Buckeye Defense Unfazed by Aggressive Meyer Offense
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Facing a fourth and one from their own 47-yard line early in the first quarter on Saturday, the Ohio State offense did something that they don't normally do – they went for it on fourth down from their own side of the field.
Braxton Miller took the ball over the right side of the offensive line, took a hit and was spun down two feet short of the first down marker.
The Buckeyes had just turned it over on downs from their own side of the 50-yard line, and now their defense would be called upon to fix a problem that they didn't cause. What in sweet sassy sweatervest molassy had we just witnessed?
The thought was that Urban Meyer was still possibly battling the short-yardage demons that struck his offense at the one-yard line at the end of the first half last week against Miami. But apparently that's not the case.
"That's our mentality," said offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner of the decision to go for it on fourth down.
"We're going to be aggressive. We're going to count on our offensive line, tight ends and backs to block."
But what happens when the players being counted on to block don't execute, and the UCF defense wins at the point of attack? The Buckeye defense then enters the game with a larger amount of pressure on them than they would have had normally, and they had nothing to do with putting it there.
The Ohio State defense ultimately gave up a field goal on the drive, which is about all that could be asked of them considering UCF started at the Buckeye 47-yard line.
Most coaches wouldn't have put much thought into going for it in that situation because they wouldn't want to put their defense in a bad spot, but this new brand of Ohio State coaches didn't put much thought into not going for it because that's just how they believe football should be played.
"Actually there was none," Warinner said when asked if there was any hesitation among the coaches on going for either fourth down.
That's fine for the offense, but what about the defense who has to correct the mistakes that were just made? They have to hate it, right?
"I love it," said linebacker Etienne Sabino of the offense's aggressive nature.
"I have all of the confidence in the world in them, and obviously they have a lot of confidence in us, so I love it."
And when asked if this offensive mentality is here to stay?
"I hope so," he answered.
Obviously, nothing is done with the purpose of putting a team's own defense in harm's way. In fact, that's usually why a team won't do certain things. But it says something about the new mentality on the sideline when the defense's well being isn't always the first instinct.
In fact, according to co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, he has no problem with an offensive mentality that might occasionally put the defense in a rough spot.
"I think it's part of the game," he said of being put on a short field.
"I think what it does is that it helps you as a defense to understand that there are sudden change situations. Whether they get the first down or not, our job is to go back out and stop them and get the ball back.
"A turnover or a fourth down stop by the opponent's defense, we should be ready to go out and play the game."
The defense accepts that sometimes being in a bad position is how football is played. Limiting those bad positions is always a wise move, but that doesn't mean a risk here or there isn't wise as well.
Was it unwise the second time Ohio State went for it on fourth down and converted? After all, there was only a three-yard difference in field position from the first time they went for it and the second time.
In the past, the mentality at Ohio State was forged by a concern for the defense. Now, the mentality is forged by a confidence in the offense, and an understanding that the defense will just have to deal with it.
The key here is understanding that going for it on fourth and one from midfield has nothing to do with coaches making a decision. Rather, it has everything to do with coaches having the mentality that the next yard is always theirs and nobody else's.
Defenses prefer to have an aggressive mentality, so it should come as no surprise that they are fine with their offense having one as well.
At least for now, anyway.
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