Questions Answered, But Others Arise

By Kyle Rowland on September 30, 2013 at 9:15a
23 Comments
Barnett and the linebackers came up huge against Wisconsin.

For three years, Ohio State was forced to see images of the sun-splashed Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day from far-off locales — New Orleans, Jacksonville and, worst of all, Columbus. Each time, a familiar cardinal and white color scheme flashed across the TV screen.

Wisconsin entered Saturday’s primetime showdown as the Big Ten’s three-time defending champion. The Badgers left Ohio Stadium behind the eight ball just one game into the conference slate. The Buckeyes’ 31-24 win was its third straight over Wisconsin since losing as the top-ranked team in Madison in 2010. It also put in motion a changing of the guard.

Ohio State is yet to lose a game since Urban Meyer became head coach. Seventeen Saturdays, 17 wins. But the latest may have been the most significant. The divisions will be realigning following the 2013 season, but the Badgers have become a rival and thorn in Brutus’ side. 

Meyer’s tenure has been a return to normalcy for the Buckeyes. They’ve reasserted their dominance, overpowered opponents and out-recruited all comers in the Big Ten and across the country.

Ohio State’s offense has taken form into a style of unit unfamiliar to most in the Midwest (i.e. speed). The up-tempo nature is different than the usual grind-it-out philosophy that reigned supreme for so many decades in the rugged Big Ten. Now, the Buckeyes are using a no-huddle system and trying to run as many as 80 plays per game. So far, it’s resulted in five wins and an average of more than 500 yards of offense.

It’s a far cry from 2011, when Ohio State’s offense ranked among the worst in the country. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman upped the ranking to 47th last season. The Buckeyes sit inside the top 20 in 2013, at 17th.

This season’s ranking is thanks in large to backup quarterback Kenny Guiton. The ol’ right-hander took over for Miller and did his best to make a quarterback controversy. But Miller’s performance against Wisconsin ended any lingering doubts about his abilities.

The highlight of the night came on the final play of the first half when Miller delivered a perfect spiral to Philly Brown in the end zone. The 40-yard pass on 4th-and-2 was a gut-punch to the Badgers and sent them to locker room beleaguered and searching for answers. Just one play before the touchdown, Wisconsin nearly intercepted Miller on a lazily thrown ball.

“I told coach, ‘Let's throw it again,” Miller said. “I made up for it on the next throw.”

The Badgers hadn’t allowed a passing touchdown all season. All Miller did was tie his career high by tossing four touchdown passes. He finished with 198 passing yards and zero interceptions. Miller’s 83 rushing yards pushed him past Cornelius Greene and atop the career rushing list for an Ohio State quarterback. It was a dazzling performance that provided a definitive answer to the Buckeyes’ quarterback quandary – or luxury.

“What I saw on Thursday [in practice], there was no doubt who was going to be our starter,” Meyer said.

There was friction in Ohio Stadium and on message boards regarding the situation behind center. But the hullabaloo never penetrated the walls of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Miller and Guiton have been friends throughout their careers and are Friday night roommates.

“I am proud of Kenny and the way he led the team while I was out,” Miller said. “I look at him as a big brother. So no controversy with that.”

And there’s no denying who the Badger Slayer is. Miller is now 3-0 against the team Ohio State fans have grown to hate. Earlier in the week, Meyer referred to the Wisconsin as the King of the Big Ten. Four quarters later, his Year 2 supremacy was right on schedule.

Coaches, players and fans of opposing Big Ten schools would never admit it, but they all have one eye turned toward Columbus and the Buckeyes' football factory. Ohio State squandered good field position on several occasions and still lulled Wisconsin to sleep. It was almost as if a cat was batting at a mouse, just toying with the idea of whether to squash it or not.

It was a defining moment for the Ohio State defense and a crowning moment for linebacker Curtis Grant. For three seasons, Grant has languished, sometimes on the field, sometimes on the sideline. A former No. 2 overall recruit, Grant had difficulty adapting to the college game. But on Saturday, he finished with seven tackles and a sack that preceded Bradley Roby’s interception by one play.

The Silver Bullets held Melvin Gordon and James White well under their season averages while limiting the Badgers to just 104 rushing yards. The linebacker corps, lamented by Meyer dating to November 2011, had its finest day in years. Ryan Shazier, Joshua Perry and Grant tallied a combined 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

“We started hitting them in the backfield a little bit,” Meyer said. “We contained them. One of the things, the longest run from scrimmage was 17 yards. And that’s not like them.”

But all the good quickly went to the background when Meyer stepped to the lectern for his postgame press conference. He was clearly agitated and it became clear when he opened his mouth.

“We lost our captain,” Meyer said, slamming his hand on the podium while delivering the news about senior safety Christian Bryant, a three-year starter who suffered a season-ending ankle injury. It’s the most emotion Meyer has shown since coming to Ohio State.

“Just tough news,” he continued, his voice cracking. “That’s the hardest part of this whole job, to see that happen. My goodness. I just love that kid. That darn kid has done so much or our program, come so far. Incredible leadership skills, and he’s going to be even more valuable outside of football. I love that guy. Doggone it. Hard part of the game.”

Bryant is a vocal leader in the defensive huddle and arguably the team’s top leader. He’s productive on the field – Bryant has 22 tackles and an interception this season – but it’s the void in leadership that will be missed most.

“He’s our leader,” Meyer said. “There’s no doubt about it. He’s just devastated. Concern No. 1, 2 and 3 is who is going to fill his spot, who is going to assume the leadership obligation, responsibility that he has shown. Incredible young man. Incredible. I love that guy.”

Bryant was injured on the second-to-last play of the game. A trio of defensive backs – Pittsburgh Brown, Vonn Bell and Ron Tanner – is in the conversation to fill in for Bryant.

“That’s huge,” fellow safety and captain C.J. Barnett said. “That’s my partner, man. It’s kind of bittersweet. We got this win, but he went down. We’re going to have to pick it up for him, find a replacement. His leadership is going to be missed. Our other leaders are going to have to carry some more weight.

“We have great depth. I think him going down just gives another guy an opportunity to step up and make plays. We don’t expect a drop-off, but it’s huge in the leadership part.”

The Chase is nearing the midway point. Undefeated and playing at a high level, it’s all systems go for the Buckeyes. They’re the class of the Big Ten with few challengers standing tall. But the loss of a defensive starter who doubles as the team’s mouthpiece stings on a night that represented so much good.

23 Comments

Comments

osu07asu10's picture

Always been a huge Christian Bryant fan, a little wild and reckless (in playing style) as a younger buckeye, he embodies what it means to be a silver bullet and it was fun to watch him harness that energy the second half of last season and how it carried over to start this season.

Tough blow, hope for a speedy recovery!

"They don't know what they don't know." - Coach Mick

nm_buck's picture

“We have great depth. I think him going down just gives another guy an opportunity to step up and make plays. We don’t expect a drop-off, but it’s huge in the leadership part.”
Let's hope this happens.  And quick.

mh277907's picture

Just a random thought - I did not like the new uniforms when they wore them against UM last year and I was not happy about them wearing the same ones again. However, I thought they looked 100 times better at night and under the lights.

buckeyebobcat

yrro's picture

I agree 100%. Would much prefer we wear our normal uniform, but the dazzle of the helmets off the lights was pretty darn cool.

doodah_man's picture

The helmets were incredible. Ditch the sparkly 70s helmets and keep the silver for all games.

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

extemporary08's picture

Ditch the black letters for silver or white, I couldn't even read the names I knew...

mmontell's picture

I'd like to see Vonn Bell win that spot. Really is unfortunate to see Bryant go out.

-MM

InHartWeTrust's picture

In the presser today, Urban said it's either Pitt, Powell, or Bell's to win.  Conversations are currently on going.

avail31678's picture

What's the story with Bryant then?  Is he done for good?  Any chance at a medical redshirt? 
(anticipatory plea to not chastise me because I don't know the rules on redshirts)

JasonR's picture

I was thinking the same thing. I think medical redshirt is only available if the player was in less than 30% of the games. So Bryant would not be eligible, unfortunately.

BucksfanXC's picture

He could possibly get a redshirt waiver if he applies for one with the NCAA, but he as already exceeded the playing time for this year to qualify for a redshirt.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

Didn't he miss like half his sophomore season due to injury?  I dunno how it works with the NCAA, but that is an entire season if you combine both....

Adolphus Washington is half grizzly bear and half dragon | Noah Spence kills quarterbacks, just to watch them die.

hetuck's picture

Per Dispatch, chance he will be back for bowl game. 

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

doodah_man's picture

I'm sure that he won't mention it (because it will sound like an excuse) but, I wonder how much of B. Roby's performance was affected by the early injury.  He hit the ground fairly flat and I gulped when he dropped to his knee when he got to the sidelines. I noticed (and was watching closely since he was our key to limiting Abbrederis) that he was in within two plays. Nothing was aid the rest of the night or after the game. Hip pointer maybe? Just sayin....

Jim "DooDah" Day
It is hard to play dirty against a man who picks you up.

slippy's picture

You know, I totally forgot that he came out with that 'injury' - whatever it may have been.  He made some great plays the few plays they ran before that injury.  Could have been more of an issue than we though.

okiebuck's picture

Ditto all the comments on Christian Bryant; what a great kid. He always played in the Jack Tatum tradition of knocking peoples dick in the dirt if they happened to be nearby with the ball; great run support safety. On the next to last play of the friggen game; jeez. Get well young man.

"Fate has cards that it don't want to show"

osubuck57's picture

Never expected to worry about our secondary, a perceived strength of our defense with all the moving parts of our front seven. But Roby is just not the Roby this season that we have come to expect, in years past. He got torched against Wisky, and has got burned in some previous games. Hope Tanner, Bell, and Brown can pick up where Bryant left off. This defense is gonna miss him a lot. Prayers for Bryant on a speedy recovery.

SCOTTC.

GrayDay's picture

Sad for Bryant, but sounds like great kid with a bright future.  It sucks, but other teams dealing with big injury losses also.  He can still be an inspiring leader from the sidelines I'd think.
Also, in defense of Roby, the defensive plan put a ton of pressure on that secondary.  With everyone thinking run, crashing the line, and rarely blitzing (until later), a decent QB will find someone open.  Stave was comfortable and they made some very tough catches (they got hit hard).  Credit UW's run game and good receivers for opening that up.  Every defensive strategy leaves something to exploit, but we contained them enough. 
Have a feeling Anderson can take that team to another level.

steveoz49's picture

Going to miss Bryant and I hope to see him play on Sundays.
 
In the mean time... this is The Ohio State University, next man up.
 
Also, I thought that it was Grant's finest game and his sack late was huge.  I think he's finally "got it"

CharlieBuckeye's picture

The main question right now for me is - Where is Roby's head at? During the game he got away with a lot of jersey tugging. If not for that he may have been torched even more.  I think a little less chatter by the young man and more doing is the best approach for him.  He is a top notch defensive back and has the tools to be another in the long line of defensive backs to play at the next level.
GO BUCKEYES!!!!!
 
Edit:  I wrote this prior to my looking two inches to the right and seeing a thread had already started pertaining to Roby.

"To have a great life simply follow this rule:  Do not bring undo conflict into your life..."
Charlie Baker - OSU - 1986

fanatibuck's picture

I wish Christian well. There is slight chance he could be back for the bowl game. One would only hope. Can you imagine him getting some reps in the Rose Bowl for the NC just so he can say he played in his last game as a Buckeye and of course also help us to victory? What a storybook ending that would be. GO BUCKS!!

THE URBANATOR AND HIS BOYS' JOURNEY HAS JUST BEGUN; 26-0 IS COMING BABY!!

ScarletNGrey01's picture

It was almost as if a cat was batting at a mouse, just toying with the idea of whether to squash it or not.

Great line.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes