I could not help but get the feeling his first game back on a college sideline as a head coach – at Ohio Stadium, where he was a graduate assistant 25 years ago for the favorite team of his childhood – went just about perfectly overall because there were plenty of things the Buckeyes could have done better.
Sure, they put 56 points on the board and eclipsed 500 total yards.
The stud quarterback showed he really can be a great fit in the spread option offense, and a couple of potential playmakers showed up on the outside even as a bullish running back proved there really is something to the idea this is a power offense at its heart.
A bunch of those highly touted freshmen got into the act, too, including two who managed quarterback sacks in the second half.
All in all, a feeling of fun buzzed through the stadium after the team had a chance to get warmed up.
There were some anxious moments early, but just as the clouds that covered central Ohio all morning lightened for a while after noon, the crowd perked up as the offense gained traction.
Yes, there was lots to like, but there were plenty of teachable moments, too. That’s where the coaches had to feel good. An easy win might have made it hard to get the players’ attention this week in the film room, but really this was not that despite the lopsided final score.
The veteran secondary showed some of the same leaks it did a year ago, although the team as a whole seemed to tackle better.
The pass rush was still not great (aside from Johnny Simon) unless the coaching staff dialed up a blitz.
On the flip side, the offensive line ran some nice interference for the skill players to break off some big gains, but it was far from a dominant group in run blocking. Hyde had to make a fair amount of his yards on his own, even inside, and Miller found far more room on the edge and beyond.
Pass protection was also somewhat iffy, although that appeared to be the fault of the quarterback at times as Miller looked both better than last year but far from a finished product himself. He still wobbled a few passes and held the ball too long without sensing the pocket contracting around him until it was too late.
Big plays masked problems with consistency, and that is both good and bad.
On one hand, the space created by formations gave some players chances to make things happen they might not have otherwise had even if not everyone else did their job, so the potential of the offense was clear to see.
Those very same successes could turn into fool’s gold, but the frustration Meyer showed with the downside of the day figures to go a long way toward preventing that.
Guessing how a group of 18-to-22-year-olds will react to anything can be a dangerous exercise, but it seems to me the frustration felt in the first quarter was enough to get the attention of the squad and to motivate it to put in the time to skip straight to the good times in future contests.
Along those lines, the miscues on defense might be more important as teachable moments because I think it might have been easier for the players on that side of the ball to relax if they knew too much success too early this season.
There was lots of talk throughout the offseason about how the 2011 Ohio State defense fell far short of expectations, but sometimes it almost sounded like being effective at stopping people is a birthright of the Buckeyes.
Could a game-one whitewash have convinced them they are back and robbed them of some of their motivation? It’s hard to say with any certainty, but one can bet it will not be hard to get the attention of a few players during film sessions this week after multiple mistakes led to big gains through the air.
I don’t know how many games they are going to win this season, but the RedHawks provided just enough resistance to get Ohio State’s attention without doing enough damage to mess with young players’ confidence.
They did not get in the way of the fun as the rockstar coach returned to his roots a triumphant winner.
What we can expect to learn this week: A few things, starting with the psyche of this team. Will they be able to come back with the same emotion in week two, or will the fact it is no longer the opening game and the Knights don’t have much of a national reputation conspire to take the Buckeyes out of their game?
There’s no shame in letting an offense like Miami move the ball at times, but the expectations remain high for the Silver Bullets and they should be attentive when the new plans for stopping Central Florida are installed.
The Knights probably don’t have a pair as exceptional as quarterback Zac Dysert and receiver Nick Harwell of Miami, but they will bring a balanced attack to Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
UCF was 5-7 last season, but the advanced stats say they played well enough to win as many as nine games and be considered a top-60 squad in the country. The program is just one year removed from an 11-win, Conference USA championship season, so head coach George O’Leary has players who know what it’s like to win.
We learned last season blowing out Akron in a season opener is not necessarily a harbinger of things to come, but the Knights have reason to bring plenty of confidence with them on their second trip to Ohio in as many weeks.
Big Ten thoughts: Dennis Green could sum up the weekend in the Big Ten for me with two exceptions.
The two developments that took me by surprise were the development of Taylor Martinez and lack thereof along the Michigan State offensive line.
Yes, Rex Burkhead is a key cog in the Nebraska attack, but Martinez could make the Cornhusker offense truly dynamic if he becomes a consistent passer. I was not sold on his ability to do that, but he made it work for at least one week.
The Spartans want to be an old-fashioned, smash-mouth running team, but they weren’t last year. They really need to be this year considering the passing game was decimated by graduation, but only Le’Veon Bell held up his end of the bargain on opening night. The line struggled in pass protection, and it felt like Bell had to make a lot of things happen on his own as MSU squeaked one out at home against a rebuilt Boise State squad. Painfully predictable playcalling didn’t help matters, either, but that’s life under Mark Dantonio.
As for the rest of the league’s contenders, well, Michigan and Wisconsin did nothing to hide the fact they have major flaws despite their surprisingly high preseason rankings.
The Wolverines were up against a stellar foe, of course, but they were dominated both ways on the line of scrimmage, where Rich Rodriguez recruited very poorly and the player who was by far the best on each unit last year is gone. Brady Hoke recognized this deficiency one he arrived in Ann Arbor, as evidenced by the way he attacked it in recruiting immediately.
Wisconsin still has Monteé Ball and a powerful offensive line, but the offense is likely to be more pedestrian with a drop-back quarterback and asking the defense to improve enough to make up for the difference in explosiveness from last year is a very tall order. The Badger stop troops have been in decline for two seasons, and the unit was never really elite to begin with. Giving up a pair of explosive pass plays for touchdowns while protecting big lead in the fourth quarter means the red flags stay up for at least another week.
DVR Directions: If you get the Pac-12 Network, you can record or check out Ohio State’s next opponent, California, as it plays host to Southern Utah at 3 p.m. Eastern.