McLaurin a difference-maker on punt coverage

Tim May
tmay@dispatch.com
From left, Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman, long snapper Liam McCullough and receivers Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin celebrate downing a punt inside the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Terry McLaurin topped 1,000 career receiving yards for Ohio State on Saturday during a 26-6 win over Michigan State, but that’s not what coach Urban Meyer talked about after the game.

Meyer pointed to the remarkable second half of punting by Drue Chrisman that included five punts being downed or going out of bounds inside Michigan State’s 6-yard line. In particular, he mentioned the leaping flip-back that McLaurin made that put the ball at the 5, and the hopper he downed at the 1 that led to the Spartans taking a safety four plays later.

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“It is with great reverence that I say as you go back to Bradley Roby, Devin Smith, to Denzel Ward, Gareon Conley … those are the gunners (on punt coverage the previous six years), and Terry is as good as there is,” Meyer said. “He might have taken over the title as the best I’ve ever had.

“What he does for our program — he’s blown out (tired) now. He mentioned to me in there a couple times he almost couldn’t go, but he knew how important it was to get the ball down inside the 5-yard line.”

It was a remarkable day for the receiver group. Parris Campbell had six catches for 42 yards, including a 1-yard shovel pass for a touchdown. K.J. Hill had six catches for 38 yards and McLaurin five for 63 yards.

Throw in what McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon meant to the punt game, and it moved to a different realm.

Dixon didn’t have a catch, but he downed a punt at the Michigan State 2 in the fourth quarter. A play later, the Spartans flubbed the shotgun snap and OSU’s Dre’Mont Jones grabbed it in the end zone for a touchdown.

“That flipped his day all around,” McLaurin said of Dixon.

Excelling on special teams can do that for a player, McLaurin noted.

“Coach Meyer, he calls it ‘the gospel,’ ” McLaurin said. “I want to say, (there is a) 3 percent chance for a team to score the ball if they’re starting off inside their own 5. We preach that. We believe in that.

“I was just telling the young guys … if you want to make your spot on this team and grab a lot of respect, especially from coach Meyer, special teams is the way to do it. Our defense was playing downhill (in the second half), we basically got nine points from the safety and the touchdown. That was big for us.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@TIM_MAYsports

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