A few things we learned as Ohio State kept its national title hopes alive with a 36-24 victory over the Miami Hurricanes:
•If the Buckeyes lose a game this season, it won’t be a low-scoring one.
•Cameron Heyward runs pretty good for a big man.
•Ohio State’s special teams aren’t very special.
•Oh, and Terrelle Pryor didn’t win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday, but Miami’s Jacory Harris sure lost it.
It was a strange day at Ohio Stadium, to be sure. Miami ran back a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns, believed to be the first time the Buckeyes have ever had that happen against them.
Ohio State almost ran back one of each, but, well, you know the old saying about close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades ...
Speaking of hand grenades, how about that Jacory Harris?
At one point in the third quarter, the Miami quarterback had completed 12 passes — but four of those were caught by players dressed in scarlet and gray.
The biggest of which was by Heyward, in the shadow of the Ohio State goal line early in the third quarter, coming with the Buckeyes holding just a 26-17 lead. Heyward’s return — 80, um, lumbering yards — set up Pryor’s 13-yard touchdown run two plays later and effectively sealed the fate of the ’Canes.
“That changed the momentum, for sure,” said Ohio State sophomore defensive tackle and Cardinal Mooney graduate John Simon. “Cameron always seems to be in position to make big plays and he did it there.”
Simon finished with three tackles on the day, including a sack of Harris in the first half, but he was part of a defensive line that created just enough havoc to keep the Hurricanes off-balance for much of the game.
“I feel we have a very solid defense,” Simon said. “We have 11 guys who are in the right place at the right time, doing their jobs. When that happens, we have the opportunity to make plays.”
The victory, for the most part, can also put to rest the ghosts of September missteps in the past — home losses to Texas and Southern California, and that dreadful blowout at USC in 2008.
“You know, those years and those teams are past,” Simon said. “We’re focused on this season, and coming out today and getting a big ‘W’ for our program.
“Starting [today] we’ll get ready for a tough OU team next week and trying to get better.”
That “OU” team is Ohio University, and despite Simon’s best effort to stay true to the company line (aka “Tressel-ese”) it’s pretty obvious this Buckeye team was pointing to Saturday’s game as a validation of its No. 2 national ranking.
Truth be told, the Bobcats and Eastern Michigan — the next two opponents — won’t provide the same challenge or motivation.
“It’s a big win for us, sure,” Simon allowed, “but we have to take it in stride. Really, it’s just one more win.”
The Buckeyes’ next true test with be at Illinois the first weekend of October. The Illini, on paper, don’t match up with Ohio State at all, but for some reason they seem to be a thorn in the Buckeyes’ sides the last few years, with an irritating ability to hang around just long enough to keep Tressel & Co. sweating.
Of course, the true test of this team will come at Wisconsin on Oct. 16 and a landmine to close the season with a road test at Iowa on Nov. 13 sandwiched by home games against Penn State and Michigan.
Tressel said earlier in the week that he was coaching a top 10 team. He was asked after the game if his mind had changed.
“We are if we keep getting better,” Tressel said. “I think we proved it this week. Now, we have to prove it next week, and the next week ...”
Tressel has always said that champions are made in November. Saturday’s win was proof that this November will matter for the Buckeyes.
Rob Todor is sports editor of The Vindicator. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.