Even when the Buckeyes went 12-0 and put up more than 37 points per game, posting the fifth best scoring offense in program history, Meyer didn't see the explosive, consistent unit he wanted.
Things are, of course, a little bit different this year. The Buckeyes have topped 40 points in every game so far – the first time that's happened since 1969 – and are coming off topping 600 yards last week in the win vs. Cal.
Afterward, Meyer admitted the offense is executing at a "very, very high level" for the first time since he's been the head coach. At the same time, the coach looked longingly at the Golden Bears sideline and seemed jealous of what head coach Sonny Dykes and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin were able to do in less than a year – with a freshman quarterback, no less.
"It's very complicated to put in a no huddle," he said. "That's why I gave so much credit to Cal. To think that they got that in, and we weren't able to do that. It takes a while to get the tempo the way you want it, and that's not just the quarterback, it's every position, to get the signal, get lined up and go at a good tempo."
That was no longer an issue, though, for Meyer, who also added, "The tempo and production from the skilled athletes are getting close (to what we want)."
So what has happened? A couple of things, some obvious, some not so much. The Buckeyes have added a year of experience in the system, yes, and the returning players are more used to everything the team is doing from scheme to tempo. Add in a talented freshman class that has improved depth – think Dontre Wilson burning Cal repeatedly on the edge – and OSU has been able to light up the scoreboard even without much from Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde, last year's most important skill players.
Much of that comes from the ability to go the distance, something the Buckeyes had only in fits and starts a year ago. This year, the Buckeyes have 10 plays of 30 yards or more already.
"The explosive play factor seems to be greater," tight ends coach Tim Hinton said. "You take the first three games, there's a tremendous amount of explosive plays, and we want to have no turnovers and explosive plays. That formula, it's like a 85, 90, 95 percent win formula, when you take college football across the board.
"If you're winning the turnover battle and winning explosive plays, normally you're going to win games. That's what I kind of sense right now is we are doing a great job in the explosive play category."
It also helps that the coaching staff is more in tune, Hinton said.
"That's come really naturally," Hinton said "You get an opportunity to do what we do, and you sit in those rooms every day and you ask questions to each other, and you look at game plans. There's certainly more continuity about what's the next move; ‘They do this, so let's do that' kind of discussions. I sit beside Tom every game in the press box and I kind of know what he wants to hear and why he wants to hear it.
"So those suggestions are kind of geared one direction, and I know from Coach Meyer, he's throwing things out there and Coach (Ed) Warinner and Coach (Stan) Drayton and Coach (Zach) Smith. So there is a lot more continuity to that and it comes with maturity of a staff.
D-Line Does It
In just about every metric you can come up with, the play of the Ohio State defensive line has been solid through three games despite the fact the Buckeyes are replacing all four starters.
OSU has allowed just 89.7 rushing yards per game and 2.7 yards per rush. The Buckeyes have seven sacks for a net loss of 55 yards, three of which ended up fumbles recovered by Ohio State.
And the Buckeyes have done it all without two of their top offensive linemen this year. Backup tackle Tommy Schutt has missed the first three games thanks to a foot injury – he might return near the midway point – while starting end Adolphus Washington left just five minutes into the San Diego State game with a groin injury.
"We are all happy," defensive line coach Mike Vrabel said. "Started in the spring, we had most of those guys here in the spring. Joey was not here in the spring and Michael Hill wasn't here, but we had most of those players that are playing for us in the spring. And it really started then focusing in on what we would need to do, have to do and treating every weekend like a game, every Saturday scrimmage like a game."
The "Joey" Vrabel referred to is Joey Bosa, the five-star freshman who earned OSU defensive player of the week honors after making seven tackles in his first career start in Washington's stead at Cal.
On the year, Bosa has 10 tackles, including two for loss.
"His development was much faster than I think a lot of people thought it would be," Vrabel said. "Certainly he's a much smarter football player as a freshman than I had ever envisioned. I think physically, we thought he could come in here and play at this level, play at Ohio State, play against the type of opponents that we are going to play against. But it was his mental approach and how quick he picked it up mentally that surprised me."
Bosa is far from the only star on the line. Sophomore end Noah Spence has 15 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries, while 3-technique tackle Michael Bennett has six tackles, two TFL and two recovered fumbles.
Depth has also been on display, as sophomores Jamal Marcus and Chris Carter each have five tackles and a sack while also combining for a strip and fumble recovery vs. San Diego State. Backup end Steve Miller has added a sack and two TFL among his four sacks, while Joel Hale has been solid in the middle of the line with two stops while occupying blockers.
Next, Vrabel had a few more requirements for his charges when it comes to continuing to get better.
"Technique is always important," he said. "I think you look at pass rush technique as things that we are always going to continue to work on; run game fundamentals, where our hands are, are our hands inside, are we hitting on the rise, all those little things. We talk effort, toughness, the ability to strain and also the ability to play with some technique. So those are the things we work on every day. Doesn't change."
Baugh Working Hard
Ohio State fans were excited to see four-star tight end prospect Marcus Baugh, the No. 3 tight end in his recruiting class, when he got to Columbus. Though the Buckeyes are stacked at tight end with starter Jeff Heuerman and reserve Nick Vannett, it was thought the pass-catching Baugh would be a good third option.
Of course, most fans know what happened next, as Baugh was cited this offseason for underage possession of alcohol and a fake ID, causing him to be suspended from the opening game of the season. Though OSU lost redshirt freshman tight end Blake Thomas to a career-ending injury this fall, converted defensive end J.T. Moore has been the third tight end this season thus far.
Tight ends coach Tim Hinton had an honest assessment of Baugh's progress when asked Monday.
"Marcus is coming along really well," he said. "The honest truth is, he has not caught the ball as well as we want him to at this point in the year. He's a very athletic kid. He does really well on the field that way, but he just has not caught the ball as cleanly as he needs to and as consistently, and as he learns that skill, he'll be okay.
"I mean, he'll do well here. We knew coming in, he was more of a wide receiver tight end than a tight end. So his blocking skills obviously need to improve yet, but he has not caught the ball as cleanly as you need to, and I'll guarantee you, it's been emphasized in a certain room."
It's not guaranteed Baugh will redshirt, though, Hinton said, despite the fact he has yet to see the field.
"You know, Coach Meyer has that philosophy, we don't redshirt anyone," Hinton said. "We'll play anyone who is needed to play that week and we'll see how that goes. Obviously we have had no discussion with him about that."
Facts And Figures
Ohio State enters the game with the nation's longest winning streak at 14 games. It is the 15th winning streak in school history of 10 or more games. The streak is fifth longest in school history with 22 consecutive wins from 1967-69 the longest. Meyer's longest streak is also a 22-gamer in 2008 and '09 at Florida.
Junior Braxton Miller (2,063) needs 18 yards rushing to pass Cornelius Greene (2,080, 1972-75) and become Ohio State's recognized all-time leading rusher among QBs. Terrelle Pryor ran for 2,164 yards from 2008-10, but his 2010 stats are not recognized by the university.
Ohio State has never faced a HBCU (historically black college/university) in a game. The Buckeyes are 2-0 all-time vs. Division I FCS foes, having beaten Youngstown State in 2007 and '08.
Philly Brown has 95 catches in his career, placing him 18th all-time at Ohio State. He passed Brian Hartline (90, 2006-08) and Bobby Olive (91, 1987-90) a week ago with five catches vs. Cal. Next on the list is Brian Stablein, who had 96 catches from 1989-92.
Senior RB Jordan Hall is third in the Big Ten and ninth in the nation in rushing with 134.0 yards per game. He ranks first in scoring (12.7 points per game) and TDs scored (six).
Ohio State is a perfect 10 for 10 in the red zone this season with nine TDs and one field goal.