Meyer Makes Ohio Stadium Buckeye Debut
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer wasn’t sure where to go for Carmen Ohio after Ohio State’s Spring Game Saturday.
He had never done it before.
Not in this stadium.
Not with these players, these Buckeyes.
Back in the place where he began his college coaching career more than 25 years ago, Meyer eventually found his way to the south end zone, thanks to a little help from someone who knows this place well.
“I asked Kirk Barton, ‘Now where do I go and what do I do,’” Meyer said afterward.
“He said, ‘you park it right there and look at the scoreboard.’”
Meyer did just that. With his arms wrapped around walk-ons Frank Kangah and Stewart Smith, Ohio State’s first-year head coach looked up at the scoreboard and the Pay Forward Society that memorializes the famous words of the school’s most legendary coach.
“I’m a big fan of tradition and this is a school where you don’t have to create a whole lot of tradition,” said Meyer, who began his career as a graduate assistant at Ohio State under Earle Bruce in the mid 1980’s.
“We’re honored to be able to keep a tradition that I believe coach (Jim) Tressel started.”
Meyer didn’t take a whole lot of time to stop and reflect on the magnitude of the moment Saturday. After all, it was only a spring game.
He was much more focused on his new offense and on finding potential playmakers in Ohio State’s passing game, but there was at least one cool moment that captured Meyer’s attention Saturday inside Ohio Stadium.
“Thanks to the Best Band in the Land,” Meyer said.
“To watch them do Hang on Sloopy was kind of a touching moment, having grown up watching that.”
The Scarlet Team won the game 20-14, but Meyer’s first real game as head coach of the Buckeyes won’t come until Sept. 1, when Ohio State hosts Miami University in this same stadium.
It was still exciting for Meyer, and the announced crowd of 81,112 who braved the chilly weather in Columbus, to get a look at the “new” Buckeyes for the first time. The two teams threw the ball a combined 55 times, including 31 passes from sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller.
The player charged with running Meyer’s new spread attack completed 24 of his 31 attempts for 258 yards. He did not have a touchdown pass, but nearly stretched the ball across the goal line on last-minute diving effort, despite the fact none of the quarterbacks were live for the defense to hit Saturday.
Though Miller was ruled out of bounds short of the goal line, his squad came away with the 20-14 victory that was never as close as the final score suggested. The Scarlet Team had the ball for nearly 26 of the 40 minutes in the spring game and had 21 first downs in the game, compared to just nine for the Gray Team.
Gray quarterback Kenny Guiton nearly brought his team from behind for a fourth-quarter comeback, but Scarlet defensive back Christian Bryant intercepted his potential go-ahead touchdown pass near the goal line.
“We did some things offensively that … that is not who we are,” Meyer admitted afterward.
“We are going to be a very balanced offense. That was very imbalanced. That was for a reason—we are taking one of the worst passing teams in America from a year ago and we have to find out if we can do that.”
Miller led the offense right down the field on the opening drive for a go-ahead touchdown. He completed all four of his passes, as the Scarlet Team went 65 yards on eight plays in 2:17.
The Hubert Heights Wayne product hit his first six passes and was 7-8 for 86 yards in the first quarter, with a few big plays to Chris Fields.
He also threw an interception to defensive back Adam Griffin on a ball he sailed over the head of tight end Nick Vannett, but the star of the game was freshman wideout Michael Thomas.
The first-year player out of California grabbed 12 passes from Miller for 131 yards during Saturday’s pass-heavy scrimmage, but Meyer said he still isn’t sure if his team can pass the ball effectively after 15 practices this spring.
“We identified our issues and we also identified our strengths,” Meyer said.
“Now we have to go out and have the greatest offseason in the history of college football. That starts Monday.”
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