns on consecutive drives that lasted a combined 3:25. Suddenly, the Buckeyes were outgaining Miami, 188-172.
Then came another score.
A 33-yard rush by Miller pushed the Buckeyes down to Miami’s 2-yard line and Hyde finished the drive two plays later with a 2-yard dive into the end zone.
The cheers softened, fans began to walk about the aisles and stadium corridors – it was a comfortable lead that OSU would only add to.
Then came Hyde’s desperate, goal line lunge as time expired in the first half. OSU lost out on a chance at more points in that instance, but Miller made up for it early in the second half.
OSU was back on the offensive a mere 17 seconds into the third quarter. Miller dashed down the visiting sideline and stuttered at the tail end of a 66-yard run to shake the lone remaining Miami defender before crossing into the end zone.
Make it 28-3, OSU, and counting.
Meyer’s special teams unit, which contains a subunit referred to by coaches and players as “the freak show,” got in on the scoring action too.
OSU forced a RedHawks punt on the visitors’ next possession, but a play that was officially scored as a “team rush” resulted in a snap that never reached Miami’s punter. The ball was loose and sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby came up with it in Miami’s end zone for another touchdown to make it 35- 3.
At 10:24 in the third quarter, Miami struck back when Dysert connected with Harwell on a 44-yard touchdown pass to narrow its deficit to 35-10.
The pace of the scoring slowed for both teams after that touchdown, and the 35-10 score line held into early in the fourth quarter.
OSU senior cornerback Travis Howard intercepted Dysert for the second time at the 14:09 mark of the fourth quarter, setting the offense up at Miami’s 5-yard line.
OSU redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton entered the game for Miller, who twice fell to the turf with cramps, and handed the ball to Hyde who ran five yards for his second touchdown of the day.
With 9:33 remaining in the game, the OSU points kept coming. Guiton drove the Buckeyes down and put the ball in senior fullback and captain Zach B
oren’s hands. Boren ploughed into the end zone for the first rushing touchdown of his OSU career and extended his team’s stranglehold to 49-10.
Lastly, freshman Bri’onte Dunn scored with 44 seconds to play in his OSU debut, and the Buckeyes led, 56-10.
“Our offense is built to keep scoring,” Hyde said. “That’s Coach Meyer’s standard, and to have fun.”
All the while, the Buckeyes’ defense stifled Miami’s rushing attack, allowing, if you can call it that, -1 yards in the game. And the Guiton-led offense did its job running out the clock, allowing OSU to finish the game with a comfortable distance between it and the RedHawks.
OSU will host Central Florida next Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon.