Meyer enjoys (sort of) ugly Buckeyes win
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Urban Meyer was angry, maybe even exhausted.
He was also very relieved.
Ohio State 35, California 28 doesn't really tell the story of Saturday's game. That Meyer was able to smirk as much as he shrugged his shoulders in the immediate aftermath, though, said a lot about the new Meyer.
New Urban liked it -- he didn't love it. Old Urban would have been steaming mad.
"Tomorrow won't be all peaches and cream," Meyer said. "Today, we enjoy a win. The best part about 3-0 is you have a chance to be 4-0."
Ohio State didn't have its A-game at The Horseshoe, and in the third quarter, the Buckeyes let a team that that had come more than 2,400 miles to play in front of more than 105,000 people in scarlet and gray take over the game.
With 8 minutes and 10 seconds left, Ohio State let Cal take the lead.
Had Cal not missed three field goals, the third coming after an interception in Ohio State territory in the final eight minutes, it might have been a different result. The Meyer honeymoon period might have been over.
Having Braxton Miller helped the Buckeyes stay perfect in the one category that counts.
A running quarterback who probably runs too much, Miller's 72-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith with 3:26 left was the winner and part of a 249-yard, four passing touchdown day. He even threw a version of the jump pass that Tim Tebow used to throw for Meyer at Florida for a 3-yard touchdown to Jake Stoneburner to tie the game at 28.
New Urban likes Old Urban's track record. New Urban likes his new quarterback, too. The first of Ohio State's five touchdowns came when Miller froze Cal defensive back Alex Logan with a stutter step and outran the rest of the defense 55 yards for his fourth rushing touchdown of the year.
New Urban will find plenty not to like about this particular Ohio State performance when he watches the film. The Buckeyes looked a lot like themselves from a season ago with a series of missed tackles and poor angles as Cal rallied from a 20-7 halftime deficit to get back in the game.
"Bad tackling, that's all I know," Meyer said. "We have to get that figured out. It's time to play Ohio State defense."
Cal had 512 yards of offense Saturday, 331 in the second half. Ohio State was penalized 11 times for 101 yards, and in the end, the Buckeyes benefited greatly from a sequence of bizarre -- and almost comical -- penalties that negated a Cal touchdown and led to a missed field goal in the first half.
Meyer said he'll live with pass interference calls and his players trying to make plays on the ball but also said his team was guilty of "stupid, ignorant penalties" such as roughing the passer that kept Cal drives alive.
"Terrible," Meyer said. "I wish I had some magic answer. We don't tackle very well right now. Stupid penalties.
"We have to get it fixed. We'll get better, I promise you. We'll get better"
Meyer said he thought someone would make a play when Ohio State needed it most Saturday, and he hinted that he thought that someone would be Miller. But despite Miller and Smith hooking up five times for 145 yards and two scores, the passing game is very much a work in progress. Miller threw more ugly ones than he did beauties in the second half, when he was just 6-of-16 including a bad interception on which he hesitated, locked in on a receiver and threw it right to Cal cornerback Steve Williams.
"The maturation of a quarterback," Meyer said. "He's fine. It's happening right in front of Ohio State's eyes."
Meyer said Miller is still progressing, and that everyone involved with the Ohio State offense knows "we're going to have to throw the ball. We're going to have become efficient throwing. It's turning into that kind of world for us. There are a lot of people committed to stopping the run."
Miller is no longer any kind of secret. Neither is the fact that the Buckeyes are talented but vulnerable, prone to lapses and falling into old habits. Both Old and New Urban probably are excited by the prospect of turning up the heat in practice this week with what should be a lopsided game vs. UAB on tap next week, a week before Big Ten play starts at Michigan.
New Urban can't wait.
It would be tough for Cal to explain how nobody covered Smith as Miller escaped the pocket and Smith ran up the sideline on what became the winning touchdown, and it might be tougher to explain how Cal running back Brendan Bigelow ran for 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns but on only four carries.
Yes, just four.
And Cal missed three field goals.
Every win counts. Every inch counts.
"We're going to enjoy a win against a very quality opponent," Meyer said. "Our guys found a way."
Somehow, someway, Ohio State got to 3-0. At least temporarily, the New Urban Meyer is going to enjoy it.