As Tyvis Powell walked to the Ohio State football team’s bus after its 42-41 win vs. Michigan on Saturday, he clutched a regulation NCAA football in his hand.
Almost an hour after the game, he still wasn’t letting go of the biggest play of his Ohio State career.
The redshirt freshman intercepted Devin Gardner’s two-point conversion try with 32 seconds to play, allowing the Buckeyes to escape one of the wildest versions of The Game with a 42-41 victory on Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.
“When we were in there taking a shower, I was talking to Kenny (Guiton), and that’s when it clicked,” Powell said. “That was our season on the line. We had 12-0, the gold pants, chances for the national championship, and it just kind of hit me – wow, I kind of saved the season. All thanks to Coach Coombs.”
That’s right, there was a simple answer for why Powell was where he was on the play, jumping the outside-then-in angle route run by Drew Dileo on the right side of the field – he was there because cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told him to be there.
All the stories about 18-hour days for coaches seem to make sense when film study yields the result that the Buckeyes got on that play. Through his scouting, Coombs knew that the Wolverines would likely run one of two plays, and when the Wolverines moved Dileo into a three-wideout stack on the right side of the field before the snap, Powell knew exactly what was coming.
“Right before the play, Coach Meyer called a timeout and when we went over to the sideline, the last thing I remember is Coach Coombs like, ‘Tyvis, they’re going to motion into triple stack, and (Dileo) is going to run the angle route,’ ” Powell said. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, we watched that on film. That makes a lot of sense.’
“Me and Joshua (Perry) made a swap call, and Josh ended up going on the blitz. He got the pressure on him, (Gardner) threw the ball and I was able to listen to Coach Coombs and boom, there it was.”
To call Powell shocked that the play unfolded exactly as he expected would be an understatement.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘Coach Coombs is a genius,’ ” Powell said. “You know, it kind of shocked me. I was like, ‘He really threw that ball.’ It was just shocking to me that he really threw it. I guess they practice it and that’s their bread-and-butter play on two-point conversions. All week, that’s what we practiced at practice. That’s what they were going to do on two-point conversions.”
Making things even more interesting to the Ohio State contingent was the fact Michigan had run a similar play previously throughout the day. In fact, C.J. Barnett nearly turned one of Gardner’s earlier passes on the play into a turnover.
“I had dropped an interception on that same play,” Barnett said. “Tyvis, he knew it was coming and made a great play. We were well prepared. We were well prepared for that play.”
The pick is certainly one Powell will remember forever, and it might have introduced him to Ohio State fans. The Bedford, Ohio, native redshirted last year and has been the team’s No. 1 nickel back all season long, and he entered the game with 34 tackles and just one turnover, an interception late in the Iowa game that stunted a potential Hawkeyes comeback.
Now, he has a similar but even bigger play to his name, one that can’t be taken away.
Just like the ball he might still have in his hands.
“I had to tuck it,” he said. “I couldn’t let it go. It was like the most prized possession. I couldn’t let it go.”