What's So Challenging About Urban Meyer's Challenge?
by Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the scoreboard tells it, the Buckeyes were up 56-7 with under a minute to play in the third quarter Saturday night against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The outcome lost any doubt about two quarters earlier, but if Penn State wasn't going to quit playing, then neither was Ohio State.
Quarterback Tyler Ferguson had just hit receiver Allen Robinson for a five-yard gain on fourth and four to keep a drive alive, and Penn State was 12 feet from the Ohio State redzone. Then a funny thing happened – Urban Meyer challenged the spot.
Of all the classless, petty, contemptible things that a coach can do, this isn't really one of them.
This was a coach who has been asking for more out of his defense, and when he saw a chance to stick up for them, he did it. Was it a little extreme? Perhaps, but only because Penn State had no chance to win the game at that point, and a score to make it 56-14 wasn't going to matter.
But when has stopping a team from scoring ever been frowned upon?
If Meyer challenging a spot in the third quarter has people upset, why weren't they upset that Ohio State's defense kept playing? After all, the Buckeyes had the gall to try and stop that fourth-down conversion against a poor and hapless Penn State offense. Are they supposed to be an escort into the endzone rather than a roadblock? Is that the classier thing to do?
And when exactly is the proper time for a defense to stop playing defense? At what point are the back-ups who are trying like hell to impress their coaches supposed to stop trying?
If Robinson had fumbled the reception, would it have been unsporting for Meyer to want his players to jump on it? Should he be yelling “Fire!” or “Poison!” at his players, like they do when they're trying to get away from a bouncing punt? Should he tell his defensive backs not to go for interceptions?
Of course not, and challenging the spot on fourth down is no different. The Buckeye defense had, per Meyer's vantage point, just forced a turnover, but for some reason it's viewed by some as unsporting if he's the one who's jumping on the fumble.
Meyer wants more out of his defense – he's talked about it since last season – and he thought his defense had just forced a turnover on downs, so he had the spot reviewed.
But apparently some believe that this shouldn't happen at the expense of the feelings of those who play a violent sport.
Is this big-time college football or third-grade gym class?
It's a little bit like getting upset at HBO when your kids hear a cuss word while they're watching 'The Sopranos' with you.
We can't forget what world we're in here while we're pretending that we're somewhere else. Remember, football is a game of inches, and Meyer was just playing the game.
To his credit, Penn State coach Bill O'Brien hasn't taken public issue with Meyer's challenge, or really any of Saturday's blowout. Some have accused the Buckeyes of running up the score, but those people need to look at the points that Ohio State chose not to score.
The Buckeyes threw the ball twice in the fourth quarter, both of them early in a drive that took up half of the quarter. Ohio State was running the clock as best they could. Meyer wanted to end the game as quickly as O'Brien did, but that doesn't mean he's going to stop being an advocate for his football team.
Did things get out of hand? Absolutely, but is that Ohio State's fault or Penn State's? Or is it anybody's fault? Sometimes these things just happen. It happened to Ohio State in Happy Valley back in 1994.
Don't be upset with Urban Meyer for challenging a spot in a blowout. Instead, be upset with the ref who got that spot wrong.
Sure, the challenge was surprising, but that surprise shouldn't be all that challenging.
It's really pretty simple – Meyer doesn't ever want his defense to stop fighting, so he's never going to stop fighting on their behalf.
And people might just want to go ahead and get used to it.
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