The Buckeyes were clinging to a narrow lead in the third quarter of a game against Michigan that they weren’t supposed to win.
They had kicked a field goal just before halftime to extend a small lead, but were still up by just one score.
The OSU defense got a big stop, and Michigan lined up to punt it away from just inside its own 40.
That’s when a true freshman made a play on special teams that swung momentum and doomed the favored Wolverines to a devastating loss in Columbus.
Does that sound familiar?
It should. You’ve seen it happen twice.
In 2004, Ted Ginn fielded a punt and ran it back 82 yards to give the Buckeyes a 27-14 lead over the shell-shocked Wolverines.
In 2018, Chris Olave blocked a punt, Sevyn Banks caught the fluttering ball and ran it back 33 yards to give the Buckeyes a 34-19 lead over Michigan.
It was a new punt block that assistant coach Greg Schiano and quality control coach Parker Fleming came up with called “Black.” It required Olave to loop behind the line, then sprint straight up the middle, hopefully after other Buckeyes had occupied all of Michigan’s blockers.
But if Urban Meyer had his way, that game-changing play would never have been called.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t think we could do it,” Meyer said after the game. “I saw it on Wednesday practice. And I grabbed Parker and I said, you can’t — you only have 2.1 seconds to get there. And he’s not that fast.”
Saturday afternoon, Meyer told his staff he wanted to go after the punt, but wasn’t expecting “Black” to be the play they called.
“We have two blocks, and I thought we were going to go with the other one. And I hear him go ahead, and I see the signal. And I got really pissed,” Meyer said. “I said we’re not going to get there, we’re not going to get there, we’re not going to get there. And not the first time I’ve been wrong.”
Olave got there when it really counted, but he said that definitely wasn’t the case during the week leading up to the game.
“I was kind of the outside guy and had to hold up. When we actually went, I had to loop around into the A-gap,” said Olave. “All week it was tough getting there in practice.”
The fact that he did get there was a game-changing moment. Meyer said that based on research he has seen, one blocked punt has historically almost guaranteed a win. So when Olave blocked it, and Banks snagged it and scored, it was money in the… well… you know.
“Nine out of 10 times, you win a game in the past 25 years. It’s an older study now, if you block a punt. That doesn’t mean stop playing, but it sure does enter my mind.”
And just like 14 years earlier, that big special teams play helped the Buckeyes crush Michigan’s hopes yet again.