COLUMBUS — The reality of it will soon set in for Ohio State.
Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not until the Rose Bowl or even a week afterward. But the end of the Urban Meyer era for the program is nearing.
On Jan. 2, a new day begins as Ryan Day will officially take over as coach of the Buckeyes, the 25th in program history. In his seven seasons in Columbus, Meyer won at least a share of the Big Ten East every year, won three Big Ten Championships and reached a New Year’s Six bowl game six times, including the 2014 national championship.
Meyer is 4-2 in those prestigious postseason games as the coach of Ohio State, with his first and last trip to the Rose Bowl on the horizon. A victory would be his 83rd with the Buckeyes, and would close out one of the most successful eras in college football history. While at Ohio State, he provided a number of memorable bowl game performances that have been able to build both his personal legacy as a coach and the football program overall.
Ahead of the Rose Bowl sendoff, Lettermen Row is looking back at some of Meyer’s best bowl moments leading the Buckeyes.
Braxton Miller Shines with One Shoulder: 2014 Orange Bowl
This is the only time I will mention a loss on this list of performances, simply because Braxton Miller gave everything he had to Ohio State in this game — and for his entire career. Against Clemson in the Orange Bowl during Meyer’s first bowl appearance as head coach of the Scarlet and Gray, he basically sacrificed his opportunity to play quarterback for the Buckeyes the following season. (Yes, I’m aware the program won a national championship that next year. But that’s not the point.)
Miller’s 269 total-yard, four-touchdown performance gave Ohio State every opportunity to beat the Tigers. But a handful of turnovers eventually sunk the Buckeyes and cost them the game. That was not the only loss that was suffered, however, as Miller tried to brace himself for a fall after a hit by Clemson’s Vic Beasley and the impact from the fall actually caused Miller to tear his labrum.
Yes, it may have been in a losing effort and basically cost Miller the rest of his possible career at quarterback, but he put on an absolute show in Miami that night and deserves some recognition.
The Reverse Pass: 2015 Sugar Bowl
The call, the execution, the throw, the moment — all of these things combined set the stage for one play that may go down as the greatest of the Meyer Era for Ohio State football.
Trailing by eight with just under two minutes left in the half, the Cardale Jones-led Buckeyes looked to capitalize on having the ball to end the half and receiving the second half kick off. Jones led the Scarlet and Gray drive all the way down to the Crimson Tide 13-yard line where on second-and-10, Jones flipped a pitch to Jalin Marshall, who then flipped the ball to a rotating Evan Spencer in the backfield.
The captain stopped to set his feet, wound up and fired a perfect strike to Michael Thomas, who somehow was able to get one foot down inbounds for the touchdown.
Just to make things even better, in case you need a visual aid to help you remember just how sweet the spiral was on that pass, Evan jumped into the Lettermen Row film room a few weeks ago to break that play down as well as another that may be on this list.
An 85-yard Dagger: 2015 Sugar Bowl
Can you have two plays from the same game on the list? Well, it’s my list, so, yes. Yes, I can.
In all seriousness, it’s just a coincidence that two of the greatest plays in program history occurred on this night in New Orleans. Leading 34-28 with just under four minutes left in the game, the Buckeyes needed to score again to bury the Nick Saban and Alabama for good. And thanks to a couple of blocks, Ezekiel Elliott did just that.
On the Ohio State 15-yard line, Jones handed the ball off to Elliott, and after receiving a crack block from Evan Spencer to seal the edge, scampered 85 yards to the end zone to all but clinch the Sugar Bowl title and a trip to the first-ever College Football Playoff national championship game for Ohio State.
Undisputed: 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship
Don’t worry, this absolutely was not going to be left off the list.
As said above, the Buckeyes headed west following the win over Alabama to AT&T Stadium for a matchup with Oregon for the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship. The Ducks were about a touchdown favorite, something rare for Urban Meyer during his coaching career. And just like against Michigan this season, Ohio State showed exactly why making them an underdog was a massive mistake.
Behind Elliott’s 246-yard, four-touchdown performance, the Buckeyes captured the program’s first title since 2002 and Meyer’s only one with Ohio State, become the first truly undisputed national champions in college football history.
The Shrug: 2016 Fiesta Bowl
After falling to Michigan State at home two weeks prior, the opportunity to make another run at a national title was over for Meyer and Ohio State. Of course, the Buckeyes crushed The Rival to wrap up the regular season, but another trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl was lined up. This time, the Buckeyes were heading out to the desert for the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.
Yes, Ohio State throttled the Irish, but one of the more memorable plays that occurred was Joey Bosa’s hit on Deshone Kizer that was flagged for targeting, disqualifying Bosa from the game — his last with the program. His good friend Elliott made sure to pay tribute to his teammate and a fellow future top-5 NFL Draft pick.
Zeke ripped off a 47-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, his fourth of the game, and celebrated with the well-known “Bosa Shrug” in what would also be his final game in the Scarlet and Gray.
Obviously, Urban Meyer had more than just these five moments during his seven seasons in Columbus. He’ll be remembered for his records, his accomplishments and the way he did things on and off the field. However, these five performances highlight one of the greatest eras in both Ohio State football and college football history.