Ohio State’s Urban Meyer considers coaching greats Earl Bruce and Lou Holtz to be the two biggest influences on his career. This week, the Buckeye boss is leaning on the latter for direction.
Penn State knocked off three-touchdown favorite and then second-ranked Ohio State Saturday in State College, 24-21. It was just the third loss in the Buckeyes’ last 55 regular season contests.
Most teams around the country have experience dealing with responding to setbacks. It’s rare in Columbus.
Holtz taught Meyer that after a loss, it’s best not to come down too hard on your team.
“That’s why they call us coaches,” Meyer told reporters Monday in Columbus. “It’s not time to go dive into people. It’s time to correct issues. And very winnable game, up by 14 and end of the fourth quarter with the ball at midfield — that’s a moment that around here normally that we go in and finish the game off. And we didn’t do that.”
Ohio State (6-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) plays host to surging Northwestern (4-3, 3-1) Saturday (3:30 ET, ESPN) at the Shoe. The Wildcats are riding a three-game winning streak, which includes road victories at Iowa and Michigan State.
“That’s as improved a team as I’ve ever seen from beginning to now, outstanding,” Meyer said. “Three big wins, two on the road. Defining wins. Defense is outstanding. Gigantic inside guys. I think they’re averaging 38 points in their last three wins. Playing very well.”
Deficiencies in the passing game, compromised by inconsistent line play, proved costly at Penn State. The Nittany Lions sacked quarterback J.T. Barrett six times and the receivers experienced a quiet day as a result. Noah Brown caught just three balls for 45 yards.
“It’s hard to put it on one thing. There’s a multitude of things,” Meyer said. “When you have a young — I guess not young anymore — but we did not play very well in a couple of areas on offense. And what do you do? You just identify it, work on it, make personnel changes if you have to and move on to the next game.“Pass offense always starts with protection. That was not our best game in protection, giving him time to go through his reads. I’m so into watching Northwestern. I’m trying to put that one to bed.”
“Pass offense always starts with protection. That was not our best game in protection, giving him time to go through his reads. I’m so into watching Northwestern. I’m trying to put that one to bed.”
Right tackle Isaiah Prince, a true sophomore and first-year starter, experienced a rough night at Beaver Stadium. The raucous crowd seemed to affect him.
Meyer was asked if he’s considering shaking up the offensive line. He said it was possible but not imperative.
“You coach them and you challenge them and you also maybe … help them throughout the course of the game in that kind of situation,” Meyer said. “Or you make a personnel change. And there’s not someone right now to replace him. And he will be a fine player. He just needs to continue to grow because he’s played, at times, exceptional.”
The Buckeyes last lost back-to-back conference games in 2012. Again, they’ve been installed as more than a three-touchdown favorite.
Northwestern comes to Columbus with confidence. Ohio State must make sure their’s isn’t shaken after a rare slip.
“It’s not business as usual,” Meyer said. “We had a team meeting (Sunday). A lot of them wanted to get back on the routine, get the stuff out of their system. So we did that, but yeah, it’s different. Incredible leadership on our team. And (we) move forward. Let it hurt for a while.
“And you lose a game, you’re not a loser. If you lose a game, you accept it. That’s the message to our players. We work so hard so that doesn’t happen. It happened; move on. Get ready for a very good team coming in here.”