Rewind it back to the third of September, 2011. With 14:49 remaining in the second quarter and a 7-0 lead over non-conference foe Akron, a true freshman quarterback nervously jogged on to the Ohio Stadium field-turf with sky-high expectations. On his first play from scrimmage he rushed for two yards. He then threw an incomplete pass before finishing off his first drive by recovering his own fumble for a seven yard loss. Back to the sideline he went.
Ohio State drive: 3 plays, -5 yards, 01:27, Punt
Fast forward 121 days and you’ll see the same true freshman finishing off his first bowl appearance, and last until the end of his junior year, by completing six straight passes to five different receivers, including an 11 yard touchdown throw to close out the scoring in a 24-17 loss to the Florida Gators. Toss in a 6 yard run on 1st down coming out of a timeout and what do we have? Progress.
Ohio State drive: 7 plays, 88 yards, 02:08, Touchdown
At 7am the following morning a trying 6-win, 7-loss season was behind us, our head coach became an assistant, the Jim Tressel Era officially came to a close, Urban Meyer led his first official team meeting as the leader of The Ohio State University football program and a young quarterback began his transition from true freshman to Heisman Trophy candidate. Meyer has that affect, but we haven’t always liked it.
The Urban we grew to hate was calling timeouts in the last minutes of a blowout win over Georgia just to prove a point to Bulldogs’ head coach Mark Richt a year after his boys got a little too celebratory after a touchdown against Urb’s Gators. We hated the guy that pulled in top-5 recruiting class with style and a rock star attitude. We really hated the guy that ran up 41 points between our Buckeyes and a crystal ball a few January’s back before celebrating with his too-beautiful wife and children.
The Urban we’ve quickly grown to love took our spiraling program from hurt to hope. We love the one who promised to, “make the great state of Ohio very proud of your football team and your coaching staff and we will get that done” while addressing the home crowd at the Schott upon arrival. We love the one who immediately stood up to Bret Bielema and the rest of the B1G within days of coming on scene. And we now love the Urban who – yeah – called timeouts in the last minutes of a blowout win over Georgia just to prove a point to Bulldogs’ head coach Mark Richt a year after his boys got a little too celebratory after a touchdown against his Gators. Why? Because he might just do the exact same to Brady Hoke and TTUN if the mood strikes him.
You see, these aren’t your grandfather’s Buckeyes. Braxton Miller. Jordan Hall. Jake Stoneburner. Michael Thomas. I don’t think mine quite knows what to think of Brax yet. Just wait until he gets a load of the Meyer-Herman version of Jordan Hall. If at any point in time during the 2012 season we see one of the names listed above go barreling through the line of scrimmage for a 3-yard gain and a cloud of dust is the result, something has gone terribly wrong. Urban Meyer came to Columbus to win like Woody – not play like him.
Our fans expect greatness in the form of gold pants, B1G championships, bowl victories and national championship rings. Only if that occurs will they be ‘proud of their football team and their coaching staff.’ Fortunately Urban Meyer already knows this and has met that expectation head on with passion, intensity and a relentless drive to recruit – and sign – the best talent in America. The expectations dropped at the feet of this program by the fan base in recent months are the exact same expectations that Meyer himself has for this program. Urban brings an intensity to the program, in everything he does, that we haven’t seen before. He brings in speed and strength on defense in the form of freakish athletes (see Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington) and lines up the best talent from the roster on offense and then puts them in space with the ball in hand, which is where it could get interesting this year in the Horseshoe.
Urban Meyer is not afraid to put points on the board. He’ll drop 65 on a MAC school in no time – and then he’ll turn around and do the same to the next B1G team who lets him. He doesn’t mess around with hurt feelings or damaged egos, nor does he lose any sleep about what Bret Bielema might be whining to Barry Alvarez about. Hell he even put 41 on the undefeated, number-one ranked Buckeyes in Glendale for his first National Championship five years ago. Simply put, he’s not bashful on offense. The punt isn’t the most important play in football. The touchdown is, and Meyer will put plenty of them on the new scoreboard at Ohio Stadium.
Will he lead Ohio State to an undefeated season exactly ten years after their last? It truly is hard to predict, but it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Looking at the schedule, the non-conference portion is as easy as we’ve seen around these parts in a while. No Texas. No USC. A Cal team comes to town in week three, but they struggle to post 10 points in a defensive-deficient Pac-12. The B1G opener is no bargain, with Meyer leading the troops into East Lansing to start things off with a revenge game. But after that, a trip to Madison looks to be the biggest hurdle. I know – no Michigan love? Well, no. After seeing Greg Mattison’s ‘much-improved’ defense in 2011 – you know, the one Braxton handed 34 points to in a losing effort – I see no reason why Urban won’t leave the Shoe that afternoon having lit the place up for 45-55 points in a statement game and his first in The Rivalry.
In all honesty it’ll be tough to get through all twelve games unblemished in 2012. The truth of the matter is that these kids are playing in Meyer’s system for the first time under a group of coaches who are also in their first year under Meyer. Yes, the roster is full of top-notch talent. But rolling the ball out onto the field and expecting wins week after week just isn’t as easy as ‘talent and a resume.’ Too many factors go into an undefeated season, luck included. But one thing we can be certain about: Urban Meyer will give eight B1G teams an offensive attack they haven’t seen before out of an Ohio State team. He’ll out-coach the Hokes and Bielemas, out-talent the Boilermakers and Fighting Illini and he won’t stop until the final whistle blows. It’s simply not in his blood.
Points a’plenty, Buckeyes fans. God help the Hoosiers.