The 49-6 romp of Tulane seemed like a fairly straightforward game for Ohio State. But the fourth week of the season meant significantly more to Urban Meyer than a simple win to improve Ohio State to an undefeated 4-0 record heading into a top-10 matchup with Penn State.
Saturday marked Meyer’s return to the sidelines after he served a three-game suspension. He addressed the crowd at Skull Session, later calling the support “somewhat overwhelming” and emphasizing his appreciation, then walked from St. John Arena into Ohio Stadium for the first time this season. Meyer responded to the early arrivers at ‘Block O,’ Ohio State’s student section, who were yelling “O-H” by raising his arms to make “I-O.”
The rest of the afternoon was business as usual for Meyer and the Buckeyes. Ohio State quickly pulled away, then pulled most of the starters by halftime, but the head coach in his seventh year leading the program took a moment to reflect on his return after the victory.
“This community and this school and this university mean the world to you. The state, this is our home state. This is something that, you know, in 2012, when Gene (Smith) made a call and asked me if I would be interested in coming back to Ohio State, and we were going through a tough time then as well, and we did. My family is completely engrained in this community, they love this place, I love this university.”
It wasn’t just back to normal for Meyer, but for the entire team. While players spend significantly more time with their respective position coaches, each player who spoke after the game referenced their positive feelings about having Meyer back.
“Basically our leader,” Davon Hamilton said. “Coach Day did a great job while he was gone, but that's our leader, for sure. It's great to have him back.”
“I think he's just really happy to be back,” Jashon Cornell said. “We all missed him. We could tell when he first came back, you could tell that he missed us too. He loves us and we love him.”
“It meant a lot to me just seeing him back in the Shoe, back in the game atmosphere,” Parris Campbell said. “We didn't shake hands with coach Day coming into the stadium. That was a special moment for me. I kind of got chills from that moment. But, you know I love coach Meyer, he loves me, he loves the entire team and I'm sure, in that moment, he got chills just as I did.”
The prior three games, Ryan Day split his time between acting head coach and offensive coordinator to great success. Ohio State disposed of Oregon State and Rutgers with ease, then held off TCU for a 40-28 win.
For the first time this season, it was not Day who addressed the media in the post-game press conference to give his thoughts on the game. Instead, Meyer gave the post-game thoughts. It did not take him long to invoke Day’s name, though. Meyer said he gave Day the game ball and joked that he did not know Day’s win percentage after a 3-0 start, but said “it's pretty high.”
“It's a job very well done,” Meyer said. “He was the first one to thank — and Gene (Smith) was down there — to thank the coaching staff. That includes guys like Coach (Mickey) Marotti and the support staff, guys like Mark Pantoni. It's a healthy, strong program, and Ryan was exactly the guy we needed to lead it and get us through this, and he did a hell of a job.”
“I met coach Day at Boston College when I was in high school,” Dwayne Haskins said. “I've known him for years now. His demeanor, his personality, he can can definitely be a head coach for a top program like one of these programs here at Ohio State. Him having that little experience in those three games and him having that camp definitely gave him some experience. I feel like he'll be a really great head coach one day.”
The Buckeyes managed 570 total yards, including 425 yards in the first half. Despite the offensive success, Ohio State managed just 151 yards on 38 carries, an average of four yards per carry. It was the lowest yards-per-carry average of the season.
Catastrophe was avoided, however, because though Mike Weber took off his pads at halftime and returned to the sideline for the second half in sweatpants and a hoodie, Meyer said he expects Weber to play Saturday against Penn State.
“Couldn't get the running game going to the degree,” Meyer said. “Mike Weber has a little strain on his foot, and he should be fine for next week.”
The Buckeyes will take on the Nittany Lions at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Happy Valley. Prior to the game, College GameDay will be held at Penn State.