ANN ARBOR, Mich: When the rout was over, when a tumultuous week ended with Ohio State’s 42-13 victory over Michigan Saturday afternoon, left tackle Taylor Decker broke away from the mob before the traditional singing of Carmen Ohio.



Decker wanted to intercept offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner, who had just made his way down from the press box. Decker was joined by running back Ezekiel Elliott and the three embraced.



It was Warinner’s first game all season calling the plays from upstairs as coach Urban Meyer dramatically changed the offensive game-day operation. The plan, and the offense, worked to perfection as the Buckeyes ran up 369 yards rushing and five touchdowns to the Wolverines’ 69 yards on the ground.



“Coach Warinner’s been down on the field with us, so he didn’t have the sole responsibility of calling all the plays. The criticism he was taking was not deserving,” Decker said. “He’s a damn good coach and I love him and I’d take one right here for him.”



Decker pointed to the center of his forehead.



Hours later, the defending national champion Buckeyes’ hopes of making the four-team College Football Playoff virtually ended with Michigan State’s 55-16 rout of Penn State. Shut out of next week’s Big Ten Championship Game, the Buckeyes need national upsets and a miracle.



If OSU is not among the top four, Meyer will be to blame.



After offensive coordinator Tom Herman left to become coach at Houston, Meyer botched the offensive play-calling structure and waited too long to fix it.



He took too long to realize that J.T. Barrett should be the starting quarterback and wrecked the confidence of both Barrett and Cardale Jones in the process.



He fell in love with Jones’ big arm and the deep passing attack in the final three games of the 2014 season. He didn’t see that the Buckeyes’ injury-wracked receiving corps, which also lost Jones’ go-to guy Devin Smith to the NFL, didn’t have the talent to make that work in 2015.



Even as Buckeye Nation celebrated beating Michigan, it was hard to avoid the question of what took so long to get the offense fixed.



Warinner wanted to be on the sideline with his starting offensive linemen. So new co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, stationed upstairs, joined the collaboration with Warinner and Meyer. After Heisman Trophy candidate Ezekiel Elliott touched the ball just 12 times and gained 33 yards in the Nov. 21 loss to Michigan State, Elliott criticized the play-calling, sparking a national controversy.



It wasn’t until Tuesday that Meyer decided drastic changes were needed.



Warinner went upstairs. He left his graduate assistant Jim Cordle, a former OSU lineman, to handle the sideline with tight ends coach Tim Hinton, who moved downstairs.



“We had to make a move. We were not getting the game called ... to coach all five guys and be involved in the play-calling, that’s tough,” Meyer said. “About Tuesday I said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ You can only do that with a veteran offensive line. You do that with a young offensive line and it’s a mess because you’ve got to make adjustments.”



Warinner said he had a quicker handle on the down and distance. The offense moved at a faster pace. The running game was crisp, and unstoppable.



“We did what the offensive line has been asking for,” Decker said. “We did a lot of tempo and tight zone and gap-scheme plays. It just wears the defense out. The game plan was very simple, but it was high execution.”



Meyer knows how hard it is to go undefeated. He knows how hard it is to repeat as national champions. That’s why he deemed this season “The Grind.”



There’s a chance the Buckeyes could end up in the Rose Bowl, no small consolation prize. Meyer will enjoy another win over Michigan. On Saturday, he said the bounce-back victory for the Buckeyes was a big accomplishment for the program.



“I don’t want to go where what if we didn’t do that,” Meyer said. “It would be dire straits right now. You could win a million games in a row and you lose two in a row and you’re back to square one.”



It’s not dire straits. It’s not square one. But when fans look for reasons why one of the most talented Buckeyes teams in program history didn’t reach the heights it could have, they need to start with Meyer.



Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.