Preview: No. 5 Ohio State vs. Navy

By Patrick Maks on August 29, 2014 at 8:35a
Preview: No. 5/6 Ohio State vs. Navy at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium

Before his first game as a head coach at Bowling Green State University, an anxiety-ridden Urban Meyer asked his wife, Shelley, for an honest answer to a rather blunt question.

“What happens if we lose every game?” he said during his weekly radio show on 97.1 The Fan Thursday. “How long are they gonna keep us?”

Turns out, coaching seems to have worked out pretty well for the Meyers. 

From humble beginnings with the Falcons in Northwest Ohio to Utah to Florida and, finally, to Ohio State, Meyer’s 125-28 in 12 seasons with a pair of national championships and a rock-star aura that launched him to the top of the college football world with the Gators. 

Naturally, Meyer, who took command of the Buckeyes in 2012, is also charged with delivering a title to Columbus. He came close last year. 

After winning 24-straight games over the span of two years, Ohio State’s ascension toward the sport’s zenith collapsed on a cold December night in Indianapolis. Michigan State toppled the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship Game before Clemson bounced them a month later in the Orange Bowl. 

Of course, to call Meyer’s short tenure at Ohio State anything less than successful is insane, but fans want championships and they want them now.

The team's 2014 campaign was supposed to be a breakthrough. In some ways, it still offers such promise even without senior quarterback Braxton Miller, who'll miss the season after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder for the second time since January.

But it'll be hard without the back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year and Heisman candidate. Miller was Ohio State's centerpiece and it must find ways to win without him now. 

Couple that with an offense with no known commodities and a defense that supposedly underwent a springtime overhaul after coming completely undone late last season, it makes sense why Ohio State insists it won't overlook its season opener against Navy Saturday in Baltimore.

Navy Midshipmen

NOON – SATURDAY, AUG. 30, 2014


"It's just incredible efficiency in offense and that odd three four defense where they're all over the place," Meyer said Monday. "So they're good players."

And with good players comes a team that's better than Ohio State would typically face in its first game of the year. 

"I use the term anxiety a little bit more this year," Meyer said, "just because of who we're playing and the quarterback and the skill that they have."

Opponent Breakdown

To understand Navy, you must understand Ken Niumatalolo, the Midshipmen head coach and the man who makes them go. Niumatalolo is third-winningest coach in school history and there's a reason for it.

He understands who Navy is and what it stands for. He knows what kind of players it can recruit and how it can use said players to win football games. 

"We’re not playing football at Ohio State’s level, but we’re playing at a high level. I think it’s a nice blend for guys," he told Eleven Warriors in an exclusive one-on-one interview in July. 

"We don’t have guys looking outside our window asking, ‘Hey, are you guys getting ready for Army this week?’ It’s competitive, but there’s a nice blend to it. I’m a firm believer in that people are human, players are human. We’ve been here long enough we know things that do and don’t work here."

Because Navy isn't Ohio State and Ohio State isn't Navy. 

"These guys need a break. Coaches need a break. We’re constantly trying to do things – watch the way we eat, the way we stretch. We know who we are. We might have gone 9-4, but the games were barn-burners. It’s like a basketball game coming down to the last possession," Niumatalolo said. 

"We’re not going to blow people out. We have to take care of the football, we can’t have penalties. We led the country in both of those last year and still lost four games. So our approach is we’re going to have a hard time beating people, we can’t beat ourselves."

Behind its trademark triple option offense, Navy averaged 325 yards rushing last season (second-best nationally) and junior quarterback Keenan Reynolds ran for 1,346 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had six games with at least 100 yards rushing and two 200-yard games. In other words, Reynolds is to Navy as to what Miller was to Ohio State. Some say he's the best quarterback since Roger Staubach, an NFL Hall of Famer and 1963 Heisman Trophy winner.

KeenAn Reynolds' Big Days
Date Opp Result Rush YDS AVG TD
11/3/12 FLORIDA ATLANTIC W, 24–17 26 159 6.1 1
11/10/12 TROY L, 41–31 21 130 6.2 3
9/7/13 INDIANA W, 41–35 32 127 4.0 3
9/14/13 DELAWARE W, 51–7 15 109 7.3 0
10/5/13 AIR FORCE W, 28–10 28 126 4.5 3
11/9/13 HAWAII W, 42–28 28 226 8.1 4
11/22/13 SAN JOSE STATE W, 58-52 (3 OT) 36 240 6.7 7
12/14/13 ARMY W, 34–7 30 136 4.5 3

"The Navy coaches and some people I've talked to think that he's the best that they've ever had," Meyer said, "which takes your breath away a little bit." 

Staubach told USA TODAY this week: "Every time I've seen him play, he's been fantastic. Keenan is as elite a quarterback as there is in college football today, I think. He's in a system where he doesn't throw as much (as others), but he does everything you have to do as a quarterback, as a leader, to win."

Reynolds helped guide Navy to a 9-4 record last season and the expectation in Annapolis, Md., is for bigger and better things this year. Meyer said he thinks this is might be the most talented service academy team he's ever faced.

"This is the best personnel of a service academy I've coached against," he said Thursday on his radio show.

And against an offense that's going to eat up clock and try and play keep-away with Ohio State's offense, every snap means that much more.

"What is keeping me awake, and I heard this thing, is every possession is gonna be critical when you play wishbone or academy teams like this," Meyer said Wednesday.

"You gotta get first downs, you gotta march it down the field. You can’t three-and-out this team, you’ve got problems. I think they’re gonna play well."

Buckeye Breakdown

The good news for Ohio State? Navy can't match up athletically. The bad news? The Buckeyes are very much a crew in transition. Playing a team like Navy gives them no favors. New faces litter Ohio State's depth chart and without Miller, it's incredibly hard to make an educated guess as to how Meyer and Co. will play this season. There's simply too many unknown factors. 

At quarterback, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett, who hasn't played competitive football since Oct. 2012, will take the place of the injured Miller. Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott will lead a committee of running backs who are trying to match the production numbers by former standout Carlos Hyde. At wide receiver, only Devin Smith and Evan Spencer have considerable game-time experience. The offensive line is replacing four starters from a unit that was deemed one of the best in school history. The linebackers, aside from Ryan Shazier, were average to below average last season and the secondary was far worse.

Ohio State's offense was among the nation's best last season, averaging 46 points (third-best), 512 total yards (seventh-best) and 309 rushing yards (fifth-best). With Miller, a three-year starter, at the helm, Meyer's spread offense was supposedly poised to take off to a new level with playmakers like Jeff Heuerman Dontre Wilson, Jalin Marshall, Michael Thomas, Corey Smith and Curtis Samuel around him. Instead, they'll need to serve as bailouts Barrett when the going inevitably gets rough this fall. Whether it's against Navy will say a lot about the Buckeyes should play when Virginia Tech and its nasty defense come to town next week. 

How It Plays Out

Download Bucknotes for the Navy game
Download Bucknotes for the Navy game.

On paper, Ohio State should be able to have its way with Navy -- even without Braxton Miller. Comparing the two teams is apples to oranges. One specializes in molding future military leaders, and the other is a professional football factory. It is what it is. The talent gap is a real thing.

 Still, the Midshipmen should be able to make this game competitive, and maybe more. 

You have an Ohio State team that's talented, but unproven at virtually every position group except the defensive line.  You can say every nice thing in the world about Barrett, Elliott, the offensive line, the wide receivers and the defensive backs, but the truth is we don't really know how they're going to perform when the pressure's on. The Buckeyes have a slew of questions that'll get answered one way or another Saturday. 

Navy's the kind of team that's not going to beat itself with stupid mistakes or silly penalties. And because of that, Ohio State will need to play a pretty crisp game or things could get interesting fast.

The Buckeyes like to harken back to that weird 31-27 win against the Midshipmen in 2009 as a reminder of what could happen if they ease up Saturday. As such, Meyer has his team on high-alert, but Navy might be good enough to simply push back without the element of surprise. 

Yes, it's athletically overmatched, but the disposition needed to be a Mid lends itself to success on the football field. No, Navy's roster isn't brimming with four-star and-five-star talent, but they're a solid football team that keeps things simple and does said simple things really well. 

"There are things here that are inherent to this place that make it tough, and I embrace that. Most schools don’t tell you what to wear and to shine your shoes. But I think all that attention to detail and discipline helps. Football is the ultimate team sport. Eleven guys’ jobs are independent of everyone else. Everyone’s job is different, but if you do your job and you aren’t worried about praise and accolades, I think it helps you," Niumatalolo said.

"It’s hard, but hopefully we can get an edge on a team that isn’t as disciplined or is selfish."

In the end, Ohio State should be able to stave off a scrappy Navy squad that'll tell us a lot about Urban Meyer's squad. Good and bad. 



Comments Show All Comments

DCBuckeye33's picture

I already wasn't going to work much today, but now I might as well take the day off. SO. CLOSE!


+4 HS
jdagrava.1's picture

Ditto - there aren't enough articles or YouTube videos on the internet  to feed the Scarlet and Grey hunger that's been building inside of me for the last 8 months.  Please Merciful God, allow me to pass out right now and wake up tomorrow at 11:45 in front of a 70 inch HD television with no distractions around me.  Amen.

"It takes a little something special to be a great player.  What you got in you, we're going to find out.  And if there's a touch of greatness in there, how cool would that be?"

-Urban F. Meyer

+4 HS
RedStorm45's picture

Heck yeah.  And for those of us in Columbus for the music in the A.D.?? Not bad, Cbus, not bad at all.

TheShookster's picture

I'm nervous that Navy is going to come out throwing the ball against us for some reason.

He ain't even stretch doe!!

CC's picture

They will throw the ball across the line of scrimage < 15 times.  There is no reason to be nervous about that, I'm more concerned we aren't disciplined and don't stop it.

+1 HS
WezBuck28's picture

Can anyone tell me who handed navy those 4 losses last year?

jdagrava.1's picture

"It takes a little something special to be a great player.  What you got in you, we're going to find out.  And if there's a touch of greatness in there, how cool would that be?"

-Urban F. Meyer

+3 HS
nlogan7's picture

All 4 losses were on the road...

+1 HS
WezBuck28's picture

I feel a little more comfortable knowing where those loses came from..thanks guys!

bakerjon's picture

Don't sleep on any of those teams. Those are all legit teams despite their historical badness.  WK was lead by Bobby Petrino last season. Toledo has an up and coming team. You can see what Duke has been doing.  I'm not saying these are powerhouses by any stretch, but they weren't easy wins, and they gave ND all they wanted

"You do what I cannot do. I do what you cannot do. Together we do great things"

ATLBuckeye09's picture

All four were road games. W. Kentucky, Duke, Toledo & ND.

Because they wouldn't let me go for 3!
Woody Hayes 1913-1987

TURD_BUCKET's picture

The offense has the players to make big plays and they will. But the Buckeyes' defense will get them the ball time after time. The silver bullets are back in a big way and torpedo the sailors. A lot of players will prove that this team is no one trick pony.

“Being average means you are as close to the bottom as you are to the top.” John Wooden

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

This is write up is exactly how I feel.  We know how Navy plays - they are consistent and mistake free.  We are more talented, but we need to at least match their level of execution to win this game.

Read my entire screen name....

BeatTTUN's picture

As a result of overwhelming disapproval, previous post has been thrown into the abyss.

Go Buckeyes Beat Michigan

-11 HS

-100,000. Oy vey.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+1 HS
TMac's picture

Can hardly wait, and I truly think we are going to cruise through Navy, by 20+

ONE Not Done!

FROMTHE18's picture

Im not usually very optimistic, but Ill go with this…

End of:

1st- OSU 7 | Navy 7

2nd- OSU 17 | Navy 10

3rd: OSU 24 | Navy 17

Final: OSU 38 | Navy 17 

I hope for a fast start and some consistency throughout the game, but I don't see it with a new, inexperienced QB and a defense that has to develop an identity other than 'Crap'. I think JT will make some mistakes, i just hope they are not at key moments or very often. Navy runs the clock better than anyone so we won get the ball nearly as much as we'd like unless we can get some 3-and-outs. With Braxton I think it would have been a 45-17 type of game, with a fast start and then cruise control. With JT, slow start with more positive moments than negative the rest of the way. I like our defense to get an INT. Rushing, I think we hit around 250 with Zeke netting close to 100 with 2 TDs, Rod and Dunn to combine for 100 (65/35) and 1 TD, and JT/Samuel/Dontre to pick up the rest. I think Samuel and Dontre have a productive day in the short passing game with their ability to break big YAC. JT to go something like 18/30 280 yards with most of his completions being under 10 yards, 2 TDs and a pick. Leading WR is Mike Thomas with 4 catches (1 TD). 3 catches for Heuerman (1 TD), 2 catches for Samuel, Dontre, C. Smith, and D. Smith, 1 to Jalin, 1 to Zeke, 1 to Dixon.  

11UrbzAndSpices's picture

Allie LaForce is going to be on the sidelines?! Now I want to watch this game!

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

+2 HS
11UrbzAndSpices's picture

Also, you have Navy listed as Clemson. Come on, man!

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

+1 HS
Jason Priestas's picture

Yeah, that's like, uh...oops.

BuckeyeinGA's picture

So I guess we are wearing Scarlet jerseys?  Anyone know about this? 

They are apparently wearing brand new Under Armour Uniforms--in all white.

OSUStu's picture

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.  ~ Bruce Lee

+2 HS
awwwwwwop's picture


"Who cares? Go Bucks." - Aaron Untch

TheShookster's picture

Any chance JT Barrett goes out there and plays like Kenny Hill? I mean, last time I checked it's impossible for any type of freshman or QB who hasn't had any real-game snaps to go out there and win a game...of course the exception is if they play in the SEC...gah so much sarcasm and bitterness here for the world wide leader in selective reporting...BEAT NAVY!

He ain't even stretch doe!!

+2 HS
evantosu30's picture

Both from same class and both from texas.. hill was rated a little bit higher but I am guessing its because of jts injury sr year

Frimmel's picture

Well Navy isn't some overrated SEC team so I don't see them stinking it up nearly as bad as SC did.

CC's picture

SEC - Temple 37 - Vandy 7

+2 HS
saluki2007's picture

Big Ten = 2 - 0

SEC = 2 - 2

+3 HS
Cincity Buck's picture

James Franklin left the cupboard empty.  Shame on him.

+7 HS
Zimmy07's picture

I did not see this!  Temple went 2-10 last year.  AND lost to Fordham.  Bwah ha ha ha!

+1 HS
Barnsey69's picture

I am taking a kool-aid bath, and it is refreshing. Sticking with my 11W hat winning score of 45-14, and not because I had to pick a score that wasn't already posted, but because I really think this team is going to explode...and Navy is in the way.

As long as the O-line gives Barrett some time, I think our athletes will just dominate the game. Meyer will not take his foot off the gas, so no repeat of 2009. And the defense will stifle the triple option.

My gut just says domination.

GO BUCKS! Beat Navy!

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

+2 HS
AndyVance's picture

With this game, I'm a bit torn on the best thing that could happen... On the one hand I feel like we'd better come out swinging, scoring early and often. But on the other hand I worry that if our first series is too easy that the guys will get lulled into a false sense of confidence against a talented squad of Midshipmen. Having to work for it a little, in other words, might be a good thing in the long run.

Can kickoff get here soon, please?

+2 HS
camodog's picture

1 day 1hr 45min 20 sec to go!!!

Buckeye BadDog's picture

Red shirt freshmen who attend football powerhouses like Ohio State are capable of anything, both good and bad. But I think recent history from such debuts at other schools - FSU last year and TA&M last night - bode well for JT and the Buckeyes. And BeatTTUN has it exactly right in the comment above, the difference between most other freshmen starting QBs and JT Barrett is that JT's coach is Urban Meyer.

I was as excited as I normally am for the start of the Ohio State football season before the news about Braxton, but now I am absolutely giddy with anticipation. Tomorrow will tell us right away whether we are going to experience something truly magical (akin to FSU's run last year) or struggle with the inconsistencies that come with an inexperienced team. It all depends on whether the team is more scared or more hungry.  A scared beast, no matter how weak the opponent, can always be defeated. A hungry beast, no matter how young and inexperienced, can defeat all comers.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Albert Einstein

"Nothing that comes easy is worth a dime." - Woody Hayes

McBane's picture
Football season is finally here!
+1 HS
sivaDavis's picture

I love Braxton and hate that he got injured. That being said, I always thought Herman depended on Braxton way too much. Now it is a great thing that we have a QB as athletically gifted as B is but I always thought as long as Braxton and Hyde were in the backfield, we wouldn't utilize all the weapons out wide as much as we should. With JT back there, Herman has to use the abundant of weapons he has. I think in some way, it's a blessing in disguise. Hopefully we will see tomorrow. 

"I've had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven't run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can't outwork you, then smarts aren't going to do them much good." - Woody Hayes

+1 HS
Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

Looking forward to tomorrows game. For anyone who is going (flying in) look for the marc train at the BWI airport. It'll take you right to the stadium downtown. I live in Baltimore and will be taking it. No hassle with parking!! FTW!!

Kernfan's picture

Isn't that the light rail? I take MARC in everyday into DC and they don't look like that, also, I don't think any of the MARC trains run on Saturdays.  I was thinking of taking the light rail or subway in instead of driving.  psyched to finally see OSU football in person for the first time.

Buckeyeholicwompa's picture

I'm is the light rail. and needless to say it was PACKED with Buckeye fans today!!


I guessed 29-14 but I'd happily take 31-17. 30 PPG with an entire new offense is more than acceptable, especially if the D is fixed.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

Woody16111's picture

If this game were at home I would feel a lot better, then again I felt that way in 2009.

The odds makers have the Buckeyes 14.5 pt favorites - that is with a frosh QB and all those known unknowns highlighted in the article. 

I like the fact Ohio State's strongest unit is the D Line going up against the Triple Option. Ohio State needs to be real careful they don't give up the big bomb pass down the field. This might not be as much of an athletic test as a discipline test for Ohio State as well.

I'm concerned because its on the road and that there is a bunch of known unknowns. By now, the former doesn't matter, it is what it is and the later will be sorted out by halftime.

Ohio State 35 Navy 10.

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

Completed the "Double Skully" 18-August-2015