There it was, three lousy feet in front of him and begging to be taken.
Hell, why change now? Why get to this point, after three years of grinding and pushing and building; after four months of three quarterbacks and bad injuries and bad breaks, and take a knee when the moment demanded an exclamation?
“There was no way we weren’t going in,” Ezekiel Elliott says.
Because that’s not the way Urban Meyer works. Not the way the game’s most ruthless, relentless — and respected, once again — coach runs his business.
If you’re on the 1 with less than a minute to play and they’re still keeping score, there’s no such thing as getting off the gas. So you give to the guy who carried you all game, and tell him to punch it in.
With a clear, undisputed statement: the coach who ruled college football not so long ago is back to make it miserable for everyone else again.
“It’s a different feeling,” Meyer said after Ohio State’s 42-20 rout of Oregon in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. “But it’s a feeling that never gets old.”
There’s no avoiding it now, everyone. The guy who ruled college football in the mid-2000s at Florida is doing the same thing at Ohio State.
But wait, it gets better. Not only has Meyer reached the elite of the sport again, he has completely turned the tables on it.
As the clock wound down on Monday’s humbling emasculation of Oregon, Ohio State had suddenly become the team with speed and dynamic athletes everywhere on the field. Ohio State was the team that made opponents look slow and overmatched.
Ohio State, the program that took beating after beating in those critical BCS bowl games of the past, was the team imposing its will in the biggest game of the season. Nearly two weeks after Meyer and the Buckeyes disposed of the SEC and its king Alabama in the CFP semifinals, they finished the job against Pac-12 heavyweight/speed fiend Oregon.
“I think we proved what this program is all about. We didn’t leave any question,” said Cardale Jones, Ohio State’s third-string quarterback, who, after three games and a month of hardcore teaching and learning under Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman, looked like the best NFL prospect on the field.
Somehow, when everything seemed hopeless and wrecked, Ohio State responded from ugly wins over Indiana and Michigan to finish the regular season by using its third quarterback of the season and playing its three best games of the season to win it all.
It’s almost too good to be true. Unless you’re following the Book of Urb, which begins and ends with the ultimate goal and his version of how it’s going to happen.
“When he was recruiting me, he told me about his plan to win national championships,” said Elliott, the ferocious tailback who couldn’t earn All-Big Ten honors from the league’s coaches, but rushed for 696 yards and eight touchdowns in three postseason games. “Not championship, championships. Plural.”
Now think about where this season began, in the August heat of Columbus, Ohio, and the key to Meyer’s plans falling to his knees on the practice field after a simple throw. Braxton Miller’s throwing shoulder was done, and he needed surgery — and no one behind him had taken a significant college snap.
“(Meyer) saw it happen, went down with his hands on his knees, head down, saying, please tell me (Miller) has another year,” said Ohio State strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti, Meyer’s close confidant for all things football since his days at Florida. “To get here from where we were there, it’s a tribute to these players and these coaches who never gave up on each other.”
They didn’t waver then, and didn’t a year earlier, when Meyer was sitting in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, an empty look on his face after a gut-wrenching loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game kept his team from playing for the national title.
He blamed himself for that loss, and it bled into an Orange Bowl loss to Clemson and became two losses — and a boatload of questions about Ohio State and Meyer’s ability to change the culture — to finish the season. Now throw the injury to Miller on top of that pile, and then an early home loss to Virginia Tech and understand the mess that this team, this program, responded from.
J.T. Barrett rebounded from that brutal loss and became the Big Ten’s most valuable player before breaking his ankle in the regular season final. Then this crazy, goofy, loveable third-stringer took over, and as crazy as it sounds, Ohio State got better. A lot better.
They got closer, they leaned on each other, they played with and for each other. As corny and clichéd as it sounds, they became a team.
“One injury, one man down, wasn’t going to derail our season,” said Ohio State center Jacoby Boren. “If anything, it made us stronger. You’ve got to be physically and mentally stronger than the other guy to win at this level.”
That was the Ohio State offense Monday night, running the same counter power run play over and over — just switching sides of the field to run it — with Elliott grinding down the Oregon defense behind an offensive line that Meyer said was a huge issue at the beginning of the season.
“Young guys that had no idea what they were doing,” Meyer said. “They scared me to death.”
Midway through the third quarter of the CFP Championship Game, Meyer was leaning on that same line with that same counter power run — a play at the heart of the Buckeyes’ 296 rushing yards. By the time Elliott crashed over the goal line with less than a minute to play on his 36th carry, he had rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns.
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SOURCE: Sporting News