Urban Meyer knows how difficult it is to avoid upsets in college football.
To do it for two years in a row is almost unbelievable.
”Every once in a while I’ll take a peek at the scoreboard and think, `Ooh. What happened there?”’ the Ohio State coach said after the third-ranked Buckeyes rolled over Indiana 42-14 on Saturday. ”For this team to (win) 23 times in a row, that’s an incredible testimony to the players and coaches.”
Braxton Miller ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns and passed for two more as the Buckeyes set a school record for consecutive wins. Meyer, who won two national championships at Florida, refused to measure his current team against his title-winning squads with the Gators.
”If you’re asking me to compare, I don’t know if you can,” he said. ”I’d have to go back and really, really think about it. I know this team is playing at a very, very high level. They’re focused each week. That’s our job to maintain focus again this week.”
In the waning moments, the remnants of a crowd of 104,990 loudly sang, ”We don’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan.” The Buckeyes (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten) close out the regular season at The Big House next Saturday against their archrivals.
”I can’t wait,” said Carlos Hyde, who had 117 yards rushing and two touchdowns while becoming the first running back to top 1,000 yards in Meyer’s 12 years as a head coach. ”It’s a big game. One of the biggest rivalries in college football.”
Saturday’s game was played at times in swirling clouds of snow with temperatures in the 20s. It was all but over at halftime after Ohio State built a 28-0 lead.
The victory put the Buckeyes in the conference championship game on Dec. 7 against Michigan State.
Ohio State’s defense – led by linebacker Ryan Shazier’s 20 tackles – throttled the Hoosiers (4-7, 2-5), who came in averaging 39 points.
Miller completed 11 of 17 passes for 160 yards with one interception, hitting Dontre Wilson and Devin Smith on second-half scoring passes of 24 and 39 yards, respectively. He was still in the game early in the fourth quarter, and his long pass to Smith made it 42-0 as the Buckeyes tried to grab the attention of BCS poll voters with a landslide margin.
”It’s just striving for the best,” Miller said. ”We ended the season 12-0 last year and we weren’t able to play in a bowl game or the Big Ten championship game (because of NCAA sanctions). That’s what we were striving for. (We want to) accomplish that and keep going forward, keep winning games and just make Ohio State proud.”
It was one rough day for the Hoosiers. Kicker Mitch Ewald came in a perfect 8 for 8 on field goals, but his 42-yard attempt in the second quarter clanked off the right upright and a 36-yard try in the third quarter did the same thing off the left upright.
The Hoosiers’ points came on Nate Sudfeld’s 4-yard pass to Shane Wynn and 25-yard pass to D’Angelo Roberts in the final 6 minutes.
”We put up a lot of yards today,” said Sudfeld, who completed 25 of 41 passes for 224 yards. ”But we weren’t able to finish. I don’t know why.”
After scoring at least 28 points in 10 consecutive games, the Hoosiers have managed just 17 points in consecutive losses to Wisconsin (51-3) and the Buckeyes. They finished with 442 yards to 471 for the Buckeyes, but were outrushed 311-122.
”The stats look a little close except the scoreboard,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. ”And that’s the one that counts.”
The Buckeyes inflicted enough damage in the first half to reserve a spot in the Big Ten title game.
On their third snap from center, Miller found a gaping hole on a draw and picked up 41 yards. Hyde then sidestepped a tackler at the line of scrimmage and thundered in on a 16-yard run.
Miller got his first scoring run of the day when he scampered through another huge hole and then vaulted into the end zone at the right post for a 37-yard TD.
Bradley Roby’s blocked punt led to Miller’s 5-yard TD run – he was upended by cornerback Tim Bennett, placing the ball’s nose on the goal line as he came crashing down on his head.
He wasn’t hurt.
”Everybody asked me on the sideline when I came off,” he said with a laugh. ”But I’m good. I’m fine.”
The Buckeyes snapped a tie for the school record with the 1967-69 Ohio State teams, which also won 22 in a row. That streak ended with a painful loss at Michigan – a defeat that touched off the famous ”Ten-Year War” between Woody Hayes and his former assistant and nemesis, Bo Schembechler.
Meyer will undoubtedly remind his team of that defeat in the coming days.
”(Athletic director) Gene Smith came down to present our players with the game ball for having the longest winning streak in Ohio State history,” Meyer said. ”We kind of avoided that thing like a team going through a no-hitter. Now that we have it, we’ve talked about it, and it’s over.