|Once distrustful, Buckeyes’ Brown now all-in|
|Thursday, October 24, 2013 8:18 PM|
By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — Even though he still harbored doubts about the coaching staff, Corey “Philly” Brown was a very productive player for Ohio State a year ago.
He had a team-best 60 catches for 669 yards and three touchdowns.
Yet he showed so little conviction and commitment that head coach Urban Meyer said he wouldn’t even walk across the street for him — a sentiment that Brown also shared about Meyer and his assistants.
“It’s hard to just trust somebody, right off. Especially me. I have a hard time trusting people right away,” Brown said of Meyer, who was in his first season as Ohio State’s head coach. “He’s a guy who came in here and it wasn’t the most pleasant meeting that we had. I guess everybody just looked at him, like, ‘Who are you to just come in here and just change this and change that?’ At the time, we didn’t know that he knew what he was doing.”
But now Brown has come full circle heading into Saturday night’s game against the big team from his home state, Penn State. He’s a much happier, better-adjusted person, and also one of the team’s figureheads.
“He’s 180 degrees from where he was,” Meyer said. “He’s an absolute leader of this team, unchallenged, unquestionable. If you said that a year ago, we would have gotten in an argument because that’s not who he was in his development as a person, a player, as a student.”
Need evidence of how far the senior from Upper Darby, Pa., has come?
The Buckeyes, riding an 18-game winning streak, trailed at home to 17½-point underdog Iowa at halftime last week, 17-10.
After the assistants met with their units, Meyer — admittedly more of a “yeller” than an inspirational speaker — got a few things off his chest.
Brown then asked for permission to get up and speak. He didn’t mince words.
“We came in and you could kind of tell that the locker room was dead,” fellow wide-out Devin Smith recalled. “Nobody was really saying anything, everybody was just looking at each other. Philly stood up and basically just said, ‘This is not how we play.’ He was screaming, just letting it pour out, really. He was saying, ‘This is not us. This is not how we play. We need to come up this half and really show them what we’re about.’”
Brown can’t give a verbatim rendition of the speech — “there were some bad words in there” — but touches on the high points.
“I promised the defense that we were going to score when we got the ball. And we did,” he recalled. “I told them to get a stop and we’d score again. That happened. So I basically challenged everybody to come out and execute. And they did.”
Brown had a huge second half — throwing the key block on Carlos Hyde’s pinball-like go-ahead touchdown run — as Ohio State came back for a 34-24 victory.
“For a player to really jump on a whole team like that and really go out on the second half and back up what he said in the locker room, it shows the character that he has,” Smith added. “That example will always be looked up to.”
Brown has 33 catches for 453 yards and six touchdowns, almost perfectly matching Smith’s 30 receptions for 434 yards and six scores.
But the numbers only scratch the surface. Brown has transformed himself into a team player.
“It’s night and day,” Meyer added. “He’s a guy that it’s not just on the field but off the field. His leadership, his attention to detail in academics and leadership — I mean he’s one of the most improved guys I’ve ever been around. And it’s really a pleasure to coach him.”
That probably won’t be the last time Brown gets up and berates his team, either.
He knows the power of hearing it from a kindred soul.
“When a coach screams, you kind of blank them out and not really hear what they’re trying to say,” he added. “But when a person that’s actually out there on the field with you grinding and in the war with you, when they say it, that’s when you know it’s real.”
OSU changes date for 2014 game vs. Virginia Tech: Ohio State will host Atlantic Coast Conference power Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 next year instead of Sept. 20, as was originally scheduled.
The change was made to accommodate ESPN.
Sept. 6 was initially an off week for the Buckeyes after the opener against Navy at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. The first off week of the 2014 season will now move to Sept. 20.
The remainder of the schedule: Sept. 13, Kent State; Sept. 20, bye; Sept. 27, Cincinnati; Oct. 4, at Maryland; Oct. 11, bye; Oct. 18, Rutgers; Oct. 25, at Penn State; Nov. 1, Illinois; Nov. 8, at Michigan State; Nov. 15, at Minnesota; Nov. 22, Indiana; Nov. 29, Michigan.
Miller had to make himself have fun on field: Sometimes even kids forget to be kids.
QB Braxton Miller said after Saturday’s 34-24 win over Iowa that he tried to play with joy and reckless abandonment instead of worrying about everything. The result was one of his best games ever: 22-of-27 passes for 222 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions and 18 rushes for 102 net yards.
Miller spoke with friends and family about his mindset.
He recalled his father told him, “Just like last year, let’s have fun. Just make plays, go out there and have fun with your teammates.”
He also spoke with his teammates.
“Me and him talked about that during the week. I was just telling him, ‘Just relax. You can’t worry about making mistakes while you’re out there. That’s the last thing that anybody should be worried about. You can’t be nervous. We’ve been playing this game all of our lives, so there’s no reason to be nervous’,” Brown recalled he told Miller. “I told him to just go out there, have fun, don’t worry about making mistakes, don’t try to be perfect. It doesn’t really matter what the critics say because whether you do good or do bad there’s always going to be something wrong.”
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien believes Miller is better than he’s ever been.
“He’s obviously a hard-working kid who’s throwing the ball very well,” O’Brien said. “He’s accurate. He’s making plays on third down in the passing game. He obviously understands coverage, and he’s just doing a really, really good job of running that offense in all facets.
O’Brien said it figures that a talented team would have a talented QB.
“You don’t win 19 games in a row or you don’t get to 7-0 and No. 4 in the country without being an excellent quarterback,” he added. “And that’s what he is.”
SCARLET, GRAY AND PINK: Pink will be added to the color scheme of the Buckeyes when they play Penn State Saturday at 8 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.
Players will wear pink towels, gloves, wristbands and socks, while coaches and staff will have shirts with pink accents.
All are to promote the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign.
THE PANCAKE MAN: Former Buckeye and NFL star Orlando Pace will be honored at Saturday’s game.
Pace, voted into the College Football Hall of Fame, starred with the Buckeyes from 1994-96. He was known as the “Pancake Man” for flattening his opponents with his exceptional blocking techniques. Pace finished fourth in the 1996 Heisman balloting, the highest finish for a lineman since 1980.
“Orlando Pace is not only the best offensive lineman I have ever coached but he is the best I have ever seen,” said former Ohio State coach John Cooper, also a College Football Hall of Fame inductee. “Every game was a highlight reel for him. We ran a lot of counter sweeps and a lot of screens and on many of those plays, Orlando had to be out in front of the ballcarrier. And we had some pretty good ballcarriers. I don’t know how you could play the position any better than he did. He was just a fantastic football player.”
Pace was a 2-time All-American, won the Lombardi Trophy in consecutive years and won the 1996 Outland Trophy. He did not allow a sack in his final two seasons and blocked for Hall of Fame and 1995 Heisman Trophy-winning running back Eddie George.
Chosen with the first overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 1997 NFL Draft, Pace enjoyed a decorated 13 seasons in the league, culminating with the Rams’ Super Bowl championship in 1999. Pace was named All-Pro five times, and he earned seven Pro Bowl selections.
Pace becomes the 24th Ohio State player to be inducted, joining Warren Amling (1944-46), Hopalong Cassady (1952-55), Jim Daniell (1939-41), Bob Ferguson (1959-61), Wes Fesler (1928-30), Eddie George (1992-95), Randy Gradishar (1971-73), Archie Griffin (1972-75), Chic Harley (1916-17, 1919), John Hicks (1970, 1972-73), Les Horvath (1940-42, 1944), Jim Houston (19557-59), Vic Janowicz (1949-51), Gomer Jones (1933-35), Rex Kern (1968-70), Jim Parker (1954-56), Chris Spielman (1984-87), Jim Stillwagon (1968-70), Gaylord Stinchcomb (1917, 1919-20), Jack Tatum (1968-70), Aurealius Thomas (1955-57), Bill Willis (1942-44) and Gust Zarnas (1935-37).
Six coaches with stops in Columbus are in the hall: Cooper (1988-00), Earle Bruce (1979-87), Woody Hayes (1951-78), Howard Jones (1910), Francis Schmidt (1934-40) and John Wilce (1913-28).
DEALING WITH TEs: The Buckeyes have struggled covering tight ends, particularly Iowa’s 3-TE set last week.
Ohio State’s coaches and players said they did not adapt quickly enough to that scheme. And it nearly cost dearly.
When Penn State and Ohio State last met, the Buckeyes won 35-23 but graduated QB Matt McGloin’s two TD passes were both to TEs. Kyle Carter, on this year’s Mackey Award list presented to the nation’s top TE, caught one of those and he’s back. Jesse James, who is 6-7, and freshman Adam Breneman have also started for the Lions.
“They’re very good players, they’re big, they make matchup problems for us,” Meyer said. “I know that they like to utilize them. If it’s not concern No. 1, it’s either 1a or 1b.”
STILL SOLID: Despite the Sandusky scandal that rocked the Penn State program and brought about the fall of legendary coach Joe Paterno, Penn State has still retained its dignity and a high standard of play in the aftermath.
“They’re never going to fall off (a cliff). They’ve got good athletes just like everybody else,” Brown said. “It’s still a big school, it’s still Penn State at the end of the day. I never thought that they would fall off.”
Brown is a native of the Philadelphia area but said it doesn’t mean a whole lot more to him to be playing perhaps the most dominant college program in Pennsylvania.
“It’s not really a game I mark on my calendar but it’s always fun to beat my state team,” he added. “I don’t want to go home and hear people’s mouths if we were to lose to them. I don’t really have time to hear what people have to say.