No one will soon forget what happened between Ohio State and Michigan in 2016.
Especially not Urban Meyer.
Sequestered in their respective homes along with the rest of the country, Meyer and host Gerry DiNardo spent an hour on Saturday night broadcasting themselves on Big Ten Network’s Instagram rewatching the 2016 rendition of The Game. Ultimately, the Buckeyes topped the Wolverines, 30-27, in double overtime in one of the greatest victories of the Meyer era.
Here are 13 insights from Meyer about that year’s Ohio State-Michigan game from his BTN Instagram live with DiNardo.
Best He Ever Faced
Seven times, Meyer’s Ohio State teams faced Michigan, and seven times they won. The opposition in 2016, though, in his mind at least, was the toughest.
“That was, I think, that was the Wolverines' best team they had since I've been coaching against them,” Meyer said.
Specifically, that thought stemmed from one side of the ball. Meyer said that year Michigan had its best defense he had ever coached against.
He had been warned about it. Meyer had a coach on each side of the ball watch Michigan film every week. As the game creeped closer, offensive assistant Tim Hinton let him know what was waiting in the final game of the regular season.
“This year, I remember looking at his face,” Meyer said. “We knew it was coming at the end of the year. He said, 'Coach, that's as good a defense as we've ever faced.' When we play them here in a few weeks, that just gives you a sick feeling in your stomach.”
Ohio State managed 330 total yards, averaging 3.9 yards per passing attempt and 4.1 yards per rush.
“Our defense kept us in the game,” Meyer said.
Take a look back at the 2016 Ohio State-Michigan game, and it’s immediately clear that the Buckeyes aren’t wearing one of their usual looks. Rather, along with scarlet jerseys and gray pants, they rocked black helmets.
Under Meyer, alternate uniform combinations became a regularity.
“I love tradition, but there's one thing I like better than tradition, and that's getting a great recruit.”
“It's ultimately Gene Smith's decision,” Meyer said. “Both of us sit, Nike comes to us every year, and they did this before I was even a coach, and they'd ask if we'd be interested. We'd look at the uniform. What I started to find out is recruits don't like it, they love it. So mine was strictly for recruiting. Someone said, ‘Don’t you like the tradition?’ I said I love tradition, but there's one thing I like better than tradition, and that's getting a great recruit.”
Spoken like one of the best accumulators of talent college football has ever seen.
Not Just A Game
Meyer recalled once speaking alongside Alabama’s Nick Saban, who said opponents are faceless and that it never matters which team you’re facing. To say Meyer disagrees with that philosophy would be an understatement.
He, at multiple times in the hour-long broadcast, mentioned how Ohio State worked on preparing to face Michigan every day of the year.
“To be able to stand on that sideline and look across the field that you have to win,” Meyer said. “The old, ‘Lose all your games but win this game and you're OK.’ I'm not sure that's exactly true. But that's the mentality we had.”
DiNardo scoffed at the notion. Meyer shot back a defense.
“Gerry, you don't have to buy it, but you have to say the right things because I'll tell you what, the old dogs, the old Buckeye Nation,” Meyer said. “If you don't believe, that's fine, but you'd better say it. I want a coach someday to go in there and say, 'We're going to treat all the games the same.' I just want to see that happen.”
No Time to Chat with Officials
Whether it’s just his goal or he actually abides by it, Meyer says he prefers not to speak with referees during the game.
“I try not to,” Meyer said. “A lot of times, officials will come talk to you. I just am so busy and I'm not being disrespectful, but they've got a job to do, I've got a job to do, and talking to the official ain't one of them.”
So, he doesn’t believe in the idea of working the officials?
“I never bought that,” he said.
Sick to His Stomach
Early in the second half of the rewatch, DiNardo told Meyer to take viewers through the fake punt.
“Do I have to?” Meyer asked.
DiNardo said he did, so the former Ohio State head coach obliged. Meyer narrated as, with the Buckeyes trailing 10-7, punter Cameron Johnston rushed for a three-yard gain on 4th-and-6 from his team’s 19-yard line. A devastating turnover on downs.
“The drive before, we started losing the line of scrimmage,” Meyer said. “And I always have the plan to win written in a manila folder I always have on me, and I had my momentum plays. A momentum play might be a reverse, it might be a trick play. It could be a fake punt. We had to check. If they were going to be in rush mode, we were not going to run it. And they were in a hold-up and we had a chance, and we just missed a block and Cam got sacked.”
In the moment, he feared the worst.
“Right now, you're sick to your stomach,” Meyer said. “If they score, the thing that went through my mind is I, as the play caller and head coach, lost this game. We're third-and-5, we're trying to hold them off here, but they get the first down and they go in to score. We're down 17-7 in the third quarter.”
Three Plays That Stand Out
Turnovers, in Meyer’s mind, swung the game.
“I think there were three critical plays,” Meyer said.
Malik Hooker’s pick six late in the first half. Wilton Speight’s fumble at the 1-yard line early in the third quarter. Jerome Baker’s interception of Speight in the third quarter.
Baker’s pick gave Ohio State the ball at Michigan’s 13-yard line with 1:30 remaining in the third quarter. Two plays later, Mike Weber scored a 1-yard touchdown to cut the Wolverines’ lead to 17-14.
“To me, the momentum is officially starting the shift in the game,” Meyer said.
Special Teams Troubles
To end the rivalry game's first drive, despite going 16-for-16 on field goals in the 11 preceding games, Tyler Durbin missed a 37-yard kick. He didn’t get a shot at redemption until Ohio State had the ball at Michigan’s 2-yard line while trailing 17-14 with 7:01 remaining. Meyer sent Durbin onto the field with a shot to knot it up at 17 points apiece with a 21-yard kick..
He missed. Again.
“It's shocking because our kicker was very good,” Meyer said.
Michigan’s three-and-out gave the ball back to Ohio State at its own 18-yard line.
Twelve plays and 77 yards later, the Buckeyes were down to the Wolverines’ 5-yard line. Marcus Baugh had just snagged a 13-yard reception, and Meyer called a timeout with five seconds remaining in the game. His team trailed by three points. He had a decision to make: Try to win the game on one play or attempt a game-tying chip shot field goal with Durbin.
“There's a part of me that almost went for it here,” Meyer said.
Meyer opted to give Durbin another shot, and he hit a 23-yard field goal with one second remaining. A 17-17 tie.
Before Ohio State and Michigan took the game into overtime, Jourdan Lewis returned the final kick of regulation all the way to the Buckeyes' 43-yard line, putting another scare in them before the clock finally hit zero.
“I can hear Chris Fowler talking about the Buckeye faithful were worried about that one. So was that guy in the white shirt,” said Meyer, referring to himself.
The “Loudest” Meyer remembers It
Since Michigan won the coin toss in overtime, it deferred, giving Ohio State the ball first. That also allowed the Buckeyes to choose which side of the field to defend. Oftentimes, Meyer said, that doesn’t matter at home.
But in this game, Meyer wanted the Wolverines to have to score going into Ohio State’s Block O South student section.
“That's right. I remember that,” Meyer said. “I wanted to have them go into our students, and it was loud.”
“This is the loudest I've ever heard our stadium.”
Ultimately, Speight hit Amara Darboh for a five-yard touchdown on 4th-and-goal to send the game into double overtime. However, Meyer hasn’t forgotten the Ohio Stadium crowd at that moment.
“This is the loudest I've ever heard our stadium,” Meyer said.
A Game-Saving Play
Michigan had just hit a 37-yard field goal in double overtime, putting Ohio State in a situation where a touchdown would win the game and a field goal would send it into triple overtime.
A 5-yard run from J.T. Barrett and a 4-yard sack put the Buckeyes in an uncomfortable 3rd-and-9 situation from the Wolverines’ 24-yard line. That set Curtis Samuel up for a remarkable, roundabout eight-yard gain.
“It's actually a misread by our quarterback,” Meyer said. “Curtis Samuel's going to swing to the right. We're reading a linebacker again. Watch Curtis' effort here. If he gets stopped here, we lose the game. And he launches himself here and gets us to fourth-and-1.”
“The Spot” Nearly Never Happened
When Samuel went down, Ohio State got put in a game-on-the-line, 4th-and-1 situation. But Meyer wasted no time.
“We try to go fast,” Meyer said. “We're going tempo. Right now, I know we're going. I'm saying, 'Go jet, jet, jet jet,' which means go fast. And we're going to run just an inside zone to Mike Weber. We're trying to get him going.”
Michigan, scrambling to get into position, responded by calling a timeout.
If Jim Harbaugh didn't use his only timeout, who knows whether Weber would’ve picked up the first down or not. But what became known as “The Spot” never would have happened.
Going For It Regardless
Michigan calling a timeout allowed Ohio State to rethink its fourth-down plan. On the 16-yard line, was it worth kicking a field goal hoping to send it into triple overtime?
Meyer didn’t second guess the decision to go for it.
“Our kicker was great,” Meyer said. “But I saw the look in Durbin's face as he came off after he missed the one. And in my heart, I'm thinking we have to score a touchdown to win. We're going to get to the fourth-down call here in a minute, but we would've went for it regardless. If it was 4th-and-2, we would've went for it.”
With the game on the line, Barrett pounded the ball up the middle, barely getting the ball to the first-down marker.
“This is intense now,” Meyer said. “I'm standing right there and I see the line judge put the ball down, and all you've got to do is get to the 15. And they called first down. Wow. And the official linesman on the side said, ‘Coach, they're buzzing me. We're going to replay it.’ I thought, ‘Oh, gosh.’”
The call stood. First down, Ohio State.
Michigan’s Offensive Line Coach Beat Michigan
One play later, Samuel finished it.
To wrap up one of the greatest Ohio State-Michigan games of all time, Samuel got the ball in his hands, followed Weber as the lead blocker, cut inside, raced toward the end zone and leaped, arms outstretched, as he crossed the goal line. As Samuel wrote in the Instagram Live as the play happened: Ball game.
Who called the game-winning play? Former Ohio State offensive coordinator and current Michigan offensive line coach Ed Warinner, per Meyer.
“We lined up in an unbalanced formation, motioned back,” Meyer said. “One of the few times they didn't adjust properly and we outnumbered them to the boundary, and Curtis obviously accelerated in for the win.”
Immediately after Samuel scored, Meyer fell to the ground with relief.
“I don't even remember doing it,” Meyer said. “I remember people yanking on your headset. I saw Troy Smith talking about fans are nuts when they rush on the field, trying to grab anything they can, headsets or game plans.”
His Personal Runner-Up Michigan Win
Meyer has won enough against Michigan that he can rank each individual game. So, was the 2016 victory his favorite?
“It was this one until the last one we played in, what was that, 2018 at home, 62-39,” Meyer said. “That was a halfway enjoyable game. This was not enjoyable until the clock ticked zero. Actually, it wasn't even done when the clock ticked zero. We went two overtimes.”