Less than a half-hour before Ohio State’s scheduled team meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Ryan Day received the news that the Buckeyes wouldn’t have the opportunity to play Maryland on Saturday.
While the Buckeyes went forward with their scheduled team meetings and practice on Wednesday, they had to immediately switch gears.
“It was 2:15 and we had a 2:30 team meeting, found out that we weren’t gonna play Maryland so literally at that moment, I just told everybody, ‘We’re done with Maryland,’” Day said. “Coaches are kind of looking at me like, ‘OK, so what are we doing, Coach?’ So we just kind of went out there, had a good practice, and we were just working on fundamentals, base plays against base defenses, and then all of our attention last night and today went to Indiana.”
Such is life as a football coach or player in 2020, when plans can change in an instant due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As you might expect, Day said the Buckeyes were frustrated and disappointed when they found out their fourth game of the season against the Terrapins had been canceled.
“It’s very, very disappointing,” Day said Thursday. “The hard thing, it’s what I’ve said about all these teams who’ve had to go through this, is that when you do everything right and make all these sacrifices and still aren’t able to play, it’s hard. It’s hard to look your team in the face and tell them you’re not playing another game. We lost four games on the front end, and now we lose another one. So it’s not fun.”
Until Wednesday afternoon, Ohio State fully expected to play on Saturday. The Buckeyes being sidelined has nothing to do with anything that’s happened in Columbus, as it was Maryland who canceled the game due to eight positive COVID-19 tests among its football players. Day said Thursday that he would have been in favor of scheduling a replacement game if the Big Ten was allowing teams to do so, which it is not. Instead, the Buckeyes have an unexpected bye week and are now down to just seven regular-season games after already losing games against Bowling Green, Oregon, Buffalo and Iowa.
That’s a tough pill for the Buckeyes to swallow, but Day also knows that most people aren’t feeling sorry for his team.
They’re far from the only team that’s had a game suddenly canceled this season due to COVID-19, and they have to play with the hand they’ve been dealt. So instead of dwelling on what could have been or should have been, or what the Big Ten perhaps should be doing differently, Day has already shifted his full focus toward preparing for Ohio State’s next game against Indiana – a game that could decide who wins the Big Ten East this year – two Saturdays from now.
“Worrying about things you can’t control is not productive,” Day said. “So we’re just gonna worry about what we can control, and that’s going to be about getting better. We went out there and practiced yesterday, we’re going to go out there and practice today and try to keep the same routine. I think it’s important to do that because everything has been so off-schedule over the past year, we want to keep things as much of a routine as possible.”
Ohio State is still set to hold its regularly scheduled practice on Thursday and hold its traditional “Best Fridays in Football” walkthrough on Friday, and it’ll now have a padded practice in lieu of a game on Saturday. Day said the Buckeyes will treat the rest of the week like it’s a bye week, but that doesn’t mean they’ll just be resting, given that they’ve only played three games so far this year.
Because they’re making such a sudden transition to preparing for Indiana, Day said the Buckeyes wouldn’t have their full game plan ready in time for Thursday’s practice, but there are concepts specific to preparing to play the Hoosiers – rather than preparing to play the Terrapins – that they will begin to install on Thursday, giving Ohio State a three-day head start on its preparation for next week’s game.
“We’re gonna try to start implementing some of the ideas, introducing the offense and defense to both sides of the ball, and just try to do a good job of getting ahead of these guys,” Day said. “Anything we do right now is a bonus anyway, which is great, but we also don’t want to waste time. We want to make sure we’re giving them good, accurate things.”
“Worrying about things you can’t control is not productive. So we’re just gonna worry about what we can control, and that’s going to be about getting better.”– Ryan Day
Given that Ohio State’s players will have more free time this weekend than they would have had if they were still going to Maryland, Day acknowledged there is more concern about players letting their guards down and potentially being in situations that could increase their risk of COVID-19 exposure. Day also said, though, that there couldn’t have been any stronger reminder about the importance of diligently following health and safety protocols than the news they received yesterday.
“This is the first time we’ve really been affected by it by no fault of our own, but this is kind of the way it goes, and so yeah, this is gonna be difficult here moving forward, and just gotta continually make sacrifices,” Day said. “And we’ve done that, but at any moment, it can turn sideways. So we’ve gotta stay on it, and it’s gonna be really, really important, and really the No. 1 thing we think about when we wake up in the morning.”