December 11, 2012

12-OH: Smith's snag

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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 the hiring of head coach Urban Meyer. Today, we'll take you back to Sept. 1, 2012, when the first touchdown scored under Meyer helped signify a new era of excitement in Columbus.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It didn't take long for college football to find its highlight of the 2012 season- even if it felt like an eternity for Ohio State fans.

In his first game as the Buckeyes' head coach, Urban Meyer was supposed to usher in a new age of offensive innovation in Columbus, making fans forget about the days of three yards and a cloud of dust of yesteryear.

But after one quarter of play, Meyer likely would have settled for those three yards. Or perhaps even the dust.

In its first 15 minutes of action using Meyer's spread attack, the Ohio State offense only managed to muster up a measly 48 yards on four drives, none of which saw the Buckeyes convert a first down, and all of which resulted in punts to an undermanned Miami (OH) team. Ohio Stadium fell silent, waiting for something- anything- to create some excitement, as the offensive issues that plague a 6-7 Buckeyes team a season ago made themselves apparent.

But in the blink of an eye, that attitude changed just four plays into the second quarter.

After a 16-yard Carlos Hyde run moved the chains for Ohio State for the first team under Meyer, a 38-yard reception by Corey Brown gave the Buckeyes their second first down of the season. Both of those plays, however, paled in comparison to what came next.

With OSU at the Redhawks' 23-yard line and looking for its first points of the season, quarterback Braxton Miller dropped back in hopes of finding an open receiver. With Miami providing proper coverage, Miller appeared to throw the ball away out of the west corner of the south end zone, with hopes living to fight another down.

That ball, however, never made it out of bounds.

That's because a leaping Devin Smith- twisting and turning- snatched it out of the air with one hand and brought it back to his body as he fell into the end zone. The OSU wide receiver had just secured the Buckeyes' first touchdown of the season, but the 105,039 fans in attendance briefly fell silent, in awe of the spectacular play.

"That was a moment that ignited the stadium," Meyer said. "The stadium got quiet, our sideline got quiet. We were waiting for a play to happen. And he went up and made a play."

As difficult as the play looked, Smith said that from the position he was in, it was the only way for him to make what would ultimately become Sportscenter' No. 1 player of the college football season happen.

"I went up and I lost it, and it hit my hand and I just squeezed it real tight and brought it down to my body," Smith said. "The way my body was angling, it was just easiest to just put my hand out."

Smith's touchdown kick started a 56-7 run from the Buckeyes to finish the game- a 56-10 OSU victory. Given that it was Meyer's first game as the Buckeyes' head coach, there were plenty of storylines to discuss in postgame interviews, but most conversations circled back to the one-handed snag.

"That was definitely the best catch I'd ever seen in person," Brown said. "I've never seen nothing like that, man, before in my life. That was just crazy."

The Massilon, Ohio native's big play against the Redhawks was just the first of many in a sophomore season that saw Smith catch 30 balls for 618 yards and six touchdowns. But perhaps more importantly, it was the first sign that the new era in Ohio State football would be as exciting as advertised.


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