Hopes were high among the Buckeye faithful as the 2012 football season began. 2011 was a 6-7 disaster, but Ohio State had hired championship coach Urban Meyer out of “retirement.” Meyer was a guy with winning ways and a strong Ohio State connection. Quarterback Braxton Miller had shown some flash the season prior, and he too generated optimism for 2012. Meyer would get the most out of him.
What went wrong in the 2011 season? Just about everything.
From a good 2010 team, the coach had been fired and a number of players suspended in the infamous tattoo scandal. Luke Fickell took over as interim head coach, and things never gelled. The offense wasn’t very good. In fact, it’s 24.5 points per game average ranked it 81st out of 120 teams. The defense (Fickell’s specialty) was better, but it wasn’t good enough to produce a winning season. To finish things off, the Bucks lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl and prepared for 2012.
The Miami game
If Ohio State fans were nervous at all when the first game of the 2012 season began, they were probably resigned when Miami scored the game’s first points with a 22-yard field goal. Here we go again. Those three points held up throughout the first quarter. The Buckeye offense was out of sync, unable to sustain any kind of drive. The quarter ended Miami 3, OSU 0.
Then the Urban Meyer era began. Early in the second period, speedy wide receiver Devin Smith scored a touchdown on a 23-yard pass play. A minute and a half later, Corey Brown caught a five-yarder for another TD. At the 5:15 mark, Carlos Hyde ran the ball in from the Red Hawk four-yard line. The Bucks were up 21-3 at the half.
There were several features in that second quarter of Meyer’s Buckeye career that characterized his tenure at Ohio State. Quick-strike scores. Capitalizing on turnovers. Balanced pass-run attack. Obviously, Miami was outclassed in terms of talent, but it was certainly reassuring to see the Buckeye offense move the ball, to see it score.
It would be easy to say that the third quarter offered more of the same. But it didn’t. It was better. On the first play of the third quarter, Miller ran for 65 yards and another Buckeye touchdown. After Miami lost some yards on their first drive of the second-half, Bradley Roby scooped up a fumble and carried it one yard into the endzone. With barely two minutes expired in the second half, the Buckeyes were ahead comfortably ahead, 35-3.
The game’s fourth quarter would witness another Hyde rushing TD and some opportunities for backups to play – and to score touchdowns. Zach Bowen had a two-yard TD run, and Bri’Onte Dunn scored from four yards out. Miami picked up a TD of their own on a long pass in the third quarter when the game was already out of reach.
The final stats of the game tell us a lot. First was the balance: the Buckeyes rushed for 294 yards (on 53 carries) and five touchdowns; they passed for 244 yards and two more scores. Miller was solid with 14 completions on 24 attempts for 207 yards. He also led all rushers with 161 (9.5 yard per carry average). Hyde rushed for 82, while Corey Brown caught seven passes for 87 yards and a TD. The defense was led by Ryan Shazier, who had nine tackles.
Then, there were the few mistakes that OSU made. It’s not surprising that the Buckeyes outgained the Red Hawks, 538-312. More impressive was the fact that OSU created three turnovers, while committing none. And that they were penalized only twice – for 20 yards. After the first quarter, it was a well-played game, one that surely boded well for the future.
Nevertheless, the opponent was only Miami. There were ranked teams on the schedule, and a trip to East Lansing was looming for later in the month. The Buckeyes were 4-0 and looking pretty good when they took on the No. 20 ranked Spartans. And this one wasn’t a particularly well-played game, as this time the Bucks turned the ball over three times (to zero TOs for MSU).
But the balanced attack and the quick strike formula succeeded again, as the Buckeyes won a tight one, 17-16. Brown had 12 receptions for 84 yards, and Smith caught a 63-yard TD pass in the third quarter. Ohio State found a way to win.
Why it was important
We certainly didn’t know after the Miami game that Meyer’s team would win all 12 of their 2012 games, nor did we know that after the big win against Michigan State. But we knew that this team was different – not only from the 2011 team, but also from all of the Jim Tressel teams before. This team could score in a hurry, and put teams away in the blink of an eye. The 2012 Buckeye offense averaged 37.2 points per game (up from the previous season’s 24.5), good enough to rank 27th out of 124 teams. And the defense was about the same as it was in 2011, as Meyer’s D gave up 22.8 points per game (31st out of 124).
Meyer would, as we well know, go on to win his first 24 games as Ohio State head coach. He established a high-octane offense that Ryan Day has only improved. But that win against in-state Miami was the first glimpse that we got of that style. It was a game that changed radically our expectations for Buckeye success, as it ushered in a new era of Ohio State Football history.