COLUMBUS — If Ohio State’s 63-14 smackdown of Penn State on Saturday night impressed a suspicious nation, coach Urban Meyer insisted it was a pleasant but unintended byproduct.
"I think it helps," he said. "That was certainly not our mind-set."
Buckeyes cornerback Bradley Roby was more direct.
"This was definitely a statement win," he said early Sunday morning. "That's the attitude we carried into this game. We were going to make a statement on prime time when everybody's watching."
Or, as freshman receiver Dontre Wilson said, "we really needed this dominating win."
Fourth-ranked OSU (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) displayed its muscle like never before during its national-best 20-game win streak. While the Buckeyes’ national title hopes likely require losses by two of the three teams ahead of them in the BCS standings — Alabama, Oregon, and Florida State — they began to vanquish doubts about their place as one of the country’s top teams.
Meyer had waited two years for this kind of all-around detonation. Junior quarterback Braxton Miller enjoyed a career night, Carlos Hyde and the Buckeyes plowed behind a people-mover offensive line for 408 rushing yards — the most since OSU ran for 456 against Northwestern in 1989 — and a defense under siege was dominant.
Ohio State did what it wanted when it wanted, from driving 84 yards in 52 seconds to close the first half with another touchdown to successfully challenging a Penn State first down spot with a 49-point lead in the third quarter.
Though the Buckeyes pulled their starters in the third quarter, Penn State had not endured a bigger beating — or given up so many points — since losing 64-5 to the Duquesne Athletic Club in November, 1899. OSU’s 688 yards of offense were the most allowed in 125 years of PSU football.
The Buckeyes’ next stop is Saturday at Purdue, which is 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten. OSU opened as a 31-point favorite.
"I like where we're at right now," Meyer said. "I like where we're at as a team."
Where to begin? An offensive line Meyer called "one of the best in the country?" A workhorse running back — Hyde — who rushed for at least 147 yards for the third straight week? By now, a line and backfield in lockstep has become expected.
Meyer said he was most encouraged Saturday by the return of the pass rush and the continued evolution of Miller.
The defensive line pressured Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg all night, sacking the Big Ten’s leading passer four times and helping force a pair of interceptions. Defensive end Noah Spence led the way with two sacks.
"We all needed to see some pass rush and pass defense, and guys stepped up," Meyer said. "That was the most impressive part of the game to me. You cause turnovers when you hit the quarterback a little bit. We haven't been doing that. That was a sign of good coaching and some young talented players that haven't played a lot of football starting to come into their own a little bit, especially Noah Spence."
Miller, meanwhile, continued to put a world of distance between the tentative version of himself that was nearly benched at Northwestern and the present. The junior again played like the preseason Heisman frontrunner, completing 18 of 24 passes for a career-high 252 yards and three touchdowns while running for a pair of scores.
"I just love where Braxton's at right now," Meyer said. "I love the fact that he's acting like a quarterback. I'm not disrespecting Braxton. You guys know I love that guy. But I felt like he was an athlete playing quarterback a year ago. I feel like he's a quarterback that's a really good athlete now."
Miller, like Ohio State on a Saturday night for the record books, said the plan down the stretch is simple.
"We’ve just got to keep our foot on the pedal," he said.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.