COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The clock hadn't yet started ticking again when Urban Meyer glanced at it and started thinking about what was left in front of his team.
The Ohio State coach had an offensive line that had proved itself against an aggressive defensive front and fought to open holes for his running game. He had both a tailback and a quarterback who had no trouble taking on tacklers and grinding for extra yardage, and Meyer had stressed all along that his spread attack would include an element of power rushing.
All of that gave him reason to think the Buckeyes could kill off a little more than four minutes and salt away a 17-16 win on the road over Michigan State on Saturday. But Meyer hadn't seen Ohio State do that anywhere other than the practice field, so standing on the sideline, the thought at least crossed his mind that Spartan Stadium might not be the first place it could execute a critical game of keep-away.
"When I saw the time on the clock, I thought we were going to have to punt that ball," Meyer said. "That's not disrespect to our players; it's just I know the way that game goes.
"Everybody watching that game knew we were going to run the ball."
Everybody was right, of course. But that didn't help the Spartans get a stop.
Finally, facing a third-and-4 that would essentially clinch the game, the Buckeyes handed the ball again to Hyde. The junior turned perfect blocking ahead of him into a conversion that kept the game clock rolling, giving Ohio State some confirmation that it has the ability to change gears from its up-tempo, no-huddle offense down to a possession-based, clock-killing style when necessary.
"It just kind of gave us confidence to let us know that late in the game we can keep a drive going when it's clutch time, keep our defense on the sideline," Hyde said. "Let the offense keep going, keep driving, keep running the clock out.
"It kind of felt like I scored a touchdown on that run. It was pretty exciting. Coach Meyer told me that if I got that first down, the game was over. So when he told me that and actually gave me the ball, I knew I had to get four yards. I wasn't going to be stopped."
After that, the clock couldn't be either.
It still took three more kneel-downs by Miller to officially pick up the victory and keep Ohio State's record perfect, but those plays obviously didn't require nearly as much effort.
The offensive line had already validated an effort that eventually earned the entire group "Champion" status from the coaching staff after film review. Hyde returned from a couple weeks on the shelf with a knee strain to provide a tough-to-tackle option inside the tackles. Miller continued to prove his toughness after twice returning from minor injury scares.
And by the time the quarterback was taking those final few snaps, they no longer had to worry about a punt.
"I walked down the sideline as we gained possession and I remember smiling," offensive line coach Ed Warinner said. "I was really like, 'This is great. We've got the ball, let's go win a game.' I believed that we could do it, I think our players believed that and I think they showed that when they went out on the field. Everybody dug down and tried to finish the game. They didn't want to give it back to them.
"They played really hard. I mean, there were a lot of guys competing those last four minutes."
Just not anybody on the Michigan State offense.