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OSU trying to avoid letdown at IU

October 12, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Buckeye Blitz ( , Times Leader

Who saw this coming?

As the Ohio State Buckeyes begin the second half of their season Saturday in Bloomington against Indiana, they're at a point where they're hoping their early success doesn't go to their head and cause them to overlook an opponent. The Hoosiers have lost three games in a row, including last week's 31-27 setback to Michigan State.

It's hard to believe after spring ball and into fall camp that anyone who follows the OSU football program closely would have believed it would have gotten to that point this soon.

That's what happens though when a team ascends to No. 8 in the Associated Press Poll and is coming off a cherished victory under the Ohio Stadium lights before the largest crowd in the history against a then ranked Nebraska team, 63-38.

"We're not shy," Meyer said at his weekly press conference. "We have a state of the union every week with the players and they know. We're not hiding it that you're a top 10 football team and the stakes are real high."

As one of just 16 teams in the country still without a loss, the whispers about the Buckeyes running the table and possibly winning the AP Poll title have crept into some conversations.

Even though OSU is ineligible to win the Big Ten Championship, play in a bowl game or be ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, earning the AP championship trophy is still certainly in play.

"We're trying to get to 7-0," Meyer said. "We don't talk about that (AP Poll title possibility) here, but we do talk about the rankings. The (players) are going to talk about it when they go home, when they walk to class, so why not have here's really where we're at. We don't talk about it in September, but once it gets going, absolutely, we'll talk about it."

Many believe Ohio State will be favored in every game it has left, including road trips to Penn State and Wisconsin along with hosting arch-rival Michian the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Getting to 6-0 wasn't nearly as easy as the score against the Cornhuskers might indicate, especially after the first quarter in which the Buckeyes looked - for lack of a better term - bad offensively and found themselves trailing 14-7.

The slow starts have become almost an unfortunate commonplace seeing that the Buckeyes are being outscored, 36-34, in the first quarter for the season.

"I'm trying to evaluate that as well," Meyer said. "We started out good against Michigan State. We came right out of the chute. We just couldn't get it going (against Nebraska early), but once it got going, it got going."

As has become the case for the Buckeyes, they got it going because sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller broke a long run, which led to a Carlos Hyde touchdown and from there the OSU Express was off and running.

"I remember, over the headset, saying, 'it's Braxton time, let him run the ball and get us started here,'" Meyer said. "Let's get on the other side of the 50 yard line where things ease up a little bit."

It's been the same script for the Buckeyes all season that's why Miller has formally etched his name into the weekly Heisman Trophy conversation though he's trailing West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, he's climbing the ladder with each impressive performance and victory he puts forth.

"I've been lucky to have four Heisman candidates," Meyer said. "It's an honor to be mentioned. I've been to that (ceremony), and it's incredible for these kids. I don't think Braxton's a Heisman candidate right now. I certainly think he's one to watch."

Miller has ran for 763 yards and eight touchdowns. He's averaging 127.2 yards per game. Miller's passing game is coming along. He's thrown for 1,060 yards and eight touchdowns.

As has been the case for now seven weeks in a row, devising a way to slow Miller has become the primary focus for second-year Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson and his staff.

"Braxton is the guy who makes it go because of his abilities," Wilson said. "He's the best runner on the field, and he's also a guy that can throw the ball. He's a little bit more of a dynamic runner than a thrower, but he throws the ball well and you have to commit so many guys up there, sometimes you take your eye off your target."

Taking eyes off the target could definitely cause problems, but the Buckeyes' other targets are continuing to develop.

Tailback Carlos Hyde is coming off a four-touchdown performance for which he was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week along with Michigan's Denard Robinson.

Hyde expects to get the brunt of the non-Miller carries again this week because Jordan Hall isn't expected to be able to go after injuring himself against Michigan State.

Rod Smith scored on a long touchdown run last week and Miller used his tight ends Jeff Heurman and Nick Vannet well. Philly Brown broke a punt return for a touchdown and sophomore Devin Smith was solid once again.

"We need explosive plays in the offense," Meyer said. "We crushed them last week in practice and talking about it. We finally saw that. Our offensive line is coming along, which is the whole reason why we're where we are today."

On the other side of the ball, the Buckeyes are still somewhat of a work-in-progress. They hung in pretty well against the Cornhuskers thanks to brilliant play from John Simon, Johnathan Hankins, Garrett Goebel, Nathan Williams and Ryan Shazier.

The Buckeyes will have a major void to fill in the middle as Etienne Sabino is out for at least a month with a broken bone in his leg.

"It's a tremendous blow because he's a very good player, but it goes beyond that," Meyer said. "He talked to the team afterward and it was an emotional moment. He did have surgery and got a plate put in his leg. The best case is three weeks, but the worst case is longer. We hope to get him back."

The Buckeyes' secondary was strong again with Christian Bryant and Bradley Robey grading out as champions. Robey had two interceptions, including a pick six.

The secondary will be challenged again by a Hoosiers' offense that loves to throw the football. The Hoosiers are averaging 32.8 points and 471.4 yards a game.

"They're coming on," Meyer said of the Hoosiers. "Kevin Wilson is a heck of a football coach. He was one of the originators of the up-tempo. We coached against him when I was at Bowling Green in 2001. I've always loved his coaching. We've stolen a lot of stuff from him because he's an innovator."

Sophomore Cameron Coffman is the Hoosiers' quarterback. He's passed for 801 yards and six touchdowns. He threw the ball 48 times for 282 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Spartans.

Cody Latimer - a Dayton Jefferson Township product - is the team's leading receiver with 363 yards. He's averaging 18.1 yards a catch.

Kofi Hughes is the starting receiver on the other side of the formation. Stephen Houston gets the call at running back. He's ran for 277 yards and has 394 all-purpose yards.

The Hoosiers also have a game breaker in special teams. Cleveland Glenville product Shane Wynn ranks eighth on IU's career kick return list with more than 1,100 yards. Wynn leads the team in receptions, too.

He's caught 28 passes and has four receiving touchdowns.



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