Sometimes when you’re watching history, it’s hard to totally appreciate.
What the Ohio State football team is doing right now is not exactly “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” or “Do you remember when man first walked on the moon?” type material.
But the fact remains that every time the Buckeyes take the field right now, history is being made, something Urban Meyer understands.
When he took over as the team’s head coach nearly two years ago – it really has been that long – Meyer instituted a new culture around the football program, a new offense, a new weight program, a new nutritional program, almost a new everything.
However, he left the team’s meeting room largely the same. There are a few new signs – Bill Belichick is quoted, to start – but the side walls are pretty much the same as Jim Tressel left them.
On one side – the right when you walk into the room, the left if you’re delivering a coaching lesson from the podium – a pair of scarlet boards lists both the program’s outright Big Ten championships and its shared conference crowns, starting 97 years ago.
“I leave all this stuff up here for a reason. We could have changed this team meeting room any way you want,” Meyer said, pointing to the side wall. “1916 is the first championship. Ohio State, a lot of great football teams.”
Of course, Meyer appears to be on his way to making sure those lists get longer. And by the time the campaign is over, Ohio State is going to need a pretty good eraser when it comes to the records section of team’s media guide.
There’s the 22-game winning streak, one that has tied the school record and is nearing the Big Ten mark, but it goes so much deeper than that.
When Meyer took over, Ohio State’s leading receiver had made just 14 catches the year before. In 2011, the Buckeyes finished 81st in the nation in scoring offense, 107th in yards per game and 115th in passing offense. Sure, the Buckeyes had put a true freshman in charge of the offense – eventually – in Braxton Miller, and a number of other key players faced suspensions, but those numbers were, quite frankly, ugly. Simply put, Jim Bollman had not made many fans among the fan base.
Things weren’t helped when Meyer came in and proclaimed the whole operation a “clown show” at times in his first spring, then questioned the abilities of what had been a woefully underperforming receivers corps the season before.
And now, a year and a half later, the numbers this offense has put up are nearly incomprehensible given where the team has come from. The Buckeyes already have broken the 1995 squad’s school record for touchdowns in a campaign with 67 – and there’s four more games to go. Think about that for a second.
Next up is the school mark for points in a season, which should fall in the first quarter against Indiana considering this year’s total of 494 is just 10 shy of the 1998’s team’s Ohio State mark.
Anytime you’re in the same air as those two teams, probably the best offensive squads of the passing era of Ohio State football, you’re doing something right.
Lest you think the Buckeyes are doing more damage on the scoreboard than ever now because there are more games in a season, the team’s per-game averages are even more eye-popping. This year’s squad is scoring 49.4 points per game and 536.9 yards, which would shatter the previous marks of 42.5 (set in 1969) and 497.5 (’98 again). Then there are totals like the 76-point outburst vs. Florida A&M (most in a game since 1934) and the 441 rushing yards vs. Illinois, most in nearly 25 years.
Individually, the marks are just as good. Braxton Miller is already the leading rusher among quarterbacks in school history, and his mark for total offense is now third in school history.
Then there’s Carlos Hyde, a player who just two years ago left Champaign contemplating a transfer. Over the past two years, the senior has compiled 1,917 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns, and against Illinois this time around, his 246 yards (tied for third-best in a game in OSU history, matching some guy named Griffin) moved him from 17th to 12th all-time in the school annals. As you might know, there have been some pretty good runners of the football at Ohio State.
Among the receiving corps, Corey Brown had just 22 catches in his first two years as a Buckeye. Now, a player who Meyer said he wouldn’t walk across the street for when he first arrived has 130 career grabs, eighth all-time at OSU.
Add in the rest of the skill players at Ohio State – we didn’t even touch the rest of the deep backfield, or receiving targets like Devin Smith or the team’s tight ends – and the dominating offensive line, and in some ways the offensive explosion at OSU has been predictable.
“It's enjoyable in a game plan when you have weapons and guys, you call them checkers, you like the size and speed of your checkers,” Meyer said, turning into the coach whose X’s and O’s prowess helped him be part of the revolution that changed the game. “It’s nice to draw the circles on the wall. It’s a little uncomfortable to draw the circles when the circles are small and slow. The bigger and faster the circle, that's fun stuff.”
At the same time, who could have really seen this coming? Sure, Meyer entered Ohio State with a reputation as an offensive guru, and coordinator Tom Herman had plenty of great credentials as well.
But school records are being smashed left and right by incredible margins. Players who a short time ago seemed just as likely to finish their careers elsewhere have turned into some of the most decorated in school history. In a span of about 20 games, what had been a source of constant frustration for fans for years has become a nearly unstoppable machine.
In other words, history is being made. Don’t let it pass you by – unless you’re Meyer and your only goal is to make more.
“I think someday you'll be able to look back and reflect,” he said. “Now is not that time. We have too much work to do.”