Offensive Line Making Strides

The Ohio State offensive line wanted to make a statement, and it did just that in the team's final drive of its 17-16 win over Michigan State on Saturday. With just more than four minutes remaining in the game and everyone knowing OSU was going to run, the Buckeyes offensive line led the team to three first downs and the win. Jack Mewhort feels as if the unit has come a long way.

When Ohio State got the ball back clinging to a one-point lead with a little more than four minutes remaining in its game at Michigan State Saturday, Urban Meyer thought the game was going to play out differently.

"When I saw the time on the clock, I thought we were going to have to punt that ball," Meyer said. "That's not to disrespect our players, but I know the way the game goes and everybody watching that ballgame knew we were going to run the ball."

Michigan State had two timeouts left, but all that stood between the Buckeyes and a win was a couple of first downs. Even with the play calls all but telegraphed, Meyer knew the Buckeyes had to, at the very least, run some time off the clock or force the Spartans to use one or both of their timeouts.

Given Meyer's high regard for the Michigan State defense – one he has since said was one of the top 10 units he's faced in his career – it was fair for Meyer to think the Spartans would get a stop to earn one final possession and a chance to win.

The offensive line looked at things differently. With the relentless criticism the unit had faced even before Meyer took the Ohio State job and brought in a new staff, the offensive line felt as if this was the stage to display its immense growth.

Respect is earned over time, sure. But junior left tackle Jack Mewhort realized he and the rest of his offensive line counterparts could prove a statement against perhaps the best defense the Buckeyes will face all year.

"I think last year hurt us a little bit," Mewhort admitted. "We got to redeem ourselves, pull ourselves back from that, and I know talking to all the guys that's our mind-set – that we've been kicked a lot and a lot of things have been said about us, and we need to pull ourselves out and grind every day and never become complacent."

If one drive can prove this isn't the same offensive line that has struggled at times, this was the one. Not only would the Buckeyes run the ball directly at the staunch Spartans defense, but success would mean a prolonged undefeated season and the biggest win of Meyer's short Ohio State career.

Running back Carlos Hyde took a handoff from Miller on first down and rushed for 7 yards. The next play, the Buckeyes went right back to the junior running back, and he gained another hard-fought 6 to move the chains for the first time.

The statement was made.

"We wanted them to know we could move the ball on them when it mattered," Hyde said. "We ended up doing it because the push on the offensive line was so good. They played well all day, but it was even better on that final drive."

Miller wasted no time picking up the Buckeyes' second first down on the drive, taking a designed keeper up the middle for a 14-yard gain. On the following play, Miller again kept it for a 6-yard gain, and Michigan State called timeout with 2:10 remaining.

After the 30-second break, Miller trotted back out knowing that Ohio State needed only 4 more yards to claim the victory. The quarterback, however, was stuffed for no gain, and the Spartans burned their final timeout at the 2:06 mark.

At the Michigan State 49 facing third-and- 4, Hyde churned out 5 yards to convert the first down. The game was over.

"The way our offensive line was playing, I was really confident we could do it," offensive coordinator Tom Herman said. "The way Braxton and Carlos were running the football, we felt really good about our chance to get three first downs. When we needed them the most, we got them."

With yet another big game coming up this week – a primetime affair with Nebraska under the lights in Ohio Stadium – the offensive line still has plenty of work to do. But given the way the unit has meshed together after losing three multi-year starters after last year, the signs of growth are tangible.

"I think during camp the offense starting clicking and guys were getting better every day," Mewhort said. ‘"We lost three starters in Mike (Adams), Michael (Brewster) and J.B. (Shugarts), but the guys that came in and are playing now are great players and we're really jelling well and we're getting better every day. We're real excited about the places we're going."

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