Lackluster Win Fails To Shake Confidence Of Meyer, OSU
By Matt Natali
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Despite a 20-point win in the season-opener against Buffalo, Ohio State’s performance Saturday left many underwhelmed and desiring more.
Ohio State (1-0) blasted out of the gates, scoring 23 first-quarter points and while racking up 216 yards of offense before the offense shifted into cruise control. For many, the lapse on offense raised some red flags — enough for the Associated Press to drop the Buckeyes from the No. 2-ranking in the country to the third spot.
Regardless of the expectations heading into the game, head coach Urban Meyer was satisfied overall and said the game unfolded just as he anticipated.
“(I was) very pleased with our win and very pleased with our fast start,” he said. “That was something that was real important. (I was) not very pleased when we had the lull in the second quarter when we had those four bad drives.
“I want to score every time we touch the ball and I’m disappointed if we don’t score. We came out of the gate the way I kind of envisioned, and we finished the game kind of like I imagined we would, too.”
The Buckeyes netted 460 yards of total offense by the final whistle.
Meyer’s players of the week included:
Offense: RB Jordan Hall (Sr.), WR Chris Fields (Sr.), WR Corey “Philly” Brown (Sr.)
Defense: DL Noah Spence (Soph.), CB Doran Grant (Jr.), S Christian Bryant (Sr.)
Special Teams: DB Ron Tanner (Soph.), DB Vonn Bell (Fr.)
“Because We Couldn’t Go For Three”
Following the first two touchdowns in the first quarter, Ohio State inserted back-up QB Kenny Guiton and succeeded on consecutive two-point conversion attempts (Guiton run, Guiton pass to RB Jordan Hall).
It was a strategy the most didn’t expect.
“It’s a chance to get some cheap points. We have been working on that since last February,” Meyer said. “It worked pretty (well). I don’t know how often we’ll do that but we usually decide that on Wednesday. It’s in the package.”
Long Time Coming
Hall tallied a career-high 159 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in his back-up role while senior Carlos Hyde and junior Rod Smith sat out for disciplinary reasons. Tabbed as the preseason starter last season and voted a 2012 captain, Hall had a freak foot injury that put him on the shelf for the majority of the season.
“He’s made an unbelievable change as a person,” running backs coach Stan Drayton said. “He’s grown tremendously. He’s a mature individual on the football field, very smart. He can sit there and come out of a series of the game and sit down on the bench and tell you exactly what goes on. So, that by itself is a tremendous quality to have in an individual during the course of the game.”
Hall had all of 218 yards rushing and one touchdown in seven games last season.
Back On Track
A highly-touted recruit coming out of Painesville High School in northeast Ohio, Fields is under his third head coach with the Buckeyes. After not living up to expectations, rumors swirled following his junior year that he considered transferring from Ohio State, which he denied.
The fifth-year senior, with the encouragement of Meyer and the staff, rededicated himself, worked his way back into the good graces of the program through special teams play, and it culminated into three catches for 53 yards and two scores Saturday.
“(Fields is) one of the most improved players on our team,” Meyer said. “I admire Chris Fields. Chris Fields wasn’t in the Top 50 for playing a game last year, and he’s really the same talent. He’s just playing his tail off and doing a lot of things for us, and he’s doing it all right, too.”
Fields only had four catches for 55 yards and a touchdown in eight games last season.
Back In Action
The Buckeyes welcome back Smith and All-American CB Bradley Roby this week against San Diego State after one-game disciplinary suspensions. Fifth-year senior and honorable mention All-Big Ten selection SS C.J. Barnett will start after battling an ankle injury.
“I think we are more suited now that we get our two players back in the secondary,” said Meyer, even though he has yet to officially name Roby or Barnett starters. “No one has that much depth. C.J. Barnett and Roby being back is certainly going to help us, though.”
Ohio State allowed 185 yards on 19-of-32 passing and two touchdowns with one interception against Buffalo.
The starting running back position appears to be Hall’s to lose but Meyer said Smith will be a factor on special teams and is not ruling him out for some touches on offense Saturday.
Running backs coach Stan Drayton added: “Rod Smith is an energy provider and like anything else, Rod Smith has to show his value on special teams rather early this week in practice. But Rod Smith, he brings the power component. He’s a guy who plays on contact. He plays through contact.”
On To The Next One
San Diego State (0-1) rolls into Columbus this week coming off a 40-19 loss to Eastern Illinois. Despite the loss, the Aztecs complied 440 offensive yards (318 passing, 122 rushing) on 99 offensive plays — yes, 99 offensive plays.
That is not a typo.
QB Adam Dingwell completed a personal best 27 passes on a school-record 63 attempts but also threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. Getting behind the eight ball as a result of the turnovers and losing bell cow RB Adam Muema in the second quarter (more to come on Muema), SDSU was forced to go to the air.
“I think that they kind of stepped out of their comfort zone a little bit,” Meyer said.
Eastern Illinois ran 82 plays and tallied 533 yards, but Drayton isn’t sleeping on the SDSU defense.
“The one thing I can see on film is that they are well-coached, they get off blocks on defense, they run around, and they are always around the football,” he said. “So we have got to be very, very tight with our game plan so that our players can play extremely fast against all the different looks that San Diego State will present.”
More On Muema
Muema rushed for 1,458 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, earning preseason All-Mountain West first team honors. He only had 17 yards on 10 carries before suffering an ankle injury in the second quarter.
“They are arguably the best tailback we’ll face all year,” Meyer said.
The San Diego Union Times reported earlier in the week that Muema will be ready to play Saturday.
Junior LB Jake Fely, the 2012 SDSU Defensive Player of the Year, will present some problems for Ohio State’s offense. Fely had 11.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks last season, earning preseason All-MWC honors for the 2013 campaign.
“He’s a very disruptive football player,” Drayton said. “The one thing that I can say is that he is a smart football player. He is a very physical football player and we definitely need to be aware of where he is every play.”
Fely collected eight tackles last week against Eastern Illinois.
For The Record
Ohio State is 3-0 all-time against SDSU with the most recent win coming in 2005 (27-6).
Meyer was 2-0 against SDSU as Utah’s head coach with wins in 2003 (27-6) and 2004 (51-28). SDSU head coach Rocky Long was the head coach at New Mexico while Meyer was manning the Utes and they split two MWC matchups, also in 2003 and 2004.
Ohio State 47, SDSU 13