The Silver Bullets are Back!

You guys know the old saying, “Defense wins Championships.” As old as that is, and how disputed that often is, it consistently turns out to be true. Just look at XLVIII between the Broncos and the Seahawks. A case of offense vs defense, and we all remember how that turned out; 43-8, Seahawks were champions.

Ohio State is one of the most historic and most prolific programs in college football history. With each championship was a great defense. In the latest championship before Urban’s arrival, the 2002 season, the Ohio State defense was one of the best in the nation, with 24 points being the most allowed all season. That 24 points was in a double overtime game against Miami (FL) that was arguably one of the best teams in college football history. Although the offensive game has certainly evolved since then, that number is extremely impressive.


Over the years, the Ohio State defense has taken the name of “The Silver Bullets.” A bunch of fast, angry, and hard hitting football players. In 2012, Urban Meyer’s first year as the Buckeyes’ Head Coach, he wanted the defense to play like like their predecessors. Although Urban didn’t have anything near the skill or depth that he wanted, they did fairly well. They consistently held their opponents below or around the 20 point area, but they did have a rough two game stretch where they allowed 38 and 49 points against Nebraska and Indiana respectively. As you may remember, that team ended up a scrappy 12-0, but with a bowl-ban, they couldn’t go any farther.

Then in Urban’s second year the team had high expectations. Junior QB Braxton Miller was a huge heisman candidate, and with more depth built, some had projected this team to potentially make it to the National Championship. The team and defense were rolling early, but at the end of the Wisconsin game, tragedy struck the Silver Bullets. Safety captain and leader Christian Bryant went down with a season ending injury.

“We lost Christian Bryant last year, one of the best safeties in the country,” Meyer said after the 2013 season. “I knew deep in my heart when I saw his leg break against Wisconsin that there was a chance that we wouldn’t be able to go play for a national title.” “When I saw that leg snap right in front of me, it’s a tough game, on the second-to-last play against Wisconsin, I knew in my heart we had a problem. But I thought we might be able to overcome it. We did not. We did not.”


There were some very tough, and surprising games for the Buckeyes down the stretch, such as the 60-35 victory against Illinois and the 42-41 victory against TTUN,  and many people knew this would not get it cut. The Buckeyes were, of course, 12-0 going into the B1G championship game, though. After the historic Alabama defeat at the hands of a field goal return for a TD against Auburn, the Buckeyes were a lock for the National Championship if they could beat a Michigan State team that had greatly struggled on the offensive side of the ball all year.

As Urban alluded to, the Buckeyes did not get the job done. Not only was Michigan State’s defense extremely tough, but our defense got embarrassed by Connor Cook and Sparty. After a rough regular season for the Buckeyes on the defensive side of the ball, this was the near tipping point for Ohio State fans everywhere. #FireFickell was definitely trending.


Like I said, Michigan State was the NEAR tipping point, the Orange Bowl was certainly THE tipping point. Although the Orange Bowl definitely wasn’t what the Buckeyes wanted, it was a BCS Bowl, and Urban wasn’t going to let them get purely embarrassed by Clemson on a huge primetime stage. After a fairly close game between two teams that were famous for scoring, Clemson edged Ohio State 40-35. Even though it was just a 5 point loss, everyone knew that consistently  allowing 35 points was never going to win a National Championship.

Then, start the 2014 season, and exit Everitt Withers, and enter Chris Ash. “We’ve competed against a Chris Ash defense before and I have respect for him as a coach,” Meyer said after Chris’s hiring. “I like the fact he has experience in the Big Ten Conference and that he is a great recruiter. He was highly recommended by everyone I spoke to.” This man, Chris Ash, was expected to turn around the Ohio State defense.

With the injury of Braxton Miller and the relative inexperience of many positions, this team was expected to be good, but probably one year away from a national championship. In the first two games of the season, the Buckeyes allowed 17 and 21 points, which was slightly disappointing for many people. There was a good reason for it, though; there first game was against Navy, which is obviously a challenging triple-option offense. After preparing for that all off-season, and then having a week to prepare for a regular spread, the Buckeyes were a bit behind, but shortly afterward they started rolling.

Their next game was against Kent State whom they shutout, then they allowed 28 points against a high-powered Cincinnati offense led by a highly recruited QB named Gunner Kiel. The Buckeyes next main challenge was against Michigan State who was vastly improved from the year before. Ohio State ended up victorious with a 49-37 win, with the defense coming up with a few huge stops.


The Buckeyes then embarked on their famous 3 game journey against 3 of the top teams in the nation in Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon. Against Wisconsin, many people were questioning Ohio State’s run defense. They went against the (at the time) top running back in the nation in Melvin Gordon, and ended up holding him to under 100 rushing yards, and they shutout the Wisconsin offense. Next came Alabama, and the best WR in the nation, Amari Cooper. The defense held Amari Cooper to under 100 yards receiving, and although they allowed 35 points, they had huge stops at certain times to end up beating one of the most physcial teams in the nation.

The final test came against one of the best offenses of this decade, and their heisman winning QB, Marcus Mariota. After a first drive TD, the Buckeyes held Mariota and their up-tempo offense in check. Oregon scored just 13 points the rest of the game. Ohio State won 42-20, holding Oregon to their lowest point total in over 2 years. “I think the defense the last 3 games was as good as I’ve ever witnessed.” said Coach Urban Meyer.

Were the Silver Bullets actually back? That was the question during the off-season. Can the defense replace Doran Grant, Curtis Grant, and Michael Bennett? Will it ever be as good as the offense? Well, so far, 3 games into the season, the Buckeyes have seemed to sufficiently answer that question. In the 3 games, the defense has only allowed a total of 37 points, with 24 coming in the 1st game of the season against VA Tech, and many of them coming off a series when the offense turned the ball over. Going against a fairly high-powered offense in Northern Illinois, Ohio State only allowed 13 points, even though the offense turned the ball over 5 times.

“Haven’t watched all the secondaries in the country, the defensive back fields, but I take ours, especially the way they’re playing, the way they worked, the way they’re coached. We went from one of the worst pass defenses in America two years ago — I know we’re No. 1 in the Big Ten, but we have to be up there in the national rankings. I haven’t seen that. But playing at a high, high level.” said Urban when asked about the play of the DBs this season.


“Offensively there are going to be great days and there are going to be bad days. Defensively, there are going to be great games and already going to be bad games,” Chris Ash said. “But the true measure of a great team is you can balance each other out and pull through tough times when one side of the ball maybe didn’t have a great game or the other side of the ball didn’t; the playmakers on the opposite side pulled the team through and you get a victory.”

It’s different to see the Urban Meyer – led Buckeyes defense having to pull out a victory for Ohio State considering the offense this team has had and was suppose to have this season. Though the offense may not struggle like this again, it’s good to know the other side can step up and win the game. We hope they don’t have to do what they did against NIU again, but if they do, they will be ready. The Silver Bullets are back.

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