Why Ohio State's Failed Fourth-And-One Attempt Changed the Navy Game And Why It Could Change the Season

By Patrick Maks on September 3, 2014 at 8:35a
67 Comments

After an insipid display of offense in the first half of Ohio State's win against Navy last weekend, the Buckeyes desperately needed momentum. Head coach Urban Meyer was determined to give it to them.

Trailing Navy, 14-13, about midway through the third quarter, his squad faced a fourth-and-1 at midfield. So Meyer dialed up a handoff for sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott to keep a once-promising drive alive. The offense hurried up to the line of scrimmage and got set. It wasn't a complicated play.  It was supposed to work. All they needed was one yard.

Instead, the Midshipmen blasted through Ohio State’s porous offensive line and slammed Elliott for a two-yard two loss. Gone was the chance to secure footing in a tight game and, now, quarterback Keenan Reynolds and Navy’s potent option offense had to only drive 50-something yards to put the mighty Buckeyes on their heels.

But it was here, of all of Saturday’s moments, where Ohio State took control of a tense game that seemed to teeter on something worse. It was here where its maligned defense bailed out its young and Braxton Miller-less offense.

“We came right back,” Meyer said, “and we held them to five yards.”

For every yard the Mids advanced forward, Ohio State turned them back the next play, whether it was stuffing runs at the line of scrimmage, tackles-for-loss or a sack.

“That was the difference in the game,” Meyer said Monday.

After all, when the Buckeyes got the ball back a few minutes player, quarterback J.T. Barrett heaved a 80-yard pass to wide receiver Devin Smith to break that broke open the contest. The Buckeyes outscored Navy 21-3 down the stretch before winning 34-17.

Maybe it’s the difference in the season for the Buckeyes, too.

“We spent a lot of time talking to our team about that. Chemistry on our team is very good,” Meyer said.

Because not a lot of defenses, perhaps Ohio State’s 2013 outfit included, like being put in a unfavorable and precious position thanks to an offensive shortcoming.

Players, Meyer said, have a tendency to ask “why did we do this, why do we do this” when something like a critical fourth-down attempt goes wrong or, better yet, when going for it in the first place seems trivial.

But as long as Meyer’s in charge, expect Ohio State to take risks. Lots of them.

“I think we make it very clear we're probably going to go for it next week,” Meyer said of the prospect of aggressive play-calling against Virginia Tech Saturday.

Get used to heart-stopping fourth down situations and get ready for what happens when they won’t work.

“When they say defense,” Meyer said, “your job is to stop people.”

Duh. But it’s another thing to go stop people with your back firmly pressed against the wall because the offense put you there. That breeds dissent and dissent breeds deep-rooted problems that manifest themselves out over the course of a season. Maybe even like last year.

Things, if they were ever that way, are different now.

“As a defense, that’s the kind of stuff we really enjoy. You know, you get on some teams and guys will be like, man I don’t know why coach went for it fourth-and-whatever, but our mentality is man I hope coach goes for it on fourth-and-whatever,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said.

“Because if he doesn’t get it, we’ll go there and we’ll play really good defense and if he does (get it), I know the offense is about to score off of that. It’s just one of those things where our mentality is we’re gonna go with whatever the offense does and we’re just gonna play hard defense every series.”

Added Meyer: “Coach (Luke) Fickell and coach (Chris) Ash made the comment to me it's the best (defense) they've seen in the last couple of maybe three years even as far as just when it's sudden change situation or a fourth down you don't get it."

The game plan?

"You just go do your job," Meyer said. 

67 Comments

Comments

UrbanRenewal's picture

I hope Urban is our coach until he's 90 years old.

O-H born & raised

+19 HS
Fatpants's picture

I don't. Coaches over 80 79 3/4 do embarrassing things:

+16 HS
UrbanRenewal's picture

There's no way he was 80 when this happened

O-H born & raised

-1 HS
skycake's picture

You're right, he was about two months shy of his 80th birthday when it happened. 

+9 HS
Jpfbuck's picture

skycake is correct he was 79 and didnt turn 80 until december of that year

+1 HS
Boxley's picture

Except for all of the pedophile stuff and coverup had been going on for over ten years before that.

"...the man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done." President T. Roosevelt

Buckeyeneer's picture

Skycake? You a Patton Oswalt fan?

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes

THE Ohio State University

buckeyedude's picture

Didnt Hoke have to leave a game in a hurry because he had to take a shit?

 

 

+1 HS
Wesleyburgess1's picture

Normally Hoke just shits on the field.

+9 HS
Fatpants's picture

Yeah, his massive shit pile stands on the sideline wearing the sun and blue. 

+2 HS
CGroverL's picture

When making fun of M*ch*gan's song "The Victors" (yuck) at the sports bar 10 years ago, the Illini fans (it is a Chicago sports bar in Florida) with myself used to sing "The Victors" with our own, sometimes vulgar words. Somehow, a lot of the time, the song ended with "Hail, Hail to M*ch*gan, the cesspool of the world"...

I had no idea though back then that they would later hire a mediocre head coach from Dayton, Ohio with a career coaching record of just 2 games above .500 that actually added to the cesspool right there in AA on the freakin' field. Don't let his fat, stay puft marshmallow man ass do that in the "Shoe now. Hell he should be arrested on grossness alone anyway. Does Ohio have a law against jelly donuts eaten in a 2 hour period or anything like that? They should. I only really hate Brady Hoke because he is a traitor from the SAME CITY that I'm from though. Sorry that I let things get out of hand.

I once remember the Seminole's horse carrying in "Chief Osceola" and afterwards leaving a pile on the field...but that is a horse. Maybe the staff at Ohio Stadium should put a few "no pooping" signs around in the 'Shoe for Hoke's next return. He's a nasty dude without crapping in his own pants. Hate that guy!

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

Scarlet Veins's picture

Yep WesleyBurgess, then Les Miles is sniffing around eating some grass...

“I don't know how fast he is, but I've never seen anyone catch him.”

Jim Tressel

osu07asu10's picture

Say what you will about Fickell, he has seemed to really take to Ash and Ash to him. It's only game 1 but they seem to have meshed quite well and what once could have been a major concern (staff cohesion) is looking to be a strength not just on defense but across the board.

That has to trickle down to the players too.

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

+12 HS
Brutus1972's picture

He should take to Ash. Ash just took over half of his responsibilities and Fickell got to keep his title for future resumes and full paycheck. Who wouldn't welcome a guy like that where they work? No Brainer!

-7 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

Fickle WAS NOT the problem. Urban got rid of the problems.

+11 HS
DefendYoungstown's picture

Urban had 99 problems and Fick ain't one

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

+3 HS
Brutus1972's picture

I don't recall calling anyone a problem in that post. You know what happens when you make an assumption? You make an ASS out of U and MPTION. " Thank you, Samuel L. Jackson"

CGroverL's picture

Thank you. I defend Fick and go -10 H.S. You defend him and get 11 upvotes in a 7 hour period. I guess I'm just going to have to get used to the fact that people hate me here. So much for my beloved Buckeye Nation, I guess.

Fickell has never been the problem as the defenses put together by Heacock and Fickell  finished in the top 5 in total defense and points allowed more than 50% of the time. On top of that, Fickell is the co-defensive coordinator, LB coach, while he also is the one that calls the defensive sets while having an equal (secondary coach Chris Ash is also co-defensive coordinator), and his immediate boss (Larry Johnson is not only the DL coach, he also is the asst. head coach) both right beside him on the field. It is probably fair to say that Fickell has more responsibility than any 2 Ohio State coaches and may have more jobs and responsibilities than any other coach in the country. He is hated by the majority of Buckeye Nation (it seems) and I think that comes from Buckeye fans being uninformed. Most Buckeye fans think that Fick is the defensive coordinator, period. He has never had that job title and always has had many more "jobs" than are listed. Plus he is a true Buckeye that started 50 consecutive games at NT/DT as a Buckeye player.

It is about time he was appreciated as he probably works more than anyone on the Buckeye staff as his job title and history show. Thanks for the excellent view and comment.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+2 HS
BeatTTUN's picture

I don't think the Navy game "changed" the season, I think it "personified" what Buckeye fans can expect from THE Ohio State Buckeyes this season.

Go Buckeyes Beat Michigan

+5 HS
JTbuckeye2436's picture

I still don't get that whole situation. That 4th down play never should have happened. Where was the communication from the booth communicating that they should wait for a review? Also how often does that rush to the line play actually work?

+6 HS
bigtenspeed's picture

I still don't understand why the ref would've thought that was a fumble on third down (when Zeke gained a first down). The ball popped out so late after he was down.

+2 HS
ralEbuckI's picture

I still don't understand why we don't have a jumbo formation for occasions like those. 

bigtenspeed's picture

We need Nickey Suahluahahal

nickel beer's picture

Now there's a blast from the  past.

I spend zero time on that.

Brutus1972's picture

Gut check for the O Line. If you cant convert 3rd or 4th and short vs Navy, you know you have an uphill battle at the line of scrimmage throughout the season.

+3 HS
James Mee's picture

While I would agree with you, the problem is, they did convert 3rd down. There was just a bad spot, so they ran a hurry up play. They should not have gotten blown off the line, but that's what happens sometimes. 

+2 HS
GVerrilli92's picture

Is it getting blown off the line when the defense calls a full house blitz? Everybody knew IZ was coming.

Still, I liked the call because Urban took matters into his own hands. It's easy to yell at the tv, but I see his rationale. The football gods had not been kind to us all day and Urb didn't wanna give them another chance to screw with the game.

Still watching that Navy 4th and 1 TD just makes me go ".... but. how?" A lot of things were going their way.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

GVerrilli92's picture

Is it getting blown off the line when the defense calls a full house blitz? Everybody knew IZ was coming.

Still, I liked the call because Urban took matters into his own hands. It's easy to yell at the tv, but I see his rationale. The football gods had not been kind to us all day and Urb didn't wanna give them another chance to screw with the game.

Still watching that Navy 4th and 1 TD just makes me go ".... but. how?" A lot of things were going their way.

How many cheeseburgers are you gunna drive into that dirty old cheeseburger locker Brady Hoke?

CGroverL's picture

Exactly correct. The strange thing is that the refs spotted the ball at the spot of the fumble recovery (which was not a fumble, of course). I've watched the game 3 times and seen that play 10+ times. The refs treated the play as a fumble and recovery as the whistles never blew until the "fumble" was recovered. I guess it was the refs first game, too. I, like you, agree with the 4th down call and the hurry up to the play. In another comment someone acted like that play never works. That 4th down hurry up seems to have worked for this Urban Meyer Ohio State offense on more than just a few occasions and is hardly ever stuffed.

When Ohio State had the ball inside the Navy 10, I would have loved to have seen Meyer run #7 up the middle on 3rd down...and then run to the line on 4th down (if #7 didn't get the first down) for a hurry up 4th and 1 play to #7 again. I know we all love Ezekiel Elliott, but #7 is a true power rusher and he is the only one on the squad. I truly believe that if #7 had 2 shots at one yard inside Navy's 10 that Ohio State ends up with 7 points instead of 3 points after a 4th down pitch to Elliott with 175 pound Dontre Wilson providing the lead block lost about half of the field. I mention Wilson being 175 pounds because I know a couple of students that both told me when Wilson announced that he reached 190 pounds, that that was 100% untrue and both guessed him at the same 175 that he played at last season. I don't think Wilson NEEDS to be at 190...Percy Harvin was never that big and the position is somewhat named after Harvin.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+1 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Upon review, they would have concluded that the second effort never happened.  The spot where the "fumble" was recovered and where Elliott was down by contact via his left forearm were nearly identical.  

I wish someone would post a gif of this play so everyone could see that Elliott was down before he made the second effort.

Read my entire screen name....

CC's picture

Feel free to make the gif and post it.

+2 HS
Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

I'm too old to know or learn how to do that.  It's also besides the point, I'm not the one arguing the wrong call was made so the burden of proof really isn't on me.

Read my entire screen name....

CGroverL's picture

Being old...I don't even know what "gif" means. I know what a "gif" is, but I, too, have no idea how to post one.

After watching the play over and over, it seemed to me as the refs spotted the ball at the spot of the fumble recovery even though there was no real fumble. I'm chalking that play up to being the first week for both the refs and the replay officials. Football is strange....If you give Elliott that 1st down, Barrett doesn't throw that INT, and the Buckeye offense runs short yardage inside Navy's 10 on 3rd and 4th down instead of that outside run by Elliott, this game might have had a final score closer to 51-17. I know that the Buckeye D did not play great, but they played good enough to blow out Navy and possibly just a few plays made a huge difference in the final score.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

+1 HS
avail31678's picture

Yep OB - we've danced this dance already.  He was down before he rolled over the defender.  If a couple of noobs like you and I caught the forearm on the ground, I'm sure replay would have as well.

+2 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

It would never work if you don't try it

jascott14's picture

I think a play action with JT rolling to the outside with all the Navy players thinking it would be a hand off up the middle would have gained a first down too.

Jason A Scott

QBYBuckeye's picture

A coach's primary mission is to create pressure situations for his charges and guide them through those pressure situations.  It is in these situations that boys become men and  establish the foundation for future success in the game of life.  At Ohio State they also have the luxury of winning lots of football games in the process.

New York Buckeye

+1 HS
MN Buckeye's picture

I like Meyer's aggressive attitude. Stuff will happen. I was surprised that the defense responded so well following the missed 4th down opportunity, since the triple option had been gaining yards all day.

+1 HS
GoBuckeyes1020's picture

That play is a perfect example of how not being able or willing to take a snap under center can be a big problem and take away options in short yardage situations. Glad our defense and offense both responded!

The pain of discipline or the pain of regret, take your pick

BuckeyeStrong2's picture

I hope Urban also remembers never to run that speed option at the goal line again. Eerily similar to "Give Hyde the damn ball."

+4 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

Braxton would have scored. There was an alley for the QB to cut up field and score.

+1 HS
chitown buckeye's picture

Yeah, Braxton wasn't in the game, hence don't call the play for a first time starter.

"I'm having a heart attack!"

+2 HS
vitaminB's picture

And againt a team that practices against the option every day in practice.

+1 HS
CGroverL's picture

I agree 100%. Why did you get downvoted for your comment, though? No offense, but since I get downvoted for every comment I make, it makes me feel good to know that I'm not the only one that people are pricks to for no reason. Here a +1 to even out this tough crowd I deal with. I was at 450 H.S. and then said that Rod Smith is the best RB on the squad and defended Luke Fickell a few times about 6 weeks ago. I'm now at about 425 H.S. because I tell the truth and back it up with stats and facts. People here don't like that.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

OH1O State's picture

You are such a Drama Queen Grover... 
THAT is what people don't like.

Always whining about votes and stickers and "wahhhh people are mean to me in cyberspace"...

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

+2 HS
OH1O State's picture

By the way,  I think you meant "525" not "425"...
you want to be a "stats" guy but cant even get those right.

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

CGroverL's picture

Agreed...besides, the pitch was the wrong decision anyway. Who downvoted you? I'm really starting to hate this place but will only leave if I'm kicked out. Some people know football, some don't. Some people watch the game, some people WATCH the game. I have a feeling that a lot of these downvotes that I'm seeing are just child's play from kids that don't know football and don't really watch the games. They want all of the freshmen to play instead of the upperclassmen because of hype and such. They don't realize how hard it is for freshmen and even redshirt freshmen to play in college football...especially at Ohio State. They see Manziel and Winston win Heisman Trophies and think Ohio State should be playing hyped freshmen...then downvote me for disagreeing with them. +1 for your smart comment.

"I hope they're last in everything"

Thanks, Urb!

-1 HS
OH1O State's picture

Get over yourself.

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."

Denny's picture

Shout out to the guy sitting next to me at the game who pointed out that 'Jim Tressel would have never gone for it on fourth down' in that situation.

Taquitos.

faux_maestro's picture

Must have forgotten about the 4th down early in the mNC game against Urbz and the Gators. I knew we were screwed when I saw them lining up for that. On second thought, let's all forget about that.

Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

steveoz49's picture

I'm excited to see Josh Perry playing more this week. 

_muckfichigan_'s picture

I try to stay away from Sunday morning coaching as much as I can and appreciate that fact that Meyer gets paid more than I do for a reason. Plus I love his aggressive style. But the defense has left me very optimistic of things to come. I can't wait to see our secondary against Va Tech

Go Bucks!!!

+2 HS
Dot D I's picture

Just goes to show how crucial it is to be stoic in the face of mounting momentum against you. Game changing plays often are a blip, and only in retrospect are they recognizable.  Simply doing one's job eliminates the variables and alleviates the bipolar effect momentum can have. Glad Meyer coaches to this.

Barnsey69's picture

Chemistry on our team is very good

Most important intangible in my opinion, and team means coaches too I am assuming.

GO BUCKS!

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!

+1 HS
whobdis's picture

I know I'm beating the proverbial dead horse here..but it really peaves me that we have replay and it's not used at crucial times or it flat out fails. Anyone could see the Navy back was oob prior to hitting the pylon. My 13 year old spotted on the first replay. The fumble should never have stayed. It seems it's arbitrary as to when something is reviewed. They'll review a 2 yard pass to see if the reciever was really inbounds then ignore a cruicial turnover.  I hope they do reviews of those in charge of replay reviews. 

+2 HS
ibuck's picture

A review shouldn't happen only when a coach calls for one. The replay officials need to take the initiative when needed. And that's more often than they seem to think.

Our honor defend, we will fight to the end !

If you can't win your conference, just quietly accept your non-playoff bowl game.

buckeyepastor's picture

I love Meyer's mindset about fourth down.  Personally, I think it draws something extra, something special, out of the players.  And it sends a message to both the offense and the defense that says, "I have absolute faith in you."   What's more, the more a team goes for it on fourth and short, the better they typically get at it, to the point where statistically they succeed most of the time.   What's more, even though it kills us when going for it fails as against MSU last year, it adds so much to the overall experience for fans.   

I will always appreciate Tressel, and I will always respect his point of view to take a more conservative approach.   But OSU doesn't win the title in 2002 without Tressel's decisions to go for it on fourth downs - against Illinois, against Purdue, and numerous times in the actual title game.   

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

+2 HS
causeicouldntgo43's picture

http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/62665328/#!bPaj4F

According to this article using NFL stats, you will be successful 63% of the time on average by going for it on fourth down, so makes sense in many situations. 

lippertini's picture

Yes, but that's 63% of the situations where they have gone for it in the past.  That does not mean, however, that if they go for it (GFI) more often, they will remain at 63%.  

You have to assume that coaches are choosing the most advantageous times to GFI, such as when their line is getting the better of the other team's, they have a great short-yardage back in the game, etc, and by extension, not GFI'ing when they don't sense that advantage.  

+2 HS
James Mee's picture

I'm not sure I loved the hurry up call. If you're in that situation on defense the default play probably should be a sell out blitz, because the obvious idea is to run, especially if you went right up to the line. If they let the replay go, they might have at least gotten a better play call. My arm chair coaching call, quick slants to Jeff Greene, because he's such a big body. Or a read option, if I thought they weren't going to blitz. 

-1 HS
rkylet83's picture

Our team will have to grow one game at a time.  The one thought that I took away from the Navy game was we're green right now, but once we get some consistency we have all of the tools to beat anyone.  We're not ready for MSU yet, but one things for sure we will be a better team in November than we are now.

+1 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Good positive statement.  Lets see what happens in late October or November.  I thinking Urban wants to put 50 on Franklin and he will challenge the hell out of the defense to stop and crush PSU.  Silver Bullets will be flying!

Buckeye in Texas

BuckeyeJAK's picture

I would like to see the O-line dominate and the power running game show up so we make the first downs and not leave it up to the refs to begin with

Mark May is a mental midget

Leonarjl's picture

I think converting on fourth and short is much more devastating to an opposing defense than not converting is for our offense.  A defense feels like they have won the battle holding on third down, only to be totally deflated by the next play. If our offense doesn't convert, at least they play with the confidence and expectation that they will convert most of the time and the gamble should payoff...Go Bucks! 

JL

Bmore Buckeye's picture

The last sentence of the article says it best...... "You just go do your job".  It's really easy to come down hard on these houng men for their short comings and mistakes... The gift and curse of this team is that they're young.  My goodness, talent wise, this could be one of the best teams we've ever had.  They're gonna get better hopefully sooner than later..... but as they improve and gain that chemistry, if everyone does their job, we'll be successful and at the very least contend for the B1G Championship.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

brglr14's picture

i too have no issue with the 4th down hurry up and go. what I do have a  problem with is leadership. sorry. someone on that field in scarlet should of stepped up and calmed everyone down and wait for the review.

I dont know karate but i do know crazy and i'm not afraid to use it.