December 19, 2012

12-OH: Coach Kenny to the rescue

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

Having just wrapped up a perfect season unlike any other in program history, it's hard not to look back at the last 12 months of Ohio State football and not only marvel at the unlikeliness of what the Buckeyes accomplished in 2012, but also how far they've come since their 6-7 mark in 2011. With that in mind, I'll spend 12 days examining and reflecting on the 12 most important moments that helped create and stand out from just the sixth unbeaten and untied season in Ohio State history.

Yesterday, we reflected on how an unlikely hero helped save the Ohio State defense. Today, we'll take at how another helped keep the Buckeyes' undefeated season intact.

COLUMBUS, Ohio. -- Through the first seven games of Ohio State's undefeated season, there were some close calls, but the Buckeyes always found a way to win.

In the eighth game, however, even that seemed like a stretch.

With less than a minute remaining in the game, OSU saw its perfect season slipping away as it trailed Purdue by a score of 22-14 inside Ohio Stadium. To make matters worse, the Buckeyes' star player, quarterback Braxton Miller, laid in a hospital bed after leaving the stadium in an ambulance after suffering an apparent upper body injury.

Ohio State needed 61 yards and eight points, both of which seemed unlikely considering that backup quarterback Kenny Guiton's first three drives at the helm of the Buckeyes' offense resulted in a missed field goal, a safety, and an interception.

"I felt like I had let my team down," Guiton said of his ineffective start. "I'm a backup coming off the bench, and I just want to do well for my team."

But with one more chance and 47 seconds to save the day, the player nicknamed "Coach Kenny" for his preparation and leadership did just that.

It started with a 39-yard completion to wideout Devin Smith that brought the Buckeyes into Boilermaker territory and continued with an eight-yard pass to Evan Spencer. A Carlos Hyde run for a first down sandwiched between two Guiton incompletions (the latter of which was a spike to stop the clock) brought Ohio State Purdue's 11-yard line as what could've been the final seconds of the Buckeyes' undefeated season ticked off the clock.

Guiton dropped back and locked in on Spencer, but his pass ultimately fell to the ground. The play wound up being a plus for the Buckeyes, however, as Spencer managed to draw a pass interference call on Purdue defensive back Josh Johnson. The call brought the Buckeyes to the two-yard line, with enough time for two plays at most.

The Buckeyes' backup quarterback only needed one though, as he found seldom-used receiver Chris Fields in the southwest corner of the stadiums north end zone with three seconds remaining in the game.

"After that catch, I think I told (Fields) 'thank you' a million times," Guiton said. "Once I saw his hands under the ball, I knew he had it."

A review by the referees confirmed that Fields did indeed catch the ball, but the Buckeyes still needed two more points to send the game to overtime.

Those points appeared to be hard to come by, with the Boilermakers seemingly applying the appropriate coverage on OSU's two-point conversion attempt. That was before Jeff Heuerman left his blocking position and slipped into the end zone, allowing Guiton enough time to float the ball into the tight end's hands and the game into overtime.

"It's a delay play. The tight end blocks and then releases. It's hard for the defense to recognize and it works almost every time in practice," Heuerman said. "Thankfully it also worked today."

With momentum on their side, the Buckeyes cruised in overtime, with five plays on offense resulting in a Hyde touchdown and forcing a Boilermakers three-and-out to win the game. Given that Purdue finished the season with a 6-6 record before firing head coach Danny Hope, OSU coach Urban Meyer was aware that his team had some serious flaws, but it didn't stop him from delaying the stadium's singing of 'Carmen, Ohio' with a memorable outburst of celebratory fist pumps to help cap off one of the lasting images of the sixth unbeaten and untied season in Ohio State history.

"I love our students and I love Ohio State," Meyer said. "I just saw the faces of those students up there that just had a heck of a four hour time together with our players and I just love that stuff."


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