It was late in the third quarter when Devin Smith—hoping to make a game-changing play—split wide against Navy.
Ohio State was off to a sluggish start in its season opener, trailing a feisty Midshipmen team 14-13. The Buckeyes offense had only produced two field goals, with the sole touchdown coming via Darron Lee's fumble recovery and 62-yard return.
When the ball was snapped, J.T. Barrett faked a hand-off to Ezekiel Elliott, which caused a split-second hesitation from Navy's deep safety.
That was all Smith needed.
Barrett launched an underthrown ball and the senior wideout adjusted, hauled it in and shook the Midshipmen defender for the go-ahead 80-yard touchdown.
According to John Kampf of The Morning Journal, Smith knew it was only a matter of time.
“I knew once [Meyer] called my number, I was going to make a play.”
With Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies coming to town this Saturday, the Buckeyes will need Smith to deliver in a similar fashion.
Loads of Potential, Fits of Inconsistency
Smith has come up with a number of big plays during his time in Columbus.
Facing the eventual Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers as a freshman, Smith got behind the defense in the final 30 seconds for a game-winning 40-yard touchdown.
Throughout his career, Smith has made a habit of scoring big touchdowns. The senior is averaging 41.7 yards per touchdown reception, and a big part of that is because of his blazing speed.
Patrick Maks @maksimuspatrick
Urban on Devin Smith: "He's got true speed, he's the best deep ball receiver we've ever had ... his consistency's been his career issue."9/4/2014, 4:22:52 PM
Even with his explosive playmaking ability, Smith hasn't found a way to be a consistent threat for the Buckeyes. The coaching staff feels that Smith struggles when the matchup isn't right.
“He’s great when things are great, and when things are hard that’s when he needs to shine,” wide receiver coach Zach Smith said, according to Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors. “He’s been inconsistent in that.”
Things will certainly be hard this Saturday when the Buckeyes go up against Virginia Tech's stingy defense.
Making the Hokies Pay
Virginia Tech has one of the nation's most talented cornerback tandems in Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson. The pair combined for 11 interceptions, 19 pass breakups and 30 passes defended in 2013, according to the school's official website.
With that talent in the secondary, defensive coordinator Bud Foster will freely load the box to stop the run and send a variety of exotic blitzes at Barrett. Fuller and Facyson will press Ohio State's receivers at the line of scrimmage to limit the easy plays, such as bubble screens or quick slants.
That's why Smith will be key this Saturday.
Will Smith be able to get behind Virginia Tech's defense? With Foster's defensive scheme, there will certainly be plenty of opportunity. It will come down to whether Ohio State's deep threat is strong enough to get past the bump at the line of scrimmage.
If Smith can't do that, it could be a rough night for the Buckeyes.
Unless otherwise notes, all stats viaOhioStateBuckeyes.com.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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