Monday, September 10, 2012
September 8, 2012
From Bill Livingston's "Smith’s a catch among catches"
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A great catch defies gravity, boundaries and defenders' obstruction.
A great catch makes you accuse your eyes of lying.
A great catch can inspire a team, ignite a crowd and transform a player.
Ohio State sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith made a great catch last Saturday against Miami (Ohio). It earned a two-page photo spread in the current Sports Illustrated. It was the top catch in the first week of college football, according to ESPN. It might turn out to be the best of the season.
Big-game context, of course, is what Smith's one-handed, back-of-end zone, beyond-belief catch lacks. It was not against Michigan, the ancient rival, or Wisconsin, the new one.
"We really try to evaluate, 'Who can make a big play?' I ask the question all the time, 'Who can physically score the touchdown?' I didn't know Devin Smith could. I have not seen it. Now I know he can," said coach Urban Meyer. "I'm not talking about the one [by Smith last season] against Wisconsin, where the guy scrambles the run, catches it and falls down. I mean, go make a touchdown."
I've been covering Ohio State football since Chris Spielman was a freshman. Here are the rankings of the best Buckeyes catches I have ever seen:
1. Devin Smith vs. Miami (Ohio), 2012: There have been many bigger catches, in terms of context, but none that was more difficult (see http://tinyurl.com/9n7ggzw). One demand of a great catch can be reacting to an off-line throw. A great touchdown catch also beats a great nonscoring catch, in my view.
On Smith's snag, the ball seemed so clearly overthrown that the Miami defender, playing behind him, extended his arms to try to make the interception. But a twisting Smith leaped backward, caught the ball with one hand and -- now for the surreal part -- never steadied it against his body, including on the landing.
"I finally saw some still shots of it, and that as a good a catch as I've ever seen," Meyer said.
2. Cris Carter, 1985 Citrus Bowl against Brigham Young: The catch is in the first 20 seconds of this clip (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Xu9SgfabTU). Said quarterback Jim Karsatos, "When I finally saw it on film, he was tiptoeing the sidelines, and he jumped up and caught the ball left-handed by the point of the football at least a yard out of bounds. Then he somehow levitated back in bounds to get both his feet in bounds. I swear to this day he actually levitated to get back in bounds. It just blew me away."
Carter will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday. He had the best hands of any Ohio State player ever.
"One day, he caught a backhanded pass when it was 10 degrees outside, and everyone looked around like, 'What the heck was that?' " said Meyer, who was a graduate assistant when Carter played at OSU.
3. Anthony Gonzalez against Michigan, 2005: (See www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHjWpxcFWbE.)
Riding the shoulders of a Michigan defender, twisting to make the catch, then absorbing the hit and fall, Gonzalez's play was at least the equal of Troy Smith's play-extending, inside-out move against the Wolverines' pass rush. It made possible the Buckeyes' rally from a nine-point deficit with seven minutes to play.
4. Michael Jenkins' "Holy Buckeye" play against Purdue, 2002:
Notable for artistry, context and poise, with quarterback Craig Krenzel checking down from covered tight end Ben Hartsock to Jenkins, the play included a route adjustment by the other wideout, Chris Gamble. (See my discussion of the play at http://tinyurl.com/6vkqhfd). Although it kept the perfect season alive, it is downgraded slightly since Krenzel's throw into the wind was right on the money.
5. Mayfield's Mike Lanese against Michigan, 1984:
Lanese, a Rhodes Scholar, flew through the air to convert a third-and-11 on Mike Tomczak's off-target pass. The catch prolonged the drive that sent the Buckeyes to the Rose Bowl. The catch is about 61/2 minutes into the clip (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FGynpv8xCo).
Or how about Terry Glenn's 75-yard score against Pittsburgh in 1995?
(See www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb-3Xvi591g.) Glenn was OSU's only Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best wide receiver.
Or Jenkins' 45-yard snag in double-coverage to get OSU away from its own goal-line, enabling the Buckeyes to run out the clock in a 19-14 win at Wisconsin in 2002?
Or Chris Vance's catch (see www.youtube.com/watch?v=feBEFypINE8) at the end of a rout against Purdue in 2001? It lacked all big-moment context but still was remarkable.