COLUMBUS: The competitor in Urban Meyer hated the fact that Ohio State trailed Miami University after one quarter in his Buckeyes coaching debut.
The coach in Meyer, who is trying not just to win a game but to re-establish the foundation of a championship program, didn’t mind. That Miami led 3-0, and should have led 14-0 if not for its own blunders, provided a test for the Buckeyes to show their mettle.
“I’m pleased with what happened,” Meyer said during his weekly news conference Monday. “I’m pleased we got thrown around a little bit and were actually losing in our home stadium in the first quarter.
“I didn’t like it at the time, but I think everybody got kind of hit in the face a little bit and responded.”
The Buckeyes answered the call in the second quarter and rolled to a 56-10 victory. But Meyer knows his team’s test will be tougher this week. Coached by George O’Leary, Central Florida might not be a name program, but Meyer is familiar with the Orlando-based Conference USA school from his six years at Florida.
“Whole different animal coming in here this week,” Meyer said. “I know this team. I know this coach. I know this coaching staff, and I have great respect for everything they’ve done.”
Ohio State and Central Florida have never met, but they do have something in common. Both are banned from bowl games because of NCAA sanctions. The Knights are appealing their penalties, which are based on recruiting violations.
Central Florida defeated the University of Akron 56-14 on Thursday. The Knights are a more conventional team than pass-happy Miami. They won’t be afraid to go toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes.
“To say that we don’t have a lot of respect for Central Florida would be nonsense,” Meyer said. “The good thing is, nowadays our players have already seen film, so they have a touch of what’s going on, with all these iPads floating around here.
“You can get up here and babble all you want, but if they see on film what they’re getting ready to play against, this will be a war and something we have to be ready for, and we will.”
Meyer saw plenty he liked in the opener. He singled out 15 players for play worthy of what he called the Champions Club. They included quarterback Braxton Miller, who was named the top offensive player, cornerback Bradley Roby (defense) and Adam Griffin (special teams).
He also found more than a few things to criticize, most glaringly the stuffed run by Carlos Hyde at the goal line on the final play of the first half. Hyde ran into the back of right tackle Reid Fragel and then got tackled inches from the goal line.
“We should have scored,” Meyer said. “We missed a block. The offensive line can’t miss a block down there.
“That was the most disappointing part of the whole day, and we’ll get that fixed.”
The defense settled down after a shaky start that included broken coverage on one long Miami pass play and a missed tackle on another.
“I felt we could have played better, especially in the first quarter,” safety Christian Bryant said. “We let a lot of big plays slip out of our hands. We talk about being the best in the nation each and every day. I don’t feel like we showed that as a whole defense.”
The pride in knowing that they rebounded, combined with the realization that much work remains, provides a good mix for a coaching staff. That message will be pounded home this week.
“Very disappointed in the first quarter, and you evaluate it now, I’m very glad that happened,” Meyer said. “It gives us an opportunity to coach very, very hard and get some things corrected.”
Ohio State backup quarterback Kenny Guiton has grown from being someone coach Urban Meyer didn’t like in December to receiving what could be considered the ultimate compliment from an accomplished head coach.
“His nickname from this point forward is Coach Guiton,” Meyer said.
He actually had tagged Guiton with it a little earlier, primarily because the junior kept his head in the game through the preseason, especially when he wasn’t on the field. It paid off with Guiton playing well in relief Saturday.
“He made a couple of checks out there, and he does it without the reps, so a lot of his things are mental reps,” Meyer said. “So I really appreciate Kenny Guiton. He did a nice job.”
Guiton likes the new nickname, and what it might portend.
“That’s cool,” he said. “I feel like it’s a sign of respect. It’s just saying that I know my stuff, basically.”
Guiton, a late addition to the 2009 recruiting class, knows some had wondered whether he had the ability to play at Ohio State. His first extended action on Saturday indicated that, yes, he can. He completed 5 of 9 passes and directed three touchdown drives, including a 14-play drive for the final score, a 4-yard run by freshman Bri’onte Dunn.
“I haven’t gotten to play for three years, and being out there for that extended period of time, it was a lot of fun for me,” Guiton said. “So that was all I was thinking about, just having fun.”
He went in initially when Miller suffered from leg cramps.
“I felt bad for him,” Guiton said. “At the same time, I was excited just to get a shot to go into the game. I didn’t panic or anything. I just started warming up, getting ready to go.”
Before that, though, he was like the 105,000 or so watching. There was no denying what the new up-tempo spread offense means for Miller, who had 368 yards of total offense, including an OSU quarterback record of 161 yards rushing.
“I think it kind of brought out all his talents,” Guiton said. “He threw the ball well. He ran the ball well. He just had a good overall game.”
Meyer said defensive lineman Michael Bennett was to start against Miami, but in pregame warmups he aggravated the groin muscle strain that had slowed him throughout most of preseason camp.
Whether he will be available Saturday, “I don’t know,” Meyer said. “We need him. We need the rotation.”
Freshmen on the field
Fourteen true freshmen played for the Buckeyes against Miami, including defensive linemen Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt.
“Usually, D-linemen don’t play as a true freshman, but that is the confidence we have in those guys … and they played well,” Meyer said.
Bellamy gone for good
Adding to the need for the first-year defensive linemen to play was the sudden departure of upperclassman Adam Bellamy in preseason camp. Though the window was left open for him to have a change of heart, it didn’t happen.
“It was personal,” Meyer said of Bellamy’s decision. “Nothing with Ohio State, nothing with football, nothing with academics, he just lost his love of the game of football and didn’t want to play anymore. … He’s a great kid. I love his family, good people. We wish him well.”