COLUMBUS — Urban Meyer wants to show off Ohio Stadium at its packed and thundering finest today, and he’s counting on an eleventh-hour audible to make it happen.
Ohio State announced it had slashed the price of tickets to today’s spring game from $20 to $5, banking that its about-face combined with sunny skies and temperatures forecast in the 70s will yield a massive turnout.
An OSU spokesman said the school had sold 36,000 tickets through Friday afternoon. Add in the students who are admitted free and walk-up sales, and attendance could be close to the crowd of 81,112 for Meyer’s first OSU spring game in 2012. (Those who already purchased advance tickets for $12 can donate the difference in price to a youth sports program or call the Ohio State ticket office at 614-292-2624 for refund information.)
Meyer smiled when asked if he had a say in lowering the prices. Asked what it would mean to draw 90,000 fans — or perhaps outdo the school’s exhibition-record gathering of 95,000-plus in 2009 — he replied, "Why stop there?"
"I'd love to have 100,000 people, 90,000 people," Meyer said on Friday. "It might be asking a lot. But we're going to give them an entertaining game and show appreciation for coming like we always do. It's been a cold winter. Go hang out in the Horseshoe."
As for the show part, the Buckeyes will divide into scarlet and gray teams for four 10-minute quarters, with sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones leading one side and redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett the other.
The day will retain its usual scrimmage feel. Both quarterback contenders to back up the injured Braxton Miller will wear no-contact black jerseys, kickoff and punt returns are off limits, and don’t expect many runs.
But Meyer said the pass-happy day will be invaluable for evaluating its perimeter game — and testing the overhauled pass defense designed to stop it.
"I want to see our wide receivers," said Meyer, naming early enrollee freshman Johnnie Dixon as a new name in the mix. "We'll throw the ball a lot. I want to see who can stand up and go make a play in front of the crowd. I've had players that are really fast, really athletic, and have great skill that just can't get it done when the lights are on, and I’ve had others where that's their time. ... I want to see who can make plays."
That goes for the secondary, too, where new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash has pushed aside the Buckeyes’ old bend-but-don’t-break strategy. After the Buckeyes ranked 110th nationally in pass defense last year, their corners this year have traded five-yard cushions exclusively for press coverage.
“We’re playing a style of defense that is very appealing to me as a corners coach,” cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs said. “Every single snap of spring football we have lined up in press coverage, and that’s the way we’re going to learn it. Then we’ll find out how we stack up when the fall comes around.”