Head coach Urban Meyer has brought about a lot of change in his first year leading the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Meyer's spread offense is a far departure from what former offensive coordinator Jim Bollman ran last year. The Buckeyes have scored 48 touchdowns through nine games, tied with two other teams for fourth in the nation.
He has also brought the students closer to the team—figuratively by implementing the new "Quick Cals" tradition before every game, and literally by doing things like inviting students on the field to try to rattle the kicker during spring practice.
Meyer is also teaching the Buckeyes how to close out games. Because of that, Ohio State is a perfect 9-0 this season.
Learning how to close was something this team desperately needed.
Last year's Ohio State team lost seven games, and six of those losses were decided by seven points or less. Whether the offense failed to produce throughout the game or the defense struggled getting off the field, the Buckeyes had a hard time putting a complete game together in 2011.
This year has been much different.
Instead of faltering late in games, the Buckeyes have taken over. Braxton Miller and the offense have bailed the defense out at times, and on other occasions, the defense has risen to the occasion. The Buckeyes have been far from perfect on the field, but a new mentality has helped them stay perfect in the win-loss column.
Against Cal earlier this year, a number of big plays by the Golden Bears offense turned what should have been a comfortable Buckeyes win into a 28-28 game late in the fourth quarter. Instead of collapsing (something the 2011 team did frequently), Miller stepped up and found Devin Smith for the go-ahead 73-yard touchdown with under four minutes to go.
A week later on the road against Michigan State, the Buckeyes trailed the Spartans 13-10 late in the third quarter. In a defensive battle where points were hard to come by, Miller again found Smith on a deep route, connecting for a 63-yard touchdown and a four-point lead. Ohio State's defense stiffened, and the Buckeyes went on to win 17-16.
"A great team win," Meyer said after the game. "We found out something about our team today, to go on the road in a hostile environment against a quality, quality football team and find a way to win."
That characteristic didn't exist a year ago. With this year's team, you see it almost every week.
Two weeks ago, the Buckeyes orchestrated one of the most improbable comebacks in Columbus against a surprisingly competitive Purdue team.
After losing Braxton Miller to an injury late in the third, the Buckeyes found themselves in a world of hurt—down eight points with just 47 seconds left in the game. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton drove Ohio State right down the field for a score, converted the two-point conversion, then helped the Buckeyes secure a 29-22 victory in overtime.
On Saturday, Ohio State went into one of the most hostile environments in the country. After being shut down for much of the first half—gaining just 70 yards in their first six drives—Miller drove the Buckeyes right down the field to tie the game at seven before halftime.
After that, the Buckeyes shook off the noise created by more than 100,000 fans and completely took over the game. It started defensively when Ryan Shazier intercepted a Matt McGloin pass and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown. Later, Miller put together consecutive touchdown drives of 57, 85 and 92 yards to close out the game and a 12-point victory.
Whether Ohio State can finish the season a perfect 12-0 remains to be seen, but if the team continues finishing games the way they have all season, perfection is very likely for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.
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