(AP) – Fresh from his biggest win as Ohio State’s coach, Urban Meyer says he won’t have any problem with his team looking back on last week instead of preparing for this one.
”The good thing is I’ve got nine good coaches and, more importantly, I have players that understand we didn’t play as well as we could on defense and we expect to play much better,” he said of the eighth-ranked Buckeyes’ 49-37 win at then-No. 8 Michigan State last Saturday night. ”There’s plenty to work on.”
Despite a glittering performance by several players, a game-turning 28-3 run in the second and third quarters and scoring almost at will, the Buckeyes figure to be in for a hard week of practice.
It runs counter to the impression that coaches work their players harder after a disappointing loss than they do after a signature win.
But when Ohio State was steamrolled 35-21 at home by Virginia Tech on Sept. 6, Meyer used a softer approach he learned from his boss for one year at Notre Dame.
”That’s the thing that Lou Holtz would always say – and this is where I think coaches make a lot of mistakes – you don’t just go blow the whole thing up when you lose a game,” Meyer said. ”(They’re) fragile. You coach them really hard when you win. You lose that game (at Michigan State on) Saturday, it’s really difficult. Now you’ve got problems. Now you’ve got motivation problems. So it’s all the way we handle it.”
It won’t be all sweat equity this week for the Buckeyes. With no school Tuesday because of the holiday, the players got a little break. But that doesn’t mean everyone believes the hard part of the season is over.
The Buckeyes (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten), winners of seven in a row since the debacle against the Hokies, will get a big test at Minnesota (7-2, 4-1) in cold conditions at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. The Golden Gophers are coming off a surprisingly easy 51-14 rout of Iowa.
The Buckeyes – the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the College Football Playoff at No. 8 – swear they won’t still be reminiscing.
”No problem at all,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. ”Michigan State’s behind us. We had a good game, celebrated it and now it’s time to move on to Minnesota.”
Safety Vonn Bell didn’t even know what a trap game was.
”You can’t sleep on nobody in this league,” he said. ”Everybody’s got good athletes. It’s on to the next (game).”
Ohio State will be without one of its most versatile players. Dontre Wilson, a fast, breakaway threat, is out ”for a few weeks” after breaking his foot against the Spartans.
Wilson is the Buckeyes’ third-leading receiver with 22 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns. He had also rushed for 100 yards and was the deep man on kickoffs with 22 returns – 20 more than anyone else on the team.
”It’s a big blow,” wideout Michael Thomas said. ”But we won’t harp on it too much. Other guys just have to step up and be accountable.”
Ohio State still has J.T. Barrett, who ran for two touchdowns and passed for three more in the scarlet-letter win at Michigan State. The redshirt freshman was a mild surprise when he took over as starter after two-time Big Ten MVP Braxton Miller was lost for the season due to shoulder surgery.
Barrett has been spectacular, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 26 touchdowns with just seven interceptions while rushing for 64.7 yards a game and eight scores.
He passed for 300 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 completions last week, and a similar performance might be needed against the high-scoring Gophers. Minnesota, which entered the CFP rankings at No. 25, rolled over Iowa behind a 28-point second quarter, moving back into a first-place tie with Nebraska in the West Division.
Tight end Maxx Williams caught three of Mitch Leidner’s four touchdown passes, and Minnesota ran for 291 yards. The Gophers have rushed for at least 285 in two of the past three games.
“He is unreal. I’ve coached this game for 31 years and I’ve coached a lot of great players, but I have never seen anybody catch the ball like that kid does,” coach Jerry Kill said of Williams. “If you get it close to him, he’s going to find a way to catch it. He’s unbelievable.”
Ohio State has won a record 21 consecutive Big Ten games and 12 in a row on the road overall, the longest active streak in the FBS.
The Buckeyes have taken the last eight meetings with Minnesota and 23 of 24.