The Replacements

By Kyle Rowland on October 23, 2012 at 10:00a

Ponder the scenario for a moment. Ohio State is facing an eight-point deficit to Purdue in Ohio Stadium with less than a minute to go. Miraculously, the Buckeyes tie the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion. 

If not for a trip over the 10-yard line, Fields had a touchdown.

The heroes are Braxton Miller, Devin Smith and Jake Stoneburner, right?


Kenny Guiton at quarterback, Chris Fields at wide receiver and Jeff Heuerman at tight end. The surprise players were just as shocking as the surprise ending.

Smith and Stoneburner did have important catches, but no three players loomed larger than the replacements.

“I wouldn't call us heroes,” Heuerman said. “It was a team win, literally.”

Guiton and Fields were summoned after injuries to Miller and Corey Brown, while Heuerman’s dose of heroism came with a dash of redemption. Earlier in the fourth quarter, it was Heuerman who was responsible for a safety after being called for a penalty in the end zone. 

The extent of Guiton’s career consisted of replacing Miller in three prior games but handing the ball off to Carlos Hyde. The Buckeyes did score on those three possessions, though. And at Indiana, Guiton finally got his first touchdown pass, though it came on a shovel pass called by Shelley Meyer.

Fields had become the forgotten man. During the Jim Tressel era, Fields was considered to be a budding star that would develop into Ohio State’s next big-time deep threat. But at each corner, something held Fields’ production back.

“I’m always pushing myself at each practice and telling myself that my opportunity will come, my moment will come,” Fields said. “It did (Saturday).”

As a redshirt freshman, he was behind the likes of Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey. Fields played eight games that season and finished with zero catches. In 2011, his sophomore season, he was a part of a receiving corps where the leader had 14 receptions. Fields had five for 88 yards, never able to emerge from a younger crop of wideouts. The highlight of his year was a punt return for a touchdown against Toledo.

When Meyer directed Ohio State for the first time in the spring, he referred to the offense as a “clown show.” One of the guys running around in oversized shoes and a red nose was Fields, who was passed over on the depth chart in favor of Brown. That led Fields to contemplate quitting the team.

Guiton made a heads-up play, but Heuerman was flagged.

But instead of walking away after working hard for three years inside the program, Fields showed humility, dusting himself off and opting to play the role of the veteran who leads by example. 

“I would never leave this university,” he said. “I just was thinking about some plans after football.

“It’s been a long journey. I knew there were would be light at the end of the tunnel. I keep my faith, keep working and keep a positive attitude. That’s it.”

Prior to Saturday’s thrilling 29-22 overtime victory, Fields had zero catches on the season. He finished with three receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came with three seconds left in the fourth quarter with Fields diving to keep Ohio State’s perfect season alive.

Fields also smartly picked up Purdue’s punt in the final minute and gained a valuable nine yards, giving Ohio State manageable field position and not allowing extra time to run off the clock.

“Chris Fields is a product of our program,” head coach Urban Meyer said. “That means three weeks ago, he wouldn’t have been on the field. He just changed his whole dynamics, the way he works, his practice habits and his performance.

“You can go out there and work all you want and not make plays. But he’s earned that right to be on the field. He was even playing before that, before Philly went down, he was on the field, where three, four weeks ago he wasn’t on the field.”

Fields’ first catch of the day was also crucial, coming in the third quarter with Ohio State trailing 13-7. He was able to jet down the Purdue sideline, where Miller found him open for a career-long 35-yard gain. It would have been 37 and a touchdown had Fields not tripped over a white yard line.

“The Turf Monster got me,” Fields said laughing. “I slipped.”

Even his touchdown came the hard way, going to the replay booth, causing angst in the stands and on the sideline. Fields, though, was not one of the panicked souls.

“I knew I caught it,” he said. “No question. They didn’t have to review it.

“Thirteen years of baseball paid off for that one. I used to be a center fielder. I used to dive all over the place.”

No replay needed. 

Said Meyer: “My goodness, that was a great catch.”

Making the catch even more memorable was the fact that Guiton and Fields are best friends. They connect on pass plays in practice all the time. But if it happened in a game, they figured, yes, it would come in the fourth quarter, but not in a game-tying situation. If they were going to be a part of touchdown passes, surely it would occur with a comfortable lead in hand for the Buckeyes.

“After that catch, I think I told him ‘thank you’ a million times,” Guiton said of his buddy. “Once I saw his hands under the ball, I knew he had it.”

The guy who caught the ensuing two-point conversion – Heuerman – didn’t become a bona fide receiving threat until the Nebraska game. But with Zach Boren’s move to linebacker, it looked like Heuerman’s days ahead would include a lot of blocking.

“That move could not have been made if you didn't have Heuerman and (Nick) Vannett,” Meyer said last week. “Heuerman has been coming on. He has been playing 10 or 15 plays a game, and now he played 50 (at Indiana).”

It was Heuerman’s turn to shine after Fields’ few minutes in the limelight. This time Guiton found his wide-open receiver with a pass right in the hands. There was no need for Heuerman to dive. 

“Jeff Heuerman played his best game as a Buckeye,” Meyer said after the Indiana game. “I'm proud to say that. He will play more.”

It proved to be a prophetic statement from the head coach.

“It was a play we practiced over and over this week for our two-point conversion scenario, and it worked just like we thought it would,” Heuerman said. “It’s hard for the defense to recognize. It works almost every time in practice. Thankfully, it also worked (Saturday).”

This coming Saturday, Ohio State travels to State College, Pa., to take on a rejuvenated Penn State team. Some think it could be the biggest roadblock to an undefeated season for the Buckeyes. And should the game come down the final minutes, Kenny Guiton and Chris Fields in all likelihood will find themselves cheering from the sideline, hoping for a Miller-to-Brown game-winning touchdown pass.

“You just have to have patience,” Guiton said.


Comments Show All Comments

bodast67's picture

Can't help but notice that the tight ends were under-utilized in this game, even when the run game was stuffed.
Glad to see Heuerman redeemed himself for that safety by getting 2 points back when we needed them the most.




     " I hope when I die, I die laughing"...                

misterbulbous's picture

Is Stoneburner just slow?  Can't figure out why he doesn't get more throws.  Meyer made it a point to say he wanted to become a multi-purpose guy like they had at Florida, but it's just not materializing.

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I don't think the offense has been developed far enough along to a point where they are ready to utilize Stoneburner's position.  In my opinion, we are still working out our base offense, which incorporates the QB, RB, and traditional WRs.  I noticed that we are now starting to bring the TEs in the mix, just starting.  I think Stoneburner is not a primary target on any of our offensive plays as of yet.  Additionally, I think Miller's reads go WR1, WR2, RB outlet / tuck and run.  My point being that I doubt Miller has progressed to the point where he progresses through his reads far enough to get to Stoneburner - as in, if it's not a play designed for Stoneburner (or TEs at the moment), he's not getting the ball as a third option because he's not getting a look.  

Read my entire screen name....

nickma71's picture

Just like the 2010 Spring Game with Guiton and Fields.

RBuck's picture

Anyone else want to see Fields, Smith and Brown on the field at the same time?

Long live the southend.

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

I have to say that i am very impressed with the freshman Heurman with that 2 point conversion catch. I don't care if he had no one on him..that almost made it harder. In that situation, for the game tying conversion, for him to have as sure of hands as he did is a huge testament on his part. That floating pass seemed to me to be up there for minutes

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

Earle's picture

Is this the "Favorite Band" thread?
Seriously, this is Ohio State.  Taking nothing away from the performances of Kenny G. et al, we SHOULD have capable backups.  That is part of what frustrates me about the defense.  Yes, we have lost numbers at LB due to injuries and defections, but if you are good enough to be recruited to play at Ohio State, you should be able to perform when you get in the game.
Anyway, I don't mean to turn this into another rant about the defense.  I'm just glad the offensive backups are getting it done when they get their chances.

Snarkies gonna snark. 

GoBucks713's picture

You can't but help to get a little misty eyed thinking about how much blood, sweat, and tears these two have put into wearing those scarlet jerseys. I don't think I could be more proud of two other players this season. They did exactly what was expected of them, and act like it's no big deal. Everyone should give it up for Kenny G and Chris Fields.

-The Aristocrats!

hail2victors9's picture

Heroes=Hankins for blocking the FG try; the defense for forcing the punt at the end of the game and the pick in the endzone; the punt returner who brought in the ill-advised punt to salvage better field position.  Without those, the game is out of reach.  So, team effort will work.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!

~Bo Schembechler

buckeye76BHop's picture

I liked these points Hail and especially that last part...this team won as a team. Some had great individual efforts, but this "teams" play is why I feel the Purdue game was a wake up call.  I'd say they answered it with a great come back win. The next four games sure will be interesting...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Thinking about the punt at the end of the game.  I can't understand why we didn't put 2 guys back.  I understand that we wanted to rush the punter, but Purdue's kicker depended on the bounce on his rugby-style punts, which is what was executed that play.  To me, the correct coaching decision there would have been to rush 9 guys, and put 2 guys back, one 15 yards in front of the other to catch the ball before the bounce.

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buckeye76BHop's picture

Great point "optimistic" buck...but what would you be saying if they did rush the rugby-style punter and then got a roughing the punter for 15 yards and a subsequent first down.  Then would that strategy seem correct???   I think I'd leave that stuff up to a guy who's won 2 national titles...

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Alhan's picture

I don't think he was saying we should have rushed the punter.  I think he wanted more of a return unit on the field, hence two returners back.

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I thought we rushed the punter on the play ???  So I kept with that philosophy.  My main point was that we should have recognized Purdue's punting style.  I think the Purdue punt landed inside their 45, instead we had to make a very risky play and move the ball at least 10 yards further. 

Read my entire screen name....

buckeye76BHop's picture

Either way...I'd leave that up to UFM and company. doesn't matter because we won.  

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I can't argue that we didn't win and that I'm not a head coach with 2 NCs, but seems to me that we typically fail to adjust our special teams units to another teams punting style.  This is my own personal pet-peeve, but I can't stand playing rugby-style kickers and letting those punts bounce and roll for 30 yards.  To me, anytime we play a rugby-style kicker, we should put two return guys back, giving one lineman up.  Even if the up man must fair catch the punt, we stand to gain 10-30 yards a punt (rarely do rugby kicks bounce backwards.)

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bigbill992001's picture

I think your logic is sound.

Alhan's picture

As far as Fields goes, he may not have the same chemistry with Miller that he does with Guiton.  If all or most of his practice is done with Guiton, he may not be as effective with Miller on the field if they don't know each other's tendencies.
I wouldn't mind finding out though!

"Nom nom nom" - Brady Hoke

buckeye76BHop's picture

“I wouldn't call us heroes,” Heuerman said. “It was a team win, literally.”

Great article Kyle...
That kind of comment above by Heuerman would make any coach proud.  Selfless and unselfish comments make me extremely happy with these players.  It seems to be similar JT's reign but different...much different if you ask me.  I have a feeling that the last four games will be different outcomes than many OSU fans are giving this team credit for.  I could see the Purdue last second come back win becoming a spring board for these last four games despite the injured players.  I suppose we'll see on Saturday.   

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."

"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."

Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

timdogdad's picture

i think it's pretty simple, in the last 3 of 4 games not counting illinois, if we bring the juice, we'll be fine.  if you don't  you come close to losing to uab.    iowa had some rough games against bad teams but brought the juice against msu and won. and then went flat against psu and got blown out.  pretty easy lesson.  hopefully with psu having a home game and playing well, they  get over moxied.   no one gave us a chance at psu in 09 and we played one of our best games of the season.  no one thought mcmoxie would be any good two years ago but psu was up 14-something at halftime. then tress passed out the juice that was pick 6 flavored.