“We have had great offenses, like great offenses. I consider this potentially a really good one. Maybe a great one,” Meyer said at his press conference Sept. 29. “But this is the first time I feel very comfortable with the tempo.”
That tempo was blistering against the Bearcats. Ohio State ran a school-record tying 101 plays and tied an FBS record with 45 first downs. The Buckeyes had 13 drives Saturday. Two of which ended the half or the game, one ended in a fumble, one concluded with a punt while another finished with a turnover on downs with less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter. The other eight all resulted in points and the Buckeyes got them quickly.
Ohio State was able to keep the pace they wanted because they have the depth to make it work. “When you start talking tempo, you wear out the defense,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately (you) wear out the offense, too, if you don't have that depth.
“There's been times in the past when we want to run very up tempo, and it looks awful because everyone's blown out. I don't feel that now that way at all, and more importantly our offensive coordinator (Tom Herman), he's a big tempo guy. I'm the one putting the brakes on. I'm the one on the field seeing the fatigue. As long as I know we're rotating players, on the headsets it's go, go, go.”
That’s exactly what it was against the Bearcats. The Buckeyes average drive lasted 7.9 plays, traveled 51.9 yards and lasted 3:19. Remove the two drives that concluded halves and those numbers move to 8.72 plays, 59.45 plays and 3:28. The up-tempo attack did not come at the expense of time of possession as the Buckeyes dominated that category, holding the ball for 41:56.
That pace is usually hardest on the big bodies up front, but the offensive line – much maligned since the loss to Virginia Tech – was able to keep up with their teammates. That’s partially because they established some depth as Taylor Decker, Pat Elflein, Jacoby Boren, Billy Price and Darryl Baldwin started the game with Chase Farris working in at guard as Boren left the game and Elflein slid to center. Co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said that Joel Hale is close to making it a seven man rotation.
The key is developing that depth without sacrificing cohesiveness within the unit and with quarterback J.T. Barrett.
“When you're going fast and we're yelling and talking and communicating and (Barrett is) telling them plays and the defense is yelling and trying to get guys lined up, there's a lot of noise,” Warinner said. “And there's 108,000 people that were pretty excited, there's a lot of noise out there, and sometimes that's where the communication has to be clear, clean and very discernible. So that's what we need to get a little better at.”
There were some miscues in communication as Ohio State committed six false start penalties, but when you rack up 710 total yards those errors can be forgiven.
The Buckeyes aren’t shying away from the up-tempo attack, even the big boys as Baldwin said it can work to their advantage, too.
"When we really get going and plays are coming in fast, we can feel the defenses are getting tired,” he said. “We know they can't substitute like they want to, on the defensive line especially, and that helps us because it just makes our job easier.
"After you get a couple of first downs, the adrenaline gets pumping and you don't really feel it."