COLUMBUS, Ohio — In a stunning turn of events, it seems Urban Meyer knew what he was doing after all.
The Ohio State coach raised some eyebrows when he elected to play for overtime instead of taking a couple of deep shots with 41 seconds left in a tie game. As it turns out, he had his reasons.
The Buckeyes were backed up against the Wisconsin student section, so the challenge was already stiff. Meyer was motivated by more than just fear of what could go wrong, though. His team owns the No. 1 red zone defense in the country.
Opponents have reached the red zone 16 times and scored on just 10 of those possessions, with only four ending in touchdowns. Against Wisconsin, Ohio State scored first and then held firm by stopping the Badgers on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line thanks to a sack by defensive end Tyquan Lewis.
“Defense is really good down there,” he said Monday. “That was going through my mind, and I felt like we could move the ball and get in. That’s why we did what we did, a portion of the reason why we did what we did as far as get that thing to overtime and go play.”
The Buckeyes aren’t too shabby on offense, either, ranking 38th in the country in red-zone offense. Michigan is the only other Power Five team that is in the top 40 on both sides of the ball. (The Wolverines are fifth in red-zone defense and tied at 38th with Ohio State in red-zone offense.) Given that overtime possessions start just 25 yards from the end zone, it’s a format that his team couldn’t fit into any more perfectly.
Meyer has further reason to be confident in such situations: he’s never lost an overtime game in his career as a head coach.
|2002||Bowling Green||Western Michigan||W 48-45||OT|
|2003||Utah||at Air Force||W 45-43||3OT|
|2010||Florida||vs. Georgia (neutral site)||W 34-31||OT|
|2012||Ohio State||Purdue||W 29-22||OT|
|2012||Ohio State||at Wisconsin||W 21-14||OT|
|2014||Ohio State||at Penn State||W 31-24||2OT|
|2016||Ohio State||at Wisconsin||W 30-23||OT|
Ohio State will return Saturday to the site of its most recent overtime game prior to the Wisconsin win. In 2014, a frenzied crowd at Penn State helped the Nittany Lions push Ohio State to overtime, but Joey Bosa sacked quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the second overtime to seal the win.
If he’s forced to make a choice like the one he faced at Wisconsin, Meyer will have no reason to doubt his team’s odds in overtime. He’s never lost in that format, and the team he has now was seemingly made to keep that streak alive.