December 14, 2012

12-OH: Primetime players

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Having just wrapped up a perfect season unlike any other in program history, it's hard not to look back at the last 12 months of Ohio State football and not only marvel at the unlikeliness of what the Buckeyes accomplished in 2012, but also how far they've come since their 6-7 mark in 2011. With that in mind, I'll spend 12 days examining and reflecting on the 12 most important moments that helped create and stand out from just the sixth unbeaten and untied season in Ohio State history.

Yesterday, we reflected on what Urban Meyer called the turning point of the Buckeyes' season. Today, we'll take you back to a primetime matchup that provided a glimpse into the potential of Ohio State's offense under its first-year head coach.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Through the first 15 minutes of Ohio State's first primetime showcase under first-year head coach Urban Meyer, it seemed like just another game for a struggling Buckeyes offense.

Ranked 12th overall in the country, Ohio State trailed No. 21 Nebraska, with the Buckeyes' only points coming on a Bradley Roby interception return for a touchdown. Plagued by the same slow starts that it had suffered all season, the OSU offense stumbled out of the gate, gaining a measly 17 yards on 13 plays while failing to convert a first down.

"It was terrible," Meyer said. "It was a dark day there for that first quarter."

An Ohio Stadium record crowd of 106,102 fans fell silent, fearful that it was about to witness the first loss of the Meyer era, and on primetime television, no less.

But after falling behind 17-7 in the second quarter, something clicked for Ohio State.

It started with a Carlos Hyde touchdown run and followed with a Jeff Heuerman reception for a score. By the time the Buckeyes and Cornhuskers headed into halftime, OSU had gained 242 additional yards and added 28 points to their total. And while the fans inside the stadium enjoyed a halftime show from the OSU marching band that would become an internet sensation, little did they know that the best from the Buckeyes was yet to come.

In the second half, OSU's offense exploded, turning a 35-24 halftime lead into a 63-38 final score. When all was said and done, the Buckeyes amassed 498 total yards of offense and 19 first downs, numbers that were all the more impressive given the team's slow start.

Meyer gave credit for the Buckeyes' turnaround to the play of their offensive line, who opened up the holes that allowed Hyde and OSU quarterback Braxton Miller to combine for 326 yards and five touchdowns on the ground alone.

"Our offensive line eventually took over that game," Meyer said. "We have two great runners right now. The quarterback is kind of ridiculous right now and Hyde is a solid back."

Although the OSU offensive outpour and plays like Corey Brown's 76-yard punt return touchdown left the record crowd and national television audience dazzled, the 38 points that the Buckeyes surrendered to the Huskers did leave some cause for concern.

"Defense can get better. Created some turnovers, but can get better," Meyer said. "Pleased with their effort, but we all know we can't give up those kind of yards and those kinds of points and win the game."

Those same defensive issues would re-present themselves just seven days later, but on that night in Columbus, all anybody was concerned about was that the Buckeyes suddenly seemed ahead of schedule.

"We had a bunch of recruits in that locker room afterwards. So you would start talking about future, you know, that's the name of the game, is go out and recruit new players and continue and build and keep going," Meyer said. "I'm very pleased with where we're at."


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