COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Over and over, Ohio State put its trust in the hands of Corey "Philly" Brown and was rewarded.
If it could get a little more out of the feet of the junior receiver, the spread offense might really see a payoff.
Brown turned a steady stream of short passes to the perimeter into one of the most productive receiving games in school history as the Buckeyes maintained their perfect record last weekend at Michigan State. Considering the meager output the program had at receiver a year ago, his 12 catches clearly represented significant improvement. But they would have been even more effective if Brown had increased the volume of his yardage the same way he has his reception total, which would be the next step in the evolution of the Ohio State passing game.
"That's the spread offense," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "Spread offense, in theory, in our spread we're going to attack you vertically and horizontally. Our horizontal guy has to be able to shake loose of a couple of those, and he's just not had a lot of experience at it.
"That's going to be my coaching today -- 'Break a tackle, Philly.'"
Brown didn't make many defenders miss, and his yards-per-catch average of 7 yards plainly reflected that against the Spartans. That number would have been even lower if not for three explosive plays down the field that accounted for 58 yards, with the rest of his nine grabs going for a total of 26 yards.
But that certainly didn't deter the Buckeyes from throwing his way, and the math requires a bit of fudging to get a better gauge of the impact Brown was making even without picking up huge chunks of turf every time he touched the ball. The swing passes and screens Ohio State dialed up for Brown on the edge were really just extensions of the rushing attack, so while his stats sheet might have looked a bit unusual for a leading receiver, it was still largely providing almost exactly what Meyer wanted.
But that won't stop the coach from asking for a bit more from Brown this week against Nebraska in another top-25 matchup.
"I'm pretty sure I'll hear it from him when I go meet with him," Brown said on Monday. "I mean, I don't really pay too much attention to the yardage and stuff. The 12 catches is obviously a good thing to have, but as far as yards, I really don't get too much into it. As long as we get the win at the end of the day, that's fine with me.
"Especially on those types of screen passes, the blocking was perfect. We did a real good job on the perimeter, and I've just got to get better using my vision, speed and obviously breaking some tackles."
The ability to do all those things is the reason the Buckeyes kept throwing to Brown, starting early against the Spartans and continuing to hammer away by getting him at least two catches in every quarter.
The stress on the edge never exactly broke Michigan State, which flooded to the football and consistently wrapped up Brown before he could start tacking on much yardage. But if Meyer's coaching point starts to have an impact on Brown, other defenses might not be nearly as fortunate.
"When you watch some of these other teams that hit it out there, that's a one-on-one and you need to win that one," Meyer said. "You can't get tackled for 6 yards.
"He's allowed to make a guy miss once in a while."
As reliable as Brown's hands have proven to be, he should keep getting plenty of cracks at doing it with his feet.