By JIM NAVEAU
COLUMBUS – The scene that played out on Ohio State’s sidelines right after the Buckeyes pulled to within two points of Purdue in the final seconds of regulation on Saturday showed that they have a healthy confidence in their ability to run the ball and throw it.
While head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman were saying OSU should throw for the two-point conversion, the offensive line and running back Carlos Hyde were lobbying to run it in. Lobbying very intensely.
“The offensive line was yelling at me to run the ball. I mean, like screaming. And it was the same with Carlos Hyde,” Meyer said.
Hyde remembered his contribution to that discussion this way: “I told them it was what, two or three yards out? Two or three yards, we can definitely run that in. They won’t stop us.”
In the end, Meyer let Herman have the last word. Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton patiently waited until tight end Jeff Heuerman got open and lofted the ball to him to tie the game at 22-22. One overtime later, Ohio State had a 29-22 win.
“I almost changed that play. I said, ‘Tom, let’s pound it at them,’ and he said, ‘No, let’s go with this,.’ ” Meyer said.
Heuerman seemed every bit as confident the pass would succeed as the linemen and Hyde were that the run was the way to go.
“It works every time (in practice). I knew it was going to work. It was something we had never showed before on film,” he said. “I was just going with whatever they told me to do.”
While OSU’s confidence is healthy, some parts of its team are not so healthy going into this Saturday’s game at Penn State.
Quarterback Braxton Miller was forced out of the Purdue game with what looked like it could be a concussion but was pronounced to have “no symptoms” after a trip to the hospital. His status for this week’s game will be determined as the week goes on.
OSU also played the second half without leading receiver Corey Brown.
Several ongoing situations have left Ohio State thin at linebacker and on kick coverage teams.
Purdue’s Akeem Hunt returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, which illustrated the absence of frontline players from OSU’s kick coverage unit, Meyer said. That group is missing Armani Reeves (ankle), Najee Murray (knee) and Jamie Wood (shoulder).
Depth is so lacking at linebacker that defensive end Nathan Williams played quite a bit of outside linebacker against Purdue and fullback Zach Boren has spent the last two games playing linebacker.
“We’re on fumes as far as special teams and at certain positions,” Meyer said.
Despite the injuries, Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) will take the only unbeaten record in the Big Ten to Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten).
The Nittany Lions were written off by many people after being hit hard by NCAA sanctions and having 10 players transfer, including leading rusher Silas Redd, and losing their first two games.
But a strong front seven on defense and quarterback Matt McGloin have made Penn State one of the best teams in the Big Ten so far this season.
McGloin has completed 62 percent of his passes for 1788 yards with 14 touchdown throws and only two interceptions. Penn State’s defense ranks second in the Big Ten in points allowed at 15.7 a game.