Smith Developing Hero Status as Ohio State’s Home-Run Threat
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Devin Smith heard the dogs barking, so he just kept running.
With the game on the line and a young season on the brink, Smith made what will now go down as the second biggest play of his Ohio State career on Saturday. It didn’t quite have the flair of his last-second touchdown grab under the lights in Ohio Stadium against Wisconsin last season, but this time no one was surprised to see No. 15 on the receiving end of Braxton Miller’s game-winning touchdown pass against Cal.
sprints down the sideline for the game-winning score.
Photo by Dan Harker
“When Devin made that big play at the end, Braxton to Devin, I wouldn't say it was relief,” left tackle Jack Mewhort said.
“It was just kind of expected, like, 'Yep, okay, there it is.' We never lost confident and we're excited that we came out on top.”
The play was actually drawn up to be an out to Corey Brown in the right flat on 3rd-and-7. The Buckeyes needed a first down on their own side of the 50 to keep a potential game-winning drive alive after Cal kicker Vincenzo D’Amato misfired on a 42-yard field goal that would have given the Bears a 31-28 lead.
Brown ran to the sticks, but Cal saw it coming and covered him up with two defenders. The key defender on the play was Cal safety Alex Logan, who had been spying Miller for much of the day. When Miller scrambled to his right, Logan left his assignment and came flying into the box to keep Ohio State’s dynamic quarterback from getting loose in the open field.
“I saw the defenders out there, they bit on Philly so Devin got wide open behind them,” Miller said after the game.
“They had a lot of guys in the box, and plus they had the safety in to spy me. It opened a lot of seams for the guys.”
Miller gave a hard look at Brown in the flat and then lofted a deep pass towards Smith, who had gotten 5-10 yards behind anyone in the Cal secondary.
“When you see somebody open like that, you've got to at least put some air under it,” Miller said, “so they can run under it and get position under it.”
That was exactly what Miller tried to do with his game-winning touchdown heave against the Badgers last October. Coincidently, he was scrambling to his right on a broken play when he spotted Smith all alone headed for the end zone.
Much like Logan, the safety got caught looking in the backfield.
“That was a scramble,” OSU Head Coach Urban Meyer said.
“That was a scramble drill; short got deep, deep go short. That's what he did. That's one thing that – you hear people in the NFL, heard it the other day on the TV, the quarterback that can extend the play. He extended the play and made one.”
Miller has proven his uncanny ability to make plays. Go back to the first quarter when he shook two defenders and made Cal safety Josh Hill look like 5-flat 40 guy on his way to a 55-yard touchdown run.
He also made an NFL-caliber throw from 25 yards to Smith in the corner of the end zone for the first passing touchdown of the day.
Photo by Dan Harker
“The one Braxton fired it on, we ran back‑to‑back deep balls, one to Jake (Stoneburner) and one to Devin,” Meyer said.
“He back‑shouldered it. That was a big league throw and catch.”
While Corey Brown has proven to be the team’s most consistent playmaker through the first three games, it’s Smith who has emerged as Miller’s big-play guy down the field. Through three games, he is second on the team in catches with 13 (Brown has 16), but he’s first in yardage (233) and first in touchdowns with three.
He made an unbelievable one-handed grab in the season-opener for the first touchdown of Urban Meyer’s tenure at Ohio State, but he has also struggled to find consistency as a go-to target in the short and intermediate passing game.
“You're talking to a coach that also sees a guy who drops an out route on first down that now puts us behind the chains,” offensive coordinator Tom Herman said of Smith, who finished the game with five catches for 145 yards.
“To me, those are just as big of plays as catching a touchdown pass when the quarterback throws it to you. He's doing well, he's getting better.”
People won’t forget the drops, but they will certainly remember the touchdowns. Maybe none more vividly than his blistering 72-yard score against Cal on Saturday. He was so wide open, he had to make sure he didn’t botch the easy catch, but after that it was off to the races.
“I heard some fans behind the bench saying that it was just like the Wisconsin game, but I had to run a little bit further,” Smith said with a smile on his face.
“My mom tells me every time I catch the ball, run like a dog is chasing me. When we got in the locker room, Philly was like, ‘You’re Teddy Ginn down the field’.”
That might be a little bit of a stretch, considering Ginn was one of the fastest players ever to put on a Buckeye uniform. Then again, Ginn didn’t have any dogs chasing him on his way to the end zone.
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