While Ohio State never trailed and was in control for the entirety of its 62-39 win over Michigan at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, there was one sequence that threatened to swing the game in the visiting team’s favor, and Demario McCall was largely responsible for that.
After the Wolverines scored their first touchdown of the game with 47 seconds to play in the first half, cutting Ohio State’s lead at that point of the game to 21-13, McCall dropped Michigan’s ensuing kickoff, allowing Michigan to recover the loose ball at the 9-yard line. One play later, Michigan scored another touchdown, and suddenly, the Buckeyes’ lead was cut to just two points (the Wolverines attempted to tie the game on a two-point conversion, but failed).
Following such a costly mistake, some coaches might have chosen to send that player to the bench. Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes, however, sent McCall back deep on the very next Michigan kickoff, which he fielded cleanly.
Then, on Ohio State’s ensuing offensive possession, McCall got open up the right sideline and caught a pass from Dwayne Haskins that went for a 33-yard gain, setting up a short Blake Haubeil field goal that put the Buckeyes back up by five before halftime.
McCall finished the game with two catches for 44 yards, as well as two kickoff returns for 22 yards.
Presumably, McCall – who replaced Johnnie Dixon at kickoff returner after Dixon made a gaffe on his own one week earlier at Maryland, failing to field a kickoff and allowing the Terrapins to recover the ball deep in Ohio State territory – will be on a short leash now, with another potential returner ready to go if McCall makes any more careless mistakes with the ball.
The fact that he was kept in the game at kickoff returner and saw some playing time on offense is an encouraging sign for McCall, though, considering that his involvement on offense is a recent development and he was removed from punt return duties after making a few mistakes in that area early in the season.
Knox carted off with injury
Although Saturday’s dominant victory was certainly a great way for Ohio State to send its 12 seniors out, the day came to an unfortunate end for one of the Buckeyes’ outgoing players.
With less than two minutes to play and the outcome well determined, fifth-year senior right guard Demetrius Knox suffered an injury that required him to be carted off the field and back to the locker room.
Demetrius Knox with the O-H as he was carted off the field in the final minute. pic.twitter.com/Mpqjm9U2R6— Colin Hass-Hill (@chasshill) November 24, 2018
No official update on Knox’s health was provided after the game, so the severity of his injury remains unclear.
If Knox is unable to play in next Saturday’s Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern, it’s likely that redshirt freshman Wyatt Davis – who checked into the game in his place after his injury (and briefly earlier in the game as well) and has been named by Meyer as the “next man in” on the offensive line – would make his first career start at right guard.
Meyer shows emotion
A win over Michigan is always special for Meyer, but perhaps the most poignant moment of the day for Ohio State’s head coach came after the game was over.
As captured by 10TV’s Dom Tiberi, Meyer shared a moment outside the stadium just after Saturday’s game with his wife, Shelley; his children Nicki, Gigi and Nate; Nicki’s husband, Corey Dennis, who is a senior quality control coach for the Buckeyes; and his grandson, Troy.
When Tiberi asked Meyer about that moment after the game, the head coach began to answer before taking about 10 seconds to compose himself, then continuing to explain how important his family is to him.
“There's no one that means more to me than her,” Meyer said of Shelley before pausing. “There's nothing more important than my three kids and my grandson, and another one on the way, and to see their smiles on their face, that's priceless and that's something I'll never forget.”
It’s been a trying season for Meyer and his family. He was suspended for the Buckeyes’ first three games of the year after Ohio State determined that he failed to take sufficient action against alleged misconduct by former assistant coach Zach Smith. He has also battled headaches as a result of an arachnoid cyst in his brain, leading to questions about his health and his future.
On Saturday, however, the Buckeyes had reason to celebrate – as Meyer improved to 7-0 against Michigan as Ohio State’s head coach – and it was evident how much that win meant to him.
“To see the people I love the most, my players and our staff and my family enjoy it, that's all I care about,” Meyer said. “You care deeply about your family, care deeply about your players. And I do care deeply about the school.”