Dealing with adversity is part of sports in general, but, to be frank, the Buckeyes have had a decent amount of off-the-field drama of late. Tattoo-gate, Jim Tressel's departure, suspensions, a bowl ban, the Luke Fickell Interim Head Coach Era--off the field, it's been a rough couple of seasons for the Buckeyes.
On the field, however, it's been a different story, and if we're being honest, the less than challenging nature of the Buckeyes' opponents throughout most of their 18-game winning streak is a significant part of the reason Ohio State gets so little respect from the media and fans of other programs. The Big Ten picked an especially inconvenient time to hit a down cycle.
You don't win 18 consecutive games unless you know how to coach a team through adversity, however, and Urban Meyer deserves a lot of credit for that. Urban sets the standard for leadership, and his players certainly seem to be living up to his standard. Many fans were calling for Kenny Guiton to replace Braxton Miller against Northwestern Saturday night, and whether or not you agreed with Meyer's decision to keep Miller in the game, the one thing we can be sure of is that Miller now knows that his coach has confidence in Miller's leadership on the field when it matters.
At Big Ten media days last summer, Meyer and Miller both spoke about the leadership academy Meyer coordinated for his players. One of the things that was discussed was a "leadership formula," something to help players remember the importance of leadership on and off the field. The formula is: E(vent) + R(esponse) = O(utcome), and the key is, players cannot necessarily control the event, but they can control their response to the event, which, in turn, can influence the outcome of the situation. It's not a bad principle to keep in mind generally, not just on the football field.
After Braxton Miller's second fumble, which was his third turnover of the day, Miller stepped up and executed, leading two drives that culminated in Carlos Hyde touchdowns. Despite having a very difficult game overall, the leadership Miller, and other Buckeyes, have worked to develop certainly benefited them on the field against the Wildcats. Instead of benching Miller, or letting frustration and anger impact their play with costly penalties or mental mistakes, the Buckeyes rose to the occasion, and controlled their response to the events on the field, which positively impacted the outcome of Saturday's game.
On paper, the back to back matchups against Wisconsin and Northwestern were the two toughest weeks of Ohio State's season. Maintaining such a significant winning streak isn't easy, however, regardless of the opponent. Sometimes balls gets tipped or slip out of hands, tackles get broken, players get injured, and what should be a blowout suddenly becomes a much closer game (like say, Purdue last year). What separates good teams from great teams is their ability to win games despite adversity. Ohio State's win over Northwestern suggests that they are prepared to do exactly that.