As Ohio State prepares for its next game after a fourth-quarter comeback win at Penn State on Saturday, it’s hard not to look back at what happened after Ohio State’s fourth-quarter comeback win against the Nittany Lions last year.
Seven days after their 39-38 win over Penn State at Ohio Stadium last season, the Buckeyes followed up with a tremendous letdown, suffering a 55-24 loss at Iowa to a Hawkeyes team that had little business beating Ohio State.
Now, after the Buckeyes put together another thrilling comeback to earn a 27-26 win over the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley on Saturday, they must make sure they don’t make the same mistakes as last year to avoid a similar fate on Saturday against Indiana (4 p.m., Ohio Stadium, Fox).
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, however, says he isn’t interested in looking back at what happened last year.
“I’m going to look forward,” Meyer said during his press conference Monday. “I don’t look back.”
That’s not to say that Meyer isn’t concerned about a letdown. He said there will be a conversation with the team to drive home the point that Saturday’s win over Penn State was just one game, and that the Buckeyes must continue to work hard if they want to continue to win games and accomplish their greater goals.
“We haven't had that conversation yet. We will. That's real,” Meyer said. “You didn’t win the Super Bowl yet. You beat a really good team, and now you got to get ready for another really good team. So that’ll be the message.”
With at least four straight opponents on the schedule that Ohio State should be heavily favored to win (Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue and Nebraska), it would be easy for the third-ranked Buckeyes to ease off the gas pedal. From Meyer’s perspective, though, the Buckeyes don’t only need to play at the same level they’ve played at to avoid a letdown – they need to get better.
Meyer said Ohio State had a “call-to-arms meeting” on Sunday to stress to the team that it is crucial for more players – specifically those who perhaps haven’t contributed as much as they should have at this point in their careers – to step up.
“We still need to get more production out of some people that have either been with the program for a year or two, or freshmen that are talented, but they've got to play,” Meyer said. “So every team’s dealing with it right now, game six coming up, and we are banged up, like every team in the country. So our guys have to contribute in some way or the other. That was the meeting yesterday, and that will be the continuation as we continue to go forward.”
“You didn’t win the Super Bowl yet. You beat a really good team, and now you got to get ready for another really good team.”– Urban Meyer on his message to his team this week
Ohio State is now 5-0 this season, with two big wins away from home against TCU and Penn State (though the game against TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas was technically a neutral-site game), and Meyer doesn’t want those accomplishments to go unrecognized.
“You went on the road twice, against – in our opinion, I can’t remember what TCU is ranked, but that’s a top-10 team – on the road, and you went to Penn State on the road,” Meyer said. “I don't know if any (other) school’s in the country has done that yet this year. We’ve done it. We walked away with wins. And by the way, also, we lost one of the top football players in America (Nick Bosa) on defense.”
Meyer also recognizes, though, that just because the Buckeyes are unbeaten doesn’t mean they’ve been perfect. And even though they’ve played well enough to beat everyone they’ve played so far, Meyer believes they still have a long way to go to reach their potential.
“We’re 5-0, and we haven’t played close to our best game,” Meyer said. “There is a tremendous ceiling on this team, and we haven't gotten close to it."
How high is that ceiling, exactly? Meyer said he doesn’t have time to worry about that, but there’s no question that it’s one of the highest ceilings in the country. With a win over Penn State in its back pocket, Ohio State is widely expected to contend for a conference championship, a College Football Playoff berth and potentially even a national championship.
For now, though, the Buckeyes must keep their focus on trying to get to 6-0 and their upcoming game on Saturday. And while the Buckeyes are favored to beat the Hoosiers by more than three touchdown (the line opened at 27 points, but had dropped to 25 points by Monday afternoon), Meyer views Indiana as a quality opponent on both sides of the ball.
“They play very well,” Meyer said of Indiana’s defense. “They’ve got a bunch of new starters. Their scheme is outstanding. I think they’re very well-coached. And they got answers for everything.”
Meyer also described Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey as a “gutsy player,” and expects him to challenge the Buckeyes’ defense as both a passer and a runner.
“He’s a gutsy player, and he’s one of those guys that creates something out of nothing,” Meyer said. “This guy’s a very good thrower, but he’s also got the other element.”