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The 7 defining games of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State

There’s been some memorable moments over his 92 game run. Let’s look at the defining contests in Meyer’s time as Buckeye head coach.

All State Sugar Bowl - Alabama v Ohio State Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Shockwaves were felt around the college football landscape when we learned that Urban Meyer decided to retire after the Ohio State Buckeyes played their final game of the 2018-19 season in the Rose Bowl.

Literally, riding out into the sunset in Pasadena, Meyer’s time in Columbus has been marked by extreme highs. A national championship, two College Football Playoff appearances and three Big Ten Championship wins are only some of the trophies that were added in the past seven seasons. Oh, and add a perfect 7-0 mark against Michigan.

Let’s take a look back into the time capsule, and pick out the seven defining moments of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State.

7. Dotting the ‘i’ to a perfect season | Michigan 2012

Eleven games up, eleven games down. In Meyer’s first year at the helm of the program, he guided the Buckeyes to an 11-0 record. A year after a 6-7 finish with Luke Fickell as interim coach, Meyer pulled off wins against Michigan State, Nebraska, Purdue, Penn State and Wisconsin. Even with close scares against the Spartans, Boilermakers and Badgers — the latter two going to overtime — Meyer managed an unblemished record heading into the final game of the season.

Since the Bucks were banned from postseason play due to the fallout from Jim Tressel and TattooGate, beating UM was the bowl game. So, the only thing left in the way of a perfect first season in Columbus was a Brady Hoke-coached Michigan squad, who entered The Game at 8-3.

A piece of history: The program cover to the 2012 Ohio State-Michigan Game
Geoff Hammersley

Ohio State trailed at the half, 21-20, but a pair of Drew Basil field goals after halftime paced the Buckeyes to a lead. In what would be the Wolverines final drive, Devin Gardner threw an interception around midfield to C.J. Barnett. OSU ran out the remaining 4:50 on the clock, ending the season unbeaten.

6. Welcome to the house of Barrett | Penn State 2017

Deep deficits were something Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes had a tough time getting out of. Once the floodgates opened against Iowa, Purdue and Clemson, they found themselves in the land of blowouts.

Penn State pulled away from Ohio State in the 2017 meeting; a fast start from Saquon Barkley and consistent play from Trace McSorley had the Nittany Lions up 28-17 at halftime. Midway through the third quarter, that lead ballooned to 35-20, and all seemed lost.

Then J.T. Barrett began slinging passes. For about a quarter and a half, the OSU captain was virtually untouchable. He hit receivers in tight windows, and marched the Bucks down the field. Especially with Dante Booker’s blocked punt in the fourth quarter, Barrett never put the Buckeyes in a third down situation until the last play of the game, where they ran out the clock after stopping the Nittany Lions’ final drive. Ohio State won 39-38, and kept their College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Barrett ended the game going 33-of-39 for 328 yards and four touchdowns. K.J. Hill led the receiving efforts with 102 yards on 12 catches. Defensively, the Buckeyes held Barkley to 44 yards of total rushing.

5. The one that got away | Michigan State 2015

With every high, there has to be a low.

Two of those lows came from Michigan State. The Spartans beat a Buckeye squad in the 2013 Big Ten Championship Game that was destined for the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl. While that MSU game hurt, it didn’t hurt as much as the 2015 meeting in The Horseshoe.

With J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones at QB; Ezekiel Elliott at running back; Braxton Miller, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Nick Vannett catching footballs, the offense was stacked. On the defensive side, Joey Bosa, Raekwon McMillan and Joshua Perry were just three members of a stacked defense.

And yet, somehow, they lost on a game-winning field goal to Michigan State. Arguably, this team was the greatest team in CFB to never win a national title. In fact, I’d say that this team was the basketball equivalent of the 1990-91 UNLV squad: ran the table, except for that one game.

A cold rain on that November afternoon caused passing issues for Barrett, but the fact that OSU ran the ball 29 times for just 86 yards seems insane. This was the game after which Elliott’s postgame briefing with the media raised eyebrows, and left many wondering what exactly went wrong for the Buckeyes.

Technically, Sparty never led during the game, as their game-winning 41-yard field goal from Michael Geiger connected as time expired. Michigan State would go on to win the Big Ten and go the playoff, where they were shutout by Alabama.

4. The Spot is Good | Michigan 2016

In the most highly-charged matchup between the two schools since the “Game of the Century” meeting in 2006, both the Buckeyes and Wolverines were in the hunt for a playoff berth.

Michigan pulled out to a 17-7 lead, but miscues brought Ohio State back into the ball game. On the final play of regulation, Tyler Durbin connected on a 23-yard field goal to tie the game — sending us to the first overtime ever between the two schools.

Both offenses traded touchdowns in the first extra period; in the second frame, the Wolverines scored a field goal. All OSU had to do was get a TD and the game would be over.

Barrett would start the drive with a five-yard QB draw, however, on second down, he took a four yard loss. Third-and-9 was a screen to Curtis Samuel, who appeared to be destined for at least a four-yard loss. However, Samuel circled around the field and escaped the UM defense; in total, he made up the lost yardage, and then gained eight more — forcing a fourth-and-1.

Needing just a yard, fourth down was drawn up to be a QB-keeper on the read, a signature of the Meyer spread offense. As Barrett fought for the yard, the Michigan defense was pushing right back. In what would be the most controversial decision of recent football memory, the referees determined Barrett got the first down, and the call stood upon review.

On the next play, Samuel sprinted 15 yards to the house for the game winning score.

3. Lightning in a bottle | Oregon 2015

Making it to the inaugural National Championship Game was a wild ride in itself. But winning it, well, that’s a different story entirely.

Going up against the No. 1 team in the land, the Oregon Ducks, Ohio State entered the first-ever College Football Playoff championship game as six-point underdogs.

For 60 minutes, though, the Buckeyes were pure magic. Cardale Jones quarterbacked the Scarlet and Gray to a 42-20 victory, throwing 242 yards and a TD in the process. Ezekiel Elliott went wild on the ground, rushing for 246 yards and four (!) scores.

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State
The Chase is Over: Ohio State’s motto of the ‘The Chase’ came to a sweet conclusion: a national title victory
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

After giving up a quick TD on the first drive of the game, the Buckeye defense held Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota in check for most of the night. Even though the Ducks’ QB passed for 333 yards and a pair of scores, they couldn’t consistently find the end zone.

The win gave Meyer his third national title victory, and his first (and only one) at OSU.

2. Revenge Tour cancelled | Michigan 2018

Of all the games Meyer coached against Michigan, the 2018 meeting was the most defining. Why? Because Ohio State had the appearance of a team that was wounded. After coming back for a 52-51 victory over Maryland (in overtime) the week before, the Wolverines were a team on a mission and a mean streak.

With a mantra of a “Revenge Tour,” the Wolverines were setting out to deliver their own brand of justice to teams that wronged them the year before. Michigan State, Wisconsin and Penn State all took heavy losses to UM, and Ohio State was next on their list.

Holding their own at halftime, OSU had a 24-19 lead. And then the second half happened.

The Buckeyes could do no wrong in the final 30 minutes of action; they forced turnovers and completely shut down the “vaunted” Don Brown defense. Ohio State went on a 17-0 run in the third quarter, and scored 21 points in the fourth frame en route to a 62-39 victory.

It was the most points that anyone had ever scored against UM in regulation, and it proved to be Meyer’s last home game as Buckeye head coach. With help from Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 318 yards and 5 TDs, the Buckeyes picked apart a paper Wolverine defense with mesh routes and athleticism.

Ohio State clinched a share of the Big Ten East crown, but more importantly, punched their ticket to the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern.

1. New Orleans on New Year’s | Alabama 2015

The first College Football Playoff had buzz. Ohio State slipped into the fourth and final spot after routing Wisconsin 59-0 in the conference title game. The CFP committee jumped OSU over TCU and Baylor, who split the Big 12 conference title — since the Big 12 didn’t have enough teams for a conference title game due to a recent blitz of conference realignment.

Ohio State was matched with the No. 1 team, Alabama. The Crimson Tide were slated as an eight-point favorite, especially given the fact that the Sugar Bowl was where they’d be playing; a virtual home field advantage.

Derrick Henry, T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper were part of a ‘Bama offense that pulled up to a 21-6 lead shortly before halftime. But in the final three minutes, the Buckeyes rallied with two touchdowns: a Zeke 14-yarder and a razzle-dazzle jet sweep pass from Evan Spencer to Michael Thomas.

That touchdown gave OSU a spark heading into the locker room.

And in the second half, they kept up the momentum, culminating with an 80-yard Elliott touchdown through the heart of the south that broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

The Crimson Tide would rally, and had a Hail Mary attempt at the end to tie the game — but it fell short. Ohio State took down Alabama, 42-35, and Meyer got redemption on Nick Saban. Proving critics wrong, the Bucks found themselves worthy of not only a playoff spot, but a national title shot.

Honorable Mention

  • Miami (OH) 2012 — Urban Meyer’s first game as head coach. 105,039 packed Ohio Stadium to witness a 56-10 Buckeye victory. While it was a blowout, Devin Smith’s touchdown grab gave us one the best highlights from Year 1 of the Urban Renewal.
  • Wisconsin 2012 — The undefeated season was on the line in Madison, Wisc. Montee Ball tied the NCAA record for most touchdowns, but couldn’t get the record against the OSU defense. A fumble on the goal line, combined with an overtime escape gave Meyer the karmatic win against Bret Bielema.
  • Clemson 2016 — Ohio State had never had the doors blown off until facing Clemson in the 2016 CFP semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl. The Tigers shutout the Bucks, 31-0, and was the first game that showed Meyer’s squad being unequivocally outworked and outpreped.


Which of these games will you remember most?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Dotting the ‘i’ to a perfect season | Michigan 2012
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Welcome to the house of Barrett | Penn State 2017
    (11 votes)
  • 3%
    The one that got away | Michigan State 2015
    (12 votes)
  • 7%
    The Spot is Good | Michigan 2016
    (29 votes)
  • 6%
    Lightning in a bottle | Oregon 2015
    (25 votes)
  • 13%
    Revenge Tour cancelled | Michigan 2018
    (52 votes)
  • 66%
    New Orleans on New Year’s | Alabama 2015
    (266 votes)
399 votes total Vote Now