BUCKEYES GET OUT OF DODGE WITH WIN OVER NAVY -- THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS AFTER THE STRUGGLE
BALTIMORE – Fifth-ranked Ohio State came to the East Coast Saturday without their Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, but still with a ton of talent and just as much hope to have a championship-type season.
Facing a tough-to-defend, triple-option that is the Naval Academy’s unique signature, Urban Meyer wanted to get out of town with …
Improvement on offense and defense as the game progressed. Check.
A solid performance from his first-time starter, redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett as Braxton Miller’s replacement. Check.
And no significant injuries. Check.
Oh, and most importantly, a win. Check.
But none of it came easy or without a fight.
The Buckeyes trailed for much of the day, including 7-6 at the half and 14-13 late into the third quarter.
But the defense stiffened, holding Navy to only a field goal over the last 26:15 of the game – and the offense showed consistency and scored three touchdowns over the final 19 minutes on the way to a very deceiving 34-17 win in front of 57,579 fans – an estimated 40,000 of them wearing scarlet and gray – at M&T Bank Stadium.
“That’s the way I look at it – get a win and get the heck out of dodge,” Meyer said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Meyer’s revamped defense with new coordinator Chris Ash running the show had been working on the Middies’ triple option since the spring. But Navy ran outside a will through much of the game, coupled with an unstoppable counter play that led to 370 yards rushing and a great game of keep-away for much of the game.
It just didn’t translate to points for Navy.
“It seems like we have been working on (Navy’s offense) forever,” Meyer said. “I am glad we are done with. Now we just start from scratch.”
Because nobody else on the Buckeyes’ schedule runs anything similar to Navy. In fact, while Buckeye fans may be fretting over what they think is a problematic run defense, Ohio State could turn around and limit Virginia Tech to less than 80 yards rushing and the coaches wouldn’t be surprised one bit.
And they won’t be able to unveil Ash’s new pressure-filled, attacking defense until next week.
Navy is just that different.
On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes’ new offense line struggled for the first two and a half quarters.
“I wanted to take some shots (downfield) but didn’t and it had nothing to do with J.T.,” Meyer said. “It had to do whether we could protect him.”
But as the game wore on, the offensive line meshed a bit and the Buckeyes churned out 154 yards rushing and 168 passing in the second half alone.
Barrett, although possessing little explosiveness in the run game as Miller does, was solid in his first start – with only a first-down interception from Navy’s 8-yard line as the lone huge blunder.
He finished 12-of-15 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He rushed for 50 more on nine carries.
“He was good – he never got rattled,” Meyer said of his redshirt freshman. “He will get better. I am more worried about the guys in front of him. We didn’t resemble an offensive line at Ohio State.”
Now the Midshipmen are in Ohio State’s rear-view mirror, exactly where Meyer waited for them to be so he can get down to business with the “normal” preparations.
“When I was at Notre Dame (as receivers coach), preparing for them was always the worst week of the year,” he said. “But I have so much respect for them and the tradition. I told my son to look up at all those white uniforms and respect the tradition.”
Now it’s on to Virginia Tech, next Saturday night in prime time at Ohio Stadium.
“It’s a whole different deal next week,” Meyer admitted. “We need to get better and play better to make a dent in the Big Ten this season. But the first one is over and we won it. That’s what matters today.”