Buckeyes like to run, then throw over a defense
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer prefers the thunder. But that just sets up the lightning.
No. 4 Ohio State runs on 60 percent of its plays. Sending the tailbacks up the middle or Braxton Miller around end serve as body blows to soften a defense for what might just happen if they start to lean too heavily toward the line to stop the ground attack.
Then the Buckeyes throw deep.
"We couldn't do that last year. There were games I refused to call it because they were going to be covered and we couldn't throw it," Meyer said. "This Saturday, we are going to try the same thing. That's a big part of who we are. So we would have more explosive pass plays. I don't know if I remember this many early in the season, ever."
No fewer than 15 times, the Buckeyes have completed a touchdown pass that has covered at least 20 yards. Some were short passes turned into a big gain, but most reflect the Buckeyes' ability to throw deep passes more effectively this season.
It's an either/or proposition for opposing teams. No. 16 Northwestern is the next foe to face that challenge on Saturday.
Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) has run for 14 touchdowns so far. It has recorded 19 touchdown passes.
To put that into perspective, only nine times in the program's previous 123 years have the Buckeyes thrown more scoring passes in an entire season. And the current squad still has seven regular-season games remaining.
They are on pace to easily eclipse the school record for scoring passes in a season of 33, set by Bobby Hoying and Co. in 1995.
Miller missed almost three entire games but came back to throw four scoring passes in Saturday's 31-24 win over No. 23 Wisconsin — three of them covering 25, 26 and 40 yards.
When Miller was out, Kenny Guiton filled in against mediocre teams and threw 13 scoring passes — including a school-record six in the first half over Florida A&M.
Tom Herman, Ohio State's quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, said the Buckeyes started throwing more bombs because they had to.
"You guys saw how people started playing us the latter half of last year. In order for us to be able to be who we want to be running the football, we had to make (the deep pass) a viable threat," Herman said. "So we worked our tails off all spring, all offseason, all two-a-days to make sure we were effective — if not proficient — at throwing the ball down the field when people wanted to load the line of scrimmage to stop the run."
All that hard work hardened and refined a group of wide receivers that Meyer had belittled much of his first season. He called them subpar, mediocre and uninspired.
Now he is their biggest backer, throwing compliments their way at every opportunity.
Corey Brown has five touchdown receptions to share the team lead with Devin Smith, while Chris Fields has four and Evan Spencer three. All have been dependable targets so far.
Brown said he's not a bit surprised that the Buckeyes have suddenly shown a propensity for airing it out.
"Not with the amount of work we did in the offseason with Braxton and Kenny," he said. "As much pressure as coach Meyer put on us to get better as a unit, I think this was kind of expected."
A year after not really having a quick-strike offense when passing, the Buckeyes are suddenly capable of scoring in a hurry.
"We can throw a deep ball," Meyer said.
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