|Buckeyes like to run, then throw over a defense|
|Wednesday, October 02, 2013 12:10 AM|
By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer prefers the thunder. But that just sets up the lightning.
No. 4 Ohio State runs on 60 percent of its plays. Sending the tailbacks up the middle or Braxton Miller around end serve as body blows to soften a defense for what might just happen if they start to lean too heavily toward the line to stop the ground attack.
Then the Buckeyes throw deep.
“We couldn’t do that last year. There were games I refused to call it because they were going to be covered and we couldn’t throw it,” Meyer said. “This Saturday, we are going to try the same thing. That’s a big part of who we are. So we would have more explosive pass plays. I don’t know if I remember this many early in the season, ever.”
No fewer than 15 times, the Buckeyes have completed a touchdown pass that has covered at least 20 yards. Some were short passes turned into a big gain but most reflect the Buckeyes’ ability to throw deep passes more effectively this season.
It’s an either/or proposition for opposing teams. No. 16 Northwestern is the next foe to face that challenge on Saturday.
Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) has run for 14 touchdowns so far. It has recorded 19 touchdown passes.
To put that into perspective, only nine times in the program’s previous 123 years have the Buckeyes thrown more scoring passes in an entire season. And the current squad still has seven regular-season games remaining.
They are on pace to easily eclipse the school record for scoring passes in a season of 33, set by Bobby Hoying and Co. in 1995.
Miller missed almost three entire games but came back to throw four scoring passes in Saturday’s 31-24 win over No. 23 Wisconsin — three of them covering 25, 26 and 40 yards.
When Miller was out, Kenny Guiton filled in against mediocre teams and threw 13 scoring passes — including a school-record six in the first half over Florida A&M.
Tom Herman, Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, said the Buckeyes started throwing more bombs because they had to.
“You guys saw how people started playing us the latter half of last year. In order for us to be able to be who we want to be running the football, we had to make (the deep pass) a viable threat,” Herman explained. “So we worked our tails off all spring, all offseason, all two-a-days to make sure we were effective — if not proficient — at throwing the ball down the field when people wanted to load the line of scrimmage to stop the run.”
All that hard work hardened and refined a group of wide receivers that Meyer had belittled much of his first season. He called them subpar, mediocre and uninspired.
Now he is their biggest backer, throwing compliments their way at every opportunity.
Corey Brown has five touchdown receptions to share the team lead with Devin Smith, while Chris Fields has four and Evan Spencer three. All have been dependable targets so far.
Brown said he’s not a bit surprised that the Buckeyes have suddenly shown a propensity for airing it out.
“Not with the amount of work we did in the offseason with Braxton and Kenny,” he added. “As much pressure as coach Meyer put on us to get better as a unit, I think this was kind of expected.”
A year after not really having a quick-strike offense when passing, the Buckeyes are suddenly capable of scoring in a hurry.
“We can throw a deep ball,” Meyer added.
BUCKEYES BUZZ: Of all the Buckeyes on social media — and almost all of them are — none is quite so entertaining of a tweeter as Brown.
He has lashed out at ESPN announcers, struck back at people who demean the Buckeyes and has expressed his opinion on a variety of topics. He said the coaching staff has never confronted him on anything he has written on Twitter or Facebook.
Earlier this week, he wrote that he thought Saturday’s game against No. 16 Northwestern was bigger for fourth-ranked Buckeyes than the Wildcats.
“I’m just saying (it) because of the amount of games we’ve won in a row,” he explained. “Everybody is waiting for our downfall but the way that the team is working right now, we’re playing right now, I don’t see that happening.”
Sometimes he feels the need to defend the team. Other times, he’s just offering his own opinion.
“It’s just the way I feel,” he said. “Whatever I tweeted I meant. When people take shots at our team, it’s like taking shots at my family. I take that personal. Whatever I say on Twitter, I really mean it.”
Several college-football analysts on ESPN have questioned the Buckeyes’ soft non-conference schedule. They’ve also made sport of the Big Ten. That has provoked Brown’s ire.
“A lot of those people on ESPN that do those shows, they’re the same way as all the haters that we have around here,” Brown added. “They say we have a weak schedule or whatever, so they say we’re not ready for the big game or whatever. We’re just going to keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing. We’re going to keep winning. They can only hold us down for so long.”
NOT A HOOPSTER: OL Jack Mewhort stands 6-6. But there’s no way he or anyone in his family could have been good basketball players.
“There were a lot of 6-6 fat guys, trying to play basketball,” Mewhort said.
He knew relatively early on that he would never make it to the NBA.
“I wasn’t one of those guys who can jump real high,” explained the 308-pound senior. “Basketball was fun growing up. A lot of people in my family played basketball but as I grew up physically and got older, I came to the realization that that wasn’t my thing.”
Mewhort spoke briefly with Miami Heat star LeBron James at Saturday night’s victory over Wisconsin.
The two have one thing in common. There was a time when neither could dunk, although that wasn’t so long ago for Mewhort.
“Now I can,” he added.
QUOTABLE: Meyer, on the Big Ten coaches teleconference, on the impact of losing S Christian Bryant to a broken ankle: “It’s a sucker punch.”
HITTING THE ROAD: When Ohio State plays at Northwestern on Saturday night at 8, the players will fly in, sleep in a hotel, travel by bus, eat meals in strange, new places and then head for Ryan Field.
Not every Buckeye dreads going away from home.
“I don’t think it’s very difficult because especially on the road, we understand that it’s going to be a hostile environment,” DL Michael Bennett said. “To a certain point, we kind of like that. Obviously, we love playing in front of our fans but playing against Cal, half the stadium was Ohio State. Ohio State travels very well with its fans and we love that.”
Northwestern is expecting a sellout.
Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald knows the Buckeyes faithful will probably make their presence felt.
“You always have to tip your hat to the Buckeye fans,” Fitzgerald said. “Since I played — and way before that — they’ve been some of the best in the country and they’ve supported that great program forever. I definitely think at times in the past we’ve had issues (with home attendance). They probably have more alumni in Chicagoland than we do, just from a pure numbers standpoint.”
Bennett believes the game might not be played in such an unfriendly environment.
“I expect that we will probably have a lot of fans at Northwestern, too,” he added. “Even last year I don’t feel there was a single away game — except maybe Indiana, I don’t know what happened there — where guys had a hard time really getting up for the game. We almost have more energy for the away games because we understand people are trying to beat us.”