During the first 59 minutes 13 seconds of the Ohio State vs. Purdue game, it appeared as though we were watching the collapse of the season. With Braxton Miller on his way to the hospital, the offense had bounced a field goal off the post, given up a safety and backup quarterback Kenny Guiton threw an interception. Although the defense was starting to show signs of life, things weren’t looking much better.
Then it happened.
With only 47 seconds left in the game and no timeouts to stop the clock, Guiton connected with Devin Smith for 39 yards. He immediately followed with a pass to Evan Spencer placing the Buckeyes on the 14 yard line. Carlos Hyde moved the ball another three yards but Guiton followed with a couple of incomplete passes. With time running out, Purdue committed pass interference placing the Buckeyes on the 2 yard line. A short pitch over the top to Chris Fields and the Buckeyes were in the end zone.
With only a few seconds left on the clock and two points down, you would expect the ball to go to Carlos Hyde. According to Coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeye offense sure did.
“The offensive line was screaming at me (Meyer) to run the ball. I mean, like screaming. And same with Carlos Hyde. And I almost changed that play. And I said: Tom (Herman), let’s pound it at ‘em. He said, no, let’s go with this.”
A short hesitation lob to freshman Chris Fields and the game was tied and going into overtime.
Five plays into overtime the Buckeyes were up by seven. The Ohio State defense held Purdue to five yards and the game was over. In one of the most amazing finishes since the “Holy Buckeye” pass, the Buckeyes had come from behind and salvaged their undefeated record.
Kenny Guiton, Urban Meyer and the power of confidence
Not only did we see an amazing turnaround by the Ohio State Buckeyes, in those 47 seconds we saw a change in this team that will have an impact for the rest of this season and into the future. And although I’ve been slow to accept it, much of this can be attributed to Urban Meyer’s coaching style.
Everything about this game would suggest that the Buckeyes were done. The all star quarterback was out and on his way to the hospital. Corey Brown and Johathon Hankins were injured on the sidelines. At least two players were playing out of position because there was no one left to fill the spots.
With a safety and an interception on the last two possessions, there was nothing to suggest that this team could pull it together. But instead of jumping on Guiton after throwing the interception, Meyer grabbed him and said, “…you’re going to go win us a game.”
Meyer was able to say that because he had confidence in Guiton–confidence he didn’t have in him last spring. Meyer has been very blunt about when he does or doesn’t have confidence in his players. But instead of giving up on them, this lack of confidence appears to be an important part of player development. He not only tells his kids he lacks confidence in them, he tells them what they need to do to fix the problem. When Meyer tells Guiton he can win the game, Guiton knows that Meyer truly believes he can and he responded.
He looked right at me. I think he was down. I think that moment kind of picked him up. And we have confidence in Kenny Guiton. And the one thing is we’re real honest with guys around here. If we didn’t, I would tell them: We don’t have any confidence in you. Here’s what you need to do. That’s not the case.
Every snap of practice he gets a rep. He’s done it over and over again in practice, the cross, we call it 860 cross. But after that interception, we all went back I just grabbed him and I said: You’ll be right back and we’ll win the game. And he looked right back me, said: I gotcha, Coach. And how many times has he been in that position, how many times has anybody been in that situation?
Guiton isn’t the only one where we’ve seen this type of development. In his post-game comments Meyer mentioned Fields and Jake Stoneburner. Meyer called Fields a “product of this program” saying that during the past few weeks, Fields has made a transformation “the way he works, his practice habits and his performance.”
He’s also seen a transformation in Stoneburner saying that in the past two weeks, Stoneburner has completely changed his performance.
We had a come to you know what meeting because he wasn’t playing well. He was playing okay.
But, once again, I think one of the things that I love so much about our program is direct conversation and direct honesty. And he wasn’t playing very hard in East Lansing. He did it. He played okay, but okay is not good enough for a guy like that. The last game he played lights out and today he played great.
A New Ohio State Team
From this point forward I think we will see a different Ohio State football team. With confidence in themselves and those around them playing such an important role, those 47 seconds and their overtime performance will be season changing. Now they know they can fight through adversity for they have done it. They know they have the ability and the talent because they have proven it to themselves.
Expect the Buckeyes to ride this wave right into practice this week and on to Penn State an beyond. Before those 47 seconds I thought our season was over. Instead, we have seen the dawning of a new era at Ohio State. Lackluster play has been a problem all season but this may be just the fire they need.
With big games looming on the horizon and a finale against Michigan, I now believe the Buckeyes end the season undefeated.