Moments after Ohio State's 50-28 win against Cincinnati on Saturday, head coach Urban Meyer wasted little time letting everyone know what the biggest reason was for the Buckeyes' coming away with the win.
"We're an offensive line‐driven team and they won the game for us," Meyer said in his post-game press conference. "They controlled that line of scrimmage and they protected our quarterback."
And after having a couple days to process the game and watch film, Meyer echoed those comments Monday during his weekly press conference when he revealed the entire offensive line was the team's player of the game.
Meyer handed out the same accolade to his line after the Michigan State game in 2012, but we did not hear it last season despite Ohio State having one of its best lines in recent memory — a unit that featured four seniors, two of which are starters on NFL teams as rookies.
It didn't seem like something that would happen, either. At least not this year. Not after the Buckeyes surrendered seven sacks in a 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2.
"We feel like we're headed in the right direction," offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. "Are we a finished product? No. Are we coming along pretty nicely? Yes. I mean, there's not really anything different other than we're developing some consistency and playing with a good demeanor."
Consistency seems to be the key word for the Buckeyes. They've drastically improved their play up front since the fourth quarter of the game against the Hokies where they surrendered six of their seven sacks.
And while the defenses it is playing against aren't as strong as Virginia Tech's, Ohio State has only allowed one sack since that point.
Against Cincinnati, the Buckeyes amassed 710 yards of total offense and set a Big Ten record with 45 first downs. Ohio State ran the ball for 380 yards and threw it for 310. The offense clicked on all cylinders.
“We’ve played a couple games together now, we’re feeling more comfortable together and Coach Warinner is just trying to keep everyone engaged," starting right tackle Darryl Baldwin said. "Offensive line is kind of about getting in a groove, especially with the center and guards, you’ve gotta trust each other so we’re just trying to build trust as much as we can.”
A lot of that trust can be built through time on the field together. The Buckeyes seem to have finally settled in on a unit they're comfortable playing together: Baldwin, Billy Price, Jacoby Boren, Pat Elflein and Taylor Decker with Chase Farris rotating in occasionally.
"You could see it in their eyes, the confidence they have and they feel that they can go out and play and they know how to adjust to little things that happen in the game and they can make sideline adjustments and that all is a process again of comfort, confidence and just playing," Warinner said. "That process is happening and we just need it to continue to happen as we go into Big Ten play."
Ohio State still has aspirations to play for a league title and as the Buckeyes enter their conference schedule, they may be able to look back at the victory against the Bearcats as a sort of turning point in their season, especially for the offensive line.
“We needed it a lot," Baldwin said. "We’ve been getting a lot of criticism this year about how young we are and inexperienced so just to see a game like that come together where we’re getting yards in the air and on the ground it’s just adding to all our confidence that we already had.”