Meyer's Bowling Green team played at Northwestern on Nov. 17, 2001, in a game that wasn't even on the regular schedule. Northwestern was supposed to play Navy on Sept. 15 of that season only to see the game go by the wayside when September 11 happened.
Instead, then, Northwestern hosted the first-year head coach and his hotshot Falcons. Despite the fact that Bowling Green was 2-9 the year before, Meyer had his squad at 6-3 and coming off a shutout win against Ohio University.
Already having beaten Missouri in Meyer's career opener and a Temple team that was still in the Big East, the Falcons weren't intimidated facing a 4-5 Northwestern team in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
What transpired, then, is one of the more memorable wins in Meyer's life, but it didn't seem like it would end that way when the late Randy Walker's Northwestern team took a 28-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
What looked like a Northwestern win, though, ended in wild fashion, as the Falcons scored 29 points in the fourth quarter – including the winning two-point conversion with 36 seconds left – to earn a 43-42 victory.
"Coaches are weird ducks, man," Meyer said when asked about the game Monday. "I don't know my address but I can tell you every play in that game, yeah, absolutely. Twenty-nine points in the fourth quarter against my friends, a great football coach, Randy Walker. We made the decision in the fourth quarter not to kick deep because we couldn't stop them. Zak Kustok was the quarterback, and they beat the team up north like two weeks earlier. I think they were ranked at the time and we had a kid making his second start, Josh Harris. You want me to keep going?"
Some of Meyer's memories are a bit hazy – Northwestern wasn't ranked and didn't even play Michigan that year, though the Wildcats did win a classic at home vs. the Wolverines the year prior – but the gist of it was right on the mark.
Kustok put up a Northwestern-record 532 yards of offense in the game – then the third-best mark in Big Ten history – while throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for two more.
But Harris was his equal, throwing for 402 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for 91 yards and a pair of scores and also catching a 14-yard touchdown pass from wideout Cole Magner.
Harris' 3-yard touchdown run made it a 42-35 game in favor of Northwestern with 2:30 left, but the Wildcats recovered the onside kick and appeared to have won the game. However, a fumble by Torri Stuckey gave the Falcons the ball back, allowing Harris to direct a 78-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard scoring pass to Robert Redd with 36 ticks on the clock.
From there, Meyer decided to go for two, running a reverse that Magner took into the end zone to give the Falcons their first and only lead of the day.
"We were down and the game is over," Meyer said. "The running back gets a first down, we come in, strip the ball and go down and score and go for two. We are down by one and there's no way we are going to stop them to go for overtime, and we decide to go for two with 20 seconds left and we pitch it to a kid from Alaska, and he goes in to score and we win."
After the thriller, Meyer said his team celebrated like no other, a feeling he hopes to recreate Saturday when the Buckeyes host the Wildcats in Evanston.
"Oh, we had a six-hour bus ride and we refused to leave the locker room for about 2½ hours," Meyer said. "Those kids wouldn't leave and I wouldn't leave with them. We were just crying and enjoying it. It was an incredible comeback."
QB Times Two
Earlier this year, there was talk Ohio State would try to come up with a two-quarterback system to find use for both Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton after Guiton threw 12 touchdown passes while playing almost three games in the injured Miller's stead.
If Meyer were in the mood to design such a system, he could have looked to Northwestern for some inspiration. The Wildcats have used a two quarterback system using senior Kain Colter and junior Trevor Siemian for the past two seasons, with great success.
"They are good players," Meyer said. "I think they use them (well). One is completing 70 percent of his passes but the other one is a very good runner and he can also throw it. There's a lot of similarities to the two offenses. Their offensive coordinator was at Bowling Green right after I left, Mick McCall. So I watched them play and I see they are very good, and schematically they are very good."
Colter is the starter but has more rushes each of the past two years than passes. On the season, he has rushed 39 times for 237 yards and three scores while completing 27 of 35 passes (77.1 percent) for 264 yards, three TDs and two interceptions. Thought he doesn't have any receptions this year – especially after missing much of the Cal game with an injury – he can do that, too.
Siemian, meanwhile, is more of a pocket passer, having rushed just 10 times vs. 70 passes. He's completed 47 of those (67.1 percent) for 671 yards, four touchdowns and two picks.
"You know the difference," middle linebacker Curtis Grant said. "One is more of a pocket passer, one's more of a dual threat. It helps you out. It helps you know how to play and what you have to do if you have the triggers."
Of course, containing Colter is still easier said than done. He had 34 rushes for 10 or more yards last year, fifth in the Big Ten.
"He can make you miss," Grant said. "If he breaks contain, everybody has to get to the ball quickly. If you don't, he can cause problems."
Purple And White, Scarlet And Gray
Northwestern isn't traditionally known for its home-field advantage, and Ohio State is known for its fan base's ability to travel.
Generally, that means Ryan Field is half scarlet, half purple when Ohio State visits Chicago, something Northwestern wants to avoid for the matchup of unbeatens.
Surely, there will be plenty of scarlet in the stadium for the game, as head coach Pat Fitzgerald is well aware of, but he's also hopeful that Northwestern's energized fan base will show up in force for the game.
"I think you've always got to tip your hat to the Buckeye fans," Fitzgerald said. "Since I've played and way before that, they've been some of the best in the country. They've supported that great program forever. They probably have more alumni in Chicagoland than we do from a pure numbers standpoint, but our fans have been incredible supportive. Season ticket sales at are at an all-time high. I'm expecting a solid home-field advantage."
The Buckeyes also had a huge turnout at Cal Memorial Stadium, dotting scarlet throughout what was supposed to be blue-and-gold striped venue.
"Our fans travel wherever we go," Braxton Miller said. "It feels good. A different environment, it's always a great feeling."
In the win against Wisconsin, Miller ran the ball a game-high 22 times – that in his first game after being injured on a scramble vs. San Diego State.
Much of that was part of the "win the surest way" philosophy that Meyer came up with to put away the victory, but afterward, the head coach admitted that was too much as far as his ideal world goes.
"No, it's a 14, 15 times per game that we like to run," Meyer said before acknowledging that some of those runs were scrambles.
"Every game changes," Meyer said. "A lot of it has to do with him, too. If he sees something open, he certainly has the right to go take it. A lot of factors involved in that."
That might not end up being the case against Northwestern, though, as Miller says there's things he sees in the Wildcats' pass defense he likes, not surprising as NU allows more than 300 yards per game.
"There's a couple coverages they play that we have some plays for," Miller said. "Hopefully we can take advantage of that and get the ball to some playmakers."
Facts And Figures
Ohio State enters the game with the nation's longest winning streak at 17 games. It is the 15th winning streak in school history of 10 or more games. The streak is tied for fourth 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.
OSU ranks first in the Big Ten and fifth in the country with 127 first downs.
Ohio State is 22 for 24 in the red zone this season with 21 TDs and one field goal – and one of those failed conversions came at the end of the game last week vs. Wisconsin. The touchdown percentage of 87.5 is third in the country behind Oklahoma State and Wyoming.
Ohio State is outscoring teams 116-21 in the first quarter this season, scoring multiple touchdowns in each of the first five games.
A Northwestern victory over Ohio State would give Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald his fourth 5-0 start to a season in his eight years at the helm of his alma mater.
Northwestern is the first of four opponents Ohio State will face this year that is coming off an open week. The Buckeyes will play Iowa, Penn State and Purdue the week after those three teams are off.
NU enters play having scored at least 30 points in six straight games going back to last season, the longest such streak in school history and tied for the third-longest active streak in the nation, one ahead of Ohio State.
Northwestern's Football Performance (formerly Strength and Conditioning) staff consists of three former Buckeyes strength coaches and is headed by Jay Hooten, now in his fourth year in Evanston. Hooten spent six years as a performance assistant in Columbus, helping OSU to three Big Ten titles and the 2002 national championship. Hooten then brought aboard his former boss and mentor at OSU, Allan Johnson, as well as Buckeyes alum and former strength assistant Troy Sutton.
ESPN's "College GameDay" is in Evanston for the first time since 1995, though it did visit Chicago for the Wildcats' game at Wrigley Field vs. Illinois in 2010. OSU is 20-10 all-time in GameDay games, though that mark falls to 7-5 on the road.
Northwestern's Venric Mark had eight rushes of 30 or more yards last year, tops among Big Ten running backs.
Northwestern safety Ibraheim Campbell set a school record earlier this season by recording at least one interception in five consecutive games going back to last season, breaking the previous mark of four held by Brett Whitley (1985).