If things go the way receiver Corey Brown thinks they will on Saturday night, when No. 4 Ohio State plays Penn State, there won’t be a reason for him to give another halftime speech.
“I think this week we’re going to get back to what we’ve been doing (which is coming out fast),” Brown said. “Our defense has been working harder than they’ve ever been. Coach (Urban) Meyer has been grinding them. So I can see them coming out and playing the best game they’ve played all year.”
Last week, that was not the case. Ohio State was trailing underdog Iowa 17-10, the defense had been pushed around and the offense, though productive, had squandered a couple of chances.
Halftime in the locker room was not for the faint of heart. If the Buckeyes were to push the nation’s longest winning streak to 19 games and maintain their chase of the Big Ten and national championships, they needed a better effort, Brown thought. Although Meyer is not used to sharing the stage in this manner, this time, he relented.
“He grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘I need to say something,’ ” Meyer said. “And I said, ‘You got it.’ And it wasn’t about throwing the ball more.”
Again, that doesn’t happen every week.
“No, because we don’t play like that every week,” Brown said.
Decorum prevents a retelling of his words, he said, but his message was clear.
“You saw the first half, it looked bad,” Brown said. “I can’t say the exact words that I used, there were some bad words in there, and I just told them what we looked like and what we needed to do.
“I promised the defense we were going to score when we got the ball, and we did. I told them to get a stop and we’d score again, and that happened. I just basically challenged everyone to come out and execute the plan I put in front of them, and they did.”
Brown, who caught a career-long 58-yard touchdown pass in the first half, didn’t just talk the talk, he blocked the block. Part of a receiving corps that has gained a reputation for timely blocks, he took it to another level.
Among the times he helped clear the way was when he and fellow receiver Chris Fields shielded Devin Smith on a wide screen pass for a touchdown. And on a 19-yard touchdown run by Carlos Hyde in the fourth quarter, Brown threw two key blocks, the second coming at the 2-yard line that cleared the final hurdle for a leaping Hyde.
He’s driven to do more than catch “just for the love of my team, basically, and the dude that’s back there running the ball,” Brown said. “Me and Carlos, he’s one of my best friends on the team, a dude that I hang out with almost every day off the field. So just wanting to do it for him, that’s basically why I do it. And I know if I don’t, I probably won’t be playing.”
Blocking is the first thing expected from receivers at Ohio State, then catching, offensive line coach Ed Warinner said.
To do it well, “it’s desire,” Brown said. “It’s either you’ve got it or you don’t. Fundamentals can only take you so far. At some point, you’ve got to want to go do it.”
It’s similar to how Brown was willing to speak up at halftime. A year ago, Meyer probably would have brushed him off.
“He’s done a 180,” Meyer said.
Brown simply felt the time was right, and that the words needed to come from a player.
“That’s what coaches do every day,” Brown said. “When a coach screams, you kind of blank them out and just not really try to hear what they’re saying. But when a person who is actually out there on the field with you and grinding in the war with you, when they say it, then that’s when you know it’s real.”