PASADENA, Calif. — Someone once told Urban Meyer to find a moment following a victory – each one – and savor it. While at The Ohio State university, the disciplined coach habitually would remove his headset between the third and fourth quarters to soak in the university marching band blasting the vintage rock tune “Hang On Sloopy.”
The better the Buckeyes were playing, the longer he would listen.
On Tuesday, as Meyer’s dominant squad built what appeared to be an irretrievable lead over Washington in the 105th Rose Bowl, the coach was able to take in every last note.
“This has been on the bucket list,” Meyer said of winning his first Rose Bowl. “I love all the other bowls but being a Big Ten guy from Ohio and watching the Rose Bowl in the ’70s with Archie Griffin, it’s everything everybody says it was.”
In what Meyer proclaims is his farewell to coaching football “forever”, due to his ‘personal’ health concerns, the 6th ranked Buckeyes weathered “nervously” a late rally manufactured by the 9th ranked Huskies of Washington to triumph, 28-23, and make a slight case that neglecting them from the College Football Playoff in lieu of Oklahoma and Notre Dame, both handed wake-up calls at the hands of Alabama and Clemson, was an oversight. (Though I am not a participate in that “crazy” discussion – “Should-have” NEVER dropped one to Purdue – and with such authority!).
As for Coach Meyer, his departure leaves a complicated legacy, with great accomplishments on the field stained – “somewhat” (depending upon your alliance) by issues off the field.
Urban Meyer is the ‘holder’ of three national titles — one with Ohio State and two with the University of Florida — he owns a .853 winning percentage – which is not matched by the flock of active coaches today. Because of the mishandling of a “bad” issue with an assistant coach, Urban was handed a three-game suspension. At his previous stop, Florida, there were numerous incidents of off-field behavior – that was far from good, from Florida players under his wing. This appears to stick in the crawl – or memory bank(s) of all the Urban Haters …
His genius on the field, along with preparation, and recruitment, is undeniable. His retirement will leave a void for some of us – though, perhaps the leadership of Ryan Day, will show us all another avenue of winning and brilliance. I know I look forward to it. Urban, it is said will move onto a role as an Assistant Athletic Director under Gene Smith and teaching a course on motivation and leadership at the Fisher School of Business.
But – allow me to get back to the purpose of this piece – The 2019 Rose Bowl. Tuesday in Pasadena, California the Washington Huskies met up with Urban’s Buckeyes. The Buckeyes at 13-1 had corrected their season’s primary concern – giving up long gains on the ground. Coming into the game, The Buckeyes had allowed six rushing touchdowns of more than 75 yards, the most by any Football Bowl Subdivision defense since 2003.
The Huskies (10-4), however, sponged-out just 3.6 yards per carry, with their lengthiest running play covering 19 yards. They resorted to a tailback pass by Myles Gaskin in the fourth quarter to finally put a touchdown on the scoreboard.
The Huskies quarterback, Jake Browning, helped generate two additional scoring drives in the fourth quarter, both on Gaskin rushes, the latter with just 42 seconds left in the game. But a failed 2-point conversion and an onside kick attempt easily recovered by Ohio State closed out the comeback attempt – sending Coach Meyer into retirement with a meaningful victory.
Pressed to reveal his thoughts in the last minute, Meyer said, “It was, ‘Are you kidding me?’ until we got the onside kick.”
Dwayne Haskins, a Heisman Trophy finalist, did most of his damage in the first half, but that was enough to outlast Washington – as it turned out.
Last week, Meyer labeled his quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ two previous games — 11 touchdown passes – 895 yards — as among “the best performances in college football history.”
Yet, on the Buckeyes’ first scoring drive on Tuesday, all but three of the initial 65 yards came on runs, mainly by Mike Weber, who carried the ball four times for 52 yards on the drive.
With the Huskies foreseeing another run, Haskins then hit a wide-open Parris Campbell for a 12-yard touchdown, providing an early endorsement for Ohio State having named Ryan Day, the team’s offensive coordinator, as Meyer’s successor.
Washington unraveled itself from an alarming start offensively — two three-and-outs — and drove to a field goal, only to concede another lengthy march by Ohio State that ended in a touchdown on Haskins’ 19-yard toss to Johnnie Dixon.
The Huskies’ offense was so quiet in the first half that Browning’s shining occasion was a punt out of a shotgun formation that was downed at Ohio State’s 3-yard line.
Still another three-and-out by Washington on its next series empowered the Buckeyes to flip the field. For Haskins’ third scoring strike, they needed to deal-with 47 yards, with Haskins finishing the drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Rashod Berry.
The scoreboard said 21-3 at halftime. The feeling in the stadium said the gap was wider, and I was feeling like Jean Dixon – as in my preview I had anticipated a stomping of the Huskies at the hands of the Buckeyes. But, as we all learned – there was only one Jean Dixon!
The Buckeyes then fell flat in the 2nd half. The hopes of allowing Meyer’s departure from coaching be on a big note – on a big stage – just played out to whittle into survival mode. Reversing the script of the first half, Haskins threw for all but two of the 77 yards the Buckeyes traveled, and then handed off to J.K. Dobbins for a 3-yard touchdown run.
Meyer’s prior departure from coaching was caused by excessive stress. Though reduced, it has not been eradicated. Asked recently if he feels nervous before games, Meyer said, “Deathly ill might be more appropriate.”
After Tuesday’s game, Meyer half-joked that in previous years a cellphone would have been at his ear as he walked off the Rose Bowl field, with the coach seeking updates on recruits.
“The new guy has got to worry about that,” he said.
But while there are few who would be surprised if Meyer, a mere 54, ends up going back into coaching at some point down the road, for the moment, he seemed interested in savoring this victory.
“While we enjoyed tonight, I don’t believe I’m going to coach again,” he said.
I personally hope that’s true. It would all add to the lore ….
Besides, I like the title of Professor Meyer. He needs to take care of himself. 54 is young.