It started on the walk from the team hotel to St. John Arena for Skull Session. Urban Meyer became overwhelmed. But this time it wasn’t stress induced and an excruciating headache did not follow.
The boy from Ashtabula, Ohio, who grew up watching Woody Hayes’ Archie Griffin-led teams of the mid-1970s had arrived. Yes, Ohio State is Meyer’s fourth head coaching job and national championships and an undefeated season litter his resume. But now he’s at the school that’s always been near and dear to his heart.
As the team strode down the steep tunnel and on to the arena floor for Skull Session, Meyer took a peek, letting out a “Wow” with a smile that would make the Mona Lisa jealous.
In an instant, Meyer reverted back to the kid who sat in the house on Lake Road with his father, Bud, and watched the Buckeyes run roughshod over the Big Ten. Everything slowed down around him and as he stood on the floor soaking up a raucous atmosphere, Urban Meyer wasn’t the head coach of Ohio State. He was just a fan admiring a great tradition.
When he took the mic, Meyer told the crowd his mission from Day 1 has been to make the great state Ohio proud, and he intended to do that on his first gameday as head coach.
The first quarter may have caused angst, the offense looking like the clown show Meyer described in the spring, but the Buckeyes righted the ship in the season opener, winning 56-10 win over Miami (Ohio) in front of 105,039.
“It was a great day,” Meyer said. “Hang on Sloopy kicked it off in the fourth quarter, and I stared at that for a while and watched it.
“I've been enjoying being Ohio State coach for about seven months now. So that was a, I don't want to deflate that moment (Carmen Ohio)…It's a great moment. I'm with a bunch of guys I care about. I love our players. There are lot of guys on this team I have a lot of respect for. And saying the alma mater, I'm a graduate, and the fight song, that was a special moment. We got to sing the fight song in the locker
room, as well.”
Since the November day Meyer was announced as the program’s 24th head coach, Buckeye Nation has been focused on offense, offense, offense. After one quarter, no one would have blamed Meyer if discomfort crept into his head. Braxton Miller was one for his first seven with five yards passing, while the Buckeyes had just 48 total yards.
But just like the Miami-Florida game in 2010, after the RedHawks got out of the first quarter with a 3-0, the hosts dictated the final 45 minutes. Ohio State scored 35 unanswered points to take command, including 21 in a 297-yard second quarter.
The RedHawks missed a 24-yard field goal and were held to another field goal from inside the red zone before Ohio State got on the scoreboard.
“Obviously, the first quarter was very poor football on our end,” Meyer said. “But you also want to give credit where credit's due, and that's Miami (Ohio) doing a really good job defending a certain formation that we ran.
“You have 10 months to prepare for a game and a lot of film to watch. They prepared
very well. So that's what happened in the first quarter.”
The head coach may have been anxious, but his quarterback was anything but, something Meyer showed confidence in following the game. One for seven or not, Miller wasn’t going to get caught up in the perceived negatives.
“I'm not as positive as Braxton was,” Meyer said. “But it's nice to have your quarterback stand right with you and say, hey, we'll be fine. I liked his demeanor.”
Tim Tebow rewrote the Florida and SEC record book, and in his first game as Meyer’s quarterback, Miller had a record-setting day. His 161 rushing yards broke Cornelius Greene’s 38-year school record (146 yards) for a quarterback. In the process, Miller also tied Greene’s OSU quarterback record of four career 100-yard rushing games.
Miller was involved in two highlight-reel plays. With the Buckeyes trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, Miller found an open Devin Smith in the end zone, but overthrew him ever so slightly. There was no reason to worry, though, as Smith grabbed the ball with his right hand and pulled it into his body for the touchdown.
“It was definitely my best all-time catch,” Smith said. “I’ve had some catches at practice but nothing like this one.”
Said Miller: “Man, I just saw a guy like it was man coverage, and I'm seeing this guy jerk a little and he got past me. I threw it inside and (Smith) jumped. You know he's a hurdler. Throw it as high as you want, he can get it."
On the first play of the second half, Miller took off and ventured all the way to the Miami 30 when two RedHawks had the angle. Miller, however, stutter-stepped and made his way to the end zone for a 65-yard touchdown, putting OSU ahead 28-3. It was the second-longest touchdown run by an Ohio State quarterback.
“I was just trying to get away from a guy,” Miller said. “In practice, some guys they do it and they say, oh, he's down. But I just did a little jerk and I scored a touchdown.”
After a horrid start throwing the ball, Miller went 13 for his last 17. On the day, he was 14 of 24 for 207 yards and two touchdowns.
It wasn’t all offense, though. The Ohio State defense also flexed its muscles. While Miami quarterback Zac Dysert completed 31 of 52 passes for 303 yards, he was also victimized by Travis Howard – and his own receivers – who intercepted two errant throws.
Howard’s first interception came with Miami driving into Ohio State territory midway though the third quarter. The second was nearly taken back for a touchdown after Howard returned the ball 17 yards to the eight-yard line.
“It was a great play," Howard said. “I wish I would have taken it in the end zone. He (Dysert) is a great quarterback, though. I guarantee he’ll be in the National Football League one day. He has the arm strength and athleticism to make the big play.”
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Carlos Hyde found paydirt on the first play for his second touchdown of the day. By then, Ohio State led 42-10. Much to the chagrin of Meyer, Hyde did not eclipse the 100-yard mark, instead settling for 82 and a pair of touchdowns.
“I'm disappointed that he didn't get 100 yards,” Meyer said. “I thought he would. We were going to feature him a little bit today. Some of those big runs that Braxton Miller had were tailback runs. So a few carries got taken away because Miami made a decision to force the quarterback to run and then have extra defensive players where they were.”
The Buckeyes outgained Miami 538-312 for the game and limited the RedHawks to negative one rushing yards.