A season of change, of ups and downs, and a season that few would have ever imagined to overcome as much adversity as The Ohio State Buckeyes in 2012. A questionable defense through a non-conference schedule, close scares, and a new coach that didn’t hold back when it came to telling the public what was wrong with the program. The Buckeyes have came a long way, but best of all we have a young team that hopefully can continue this momentum.
They ended Saturday 10-0 in a resounding 52-22 win over Illinois that marked the fourth time the Buckeyes have scored over 50 points in a season for the first time ever. On a roll you might say, they have tied the longest winning streak since 2007 and are one of only six undefeated in the FBS. The last time a coach started a first-year with such a record was under Earle Bruce back in 1979.
Starting another game out slowly the Buckeyes went four-and-out on their first drive, but the defense only let Illinois get within kicking distance to score first. Ohio State made up for that with their next drive going 79-yards on 10 plays to see Carlos Hyde find the end zone on a three-yard run.
It was a game where the silver bullets for the most part played another lights out battle not letting the Illinois offense score until 53-seconds remained in the third quarter. Only allowing 170 yards of total offense they made sure that the Buckeye offense had time to control the clock, rack up the points, and boost the stats.
“I see a lot of hard coaching going on and that’s what I expect out of our staff,” said Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer about the defensive efforts.
Hard coaching that has led to a turnaround of the defense; it certainly looked that way in the stats and on the field. Sophomore Ryan Shazier racked up 14 tackles, including two for a loss to tie a career high in a single game. He has had five games with double digit tackles this season and set a new career best with 11 solo tackles. Not for lack of effort at working to change the possession, Travis Howard snagged the first turnover of the game with 51seconds left in the first half, returning it 25-yards.
The accolades of Braxton Miller continue this week as former Buckeye Troy Smith spent the game on the sideline and stated “Braxton Miller could be the best quarterback ever if he continues to work.” While that is a possibility because he does have so much time left as a sophomore, there are some areas that Coach Urban Meyer would still like to see improvement.
“The area we’re not efficient enough is the dropback pass, and we have to. While he’s not a dropback passer, you have to be, and its not acceptable,” said Coach Meyer. “We have to continue to get better.”
All improvements aside, Miller put on a show of moves able to break free and at times dance through the Illini defense to go 12-for-20 for 226 yards and two touchdowns in the air. He tacked on 73-yards rushing along with a touchdown keeper.
Right along with Miller are several other key weapons that saw success. Carlos Hyde rushed for three touchdowns Saturday to tie with Miller at 13 for the season and leads the league in scoring with 10.5 points per game.
“He’s a genuine guy,” said Coach Meyer about Hyde. “I think the perception on him was incorrect, there’s good energy in that running back.”
Some changes in the backfield to get Hyde and Rod Smith paired up led to success for the team and some firsts for others. The second quarter 51-yard touchdown reception by Rod Smith was his first touchdown catch of his career and his first reception for 2012.
“It’s a great look. They’re both good players,” said Coach Meyer. “That has always been in the playbook, but we’ve never had enough confidence. Now we do.”
Bri’onte Dunn stepped up late in the game working with Kenny Guiton to get some reps in the fourth quarter and rest some of the offense. Dunn scored his second career touchdown in the fourth quarter with his first coming against Miami back in September. Dunn rushed 13 times for 73-yards against the Illini with the longest being an 11-yard run.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get to try that early in the year, but we were so lousy it was hard to do that,” said Coach Meyer. “He’s a little looser with the ball, but I thought he ran very hard.”
With a bye week upon them, if the Buckeyes focus on the extra preparation time as time to improve and heal stand a great chance of finishing out perfect. Knowing academically it has been a long semester for the team, as Coach Meyer put it, they need to “un-hit the wall.” They hope to focus on getting body weights back up, getting healthy, and potentially bring Sabino back into the mix for the final two games.