Train Wreck

COLUMBUS -- The photo at the top of this story, via Pixabay, is of a train wreck.

That may seem an odd image paired with Saturday's 62-14 victory over Maryland. Yet Ohio State coach Urban Meyer would probably agree with it. He was appalled by one aspect of his team's performance.

The 10th-ranked Buckeyes' special teams were anything but special. Far different adjectives quickly spring to mind, awful, atrocious, a train wreck.

Larry Phillips mug shot

Richland Source managing editor Larry Phillips

"There's a lot of people upset about that and I'm one of them," Meyer said.

He had ample reason.

It began with a bad snap leading to a missed extra point, continued with Terrapins' speedster Ty Johnson returning a kickoff 100 yards for a TD, and eventually encompassed a blocked field goal attempt, a delay-of-game penalty on a kickoff, a shanked punt of 21 yards, a kickoff out of bounds, a penalty wiping out a strong punt return, and a missed 29-yard field goal. 

Coach Urban Meyer.jpg

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer.

It was a dizzying series of disasters.

"A young freshman gave up a little blocked punt -- blocked field goal. Our punter did not hit, the freshman punter didn't hit it very well," Meyer said. "And then a veteran kicker, I'm still befuddled with. We're the only team in the country that can't kick the ball down the field. It's something I have to strongly evaluate and find out why.

"And then obviously kick return, you know, part of our kickoff, a big part of our kickoff is kick the ball on target. And we're not on target. So that's something to work on and get fixed."

Against Maryland (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten), it was all meaningless -- a 48-point win could've been a 60-point win.

Against Penn State or Michigan, or anyone else in the top 10, it's a certain defeat. Ohio State (5-1, 3-0) knows it so well because it happened so recently.

Last season the Buckeyes dominated the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley, outgained them 413-276, led in first downs 19-13, and had a 21-7 fourth-quarter lead. But Penn State came all the way back, largely because of two monster special teams plays.

A blocked punt at Ohio State's 28-yard line led to a PSU field goal, and a blocked 45-yard field goal turned into a 60-yard return for a score by Grant Haley. That was the game-winning touchdown in a 24-21 stunner. The Nittany Lions went on to claim the Big Ten title, fueled by that miraculous turn of events.

Saturday's catastrophic special teams' effort immediately dredged up that memory, particularly with Penn State due in Columbus at the end of the month.

Unfortunately, it also overshadowed a fine outing on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, the Buckeyes eclipsed 50 points for the third straight game, registered 584 yards of offense and 33 first downs. OSU sits atop most of the conference's offensive statistics, and has been humming since the loss to Oklahoma in Week Two.

Maryland was limited to six first downs, 66 yards of total offense and just 16 yards passing. It was the fewest yards Ohio State has allowed in a Big Ten game since Nov. 5, 1960, the end of the Dwight Eisenhower administration.

A trip to Nebraska looms for the Buckeyes next week. Then comes a bye, then the rematch with Penn State.

That gives Meyer three weeks to elevate his special teams to respectable. Anything beyond that would be special -- but may be necessary for a victory in that huge showdown.

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