The Ohio State Buckeyes are back at it again. After defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions in an instant classic, Urban Meyer is leading his program into this week’s game against the Iowa Hawkeyes.
On Monday, Meyer talked to the media, and recapped his team’s performance, and gave a little preview of what to expect when the Buckeyes take the field at 3:30 p.m. ET inside Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
Here’s the four biggest points from his weekly presser.
1. “So there's no, once again I don't micromanage. That's Kevin Wilson, and that's Tony Alford to determine. And they're both practicing very hard. You'd like to get them more carries.”
J.K. Dobbins has shown that he is the No. 1 running back right now for Ohio State. He’s broken off big rushes, and has been a menace to opposing defenses.
So why wasn’t he utilized that much in the first half in the biggest game of the year versus the Nittany Lions? In the first quarter, Dobbins had the momentum; he had four carries that went for a total of 50 yards. However, in the second quarter, he wasn’t used at all. Mike Weber was the running back of choice, and tallied seven carries for 21 yards, as well as a touchdown.
Meyer touched on that point at the press conference, and pointed to Kevin Wilson (the offensive coordinator) and Tony Alford (the running backs coach) being the ones to make the decision as to who’s going into the backfield.
Looking back, could it have been a strategy call? (Maybe have Weber pound the football up the middle for a quarter, then have Dobbins wear down the defense in the second half?)
That seems like a possible theory to subscribe to, as Weber’s seven carries in the second frame was all he got against PSU. Dobbins had nine carries in the second half, and picked up an additional 38 yards.
In the end, it wasn’t the rushing game that was the x-factor against the Nittany Lions. It was the arm of quarterback J.T. Barrett. However, there may be a time when the running game needs to be at the forefront of the offense.
Wilson and Alford know the game, so whatever plan they drew up, I’m inclined to believe that they know what they’re doing. That’s why they are paid the big bucks.
However, when you have a guy like Dobbins, the OSU version of Saquon Barkley, why wasn’t he used in the second quarter when things were beginning to get away from the Buckeyes?
2. “[Parris Campbell] is questionable for this week. He got dinged on a kickoff return. He's tough as nails, too.”
One of the big blows early in the Penn State game came from Parris Campbell fumbling the football.
Looking back now, there may have been a reason for why he coughed the ball up. On the Buckeyes' first kickoff return of the afternoon, Campbell returned the ball 17 yards before being brought down. According to what was said at the presser, this appears to be the play on which Campbell got "dinged.”
Campbell was the leading receiver for Ohio State entering Saturday. But his lead in reception yards was cut by K.J. Hill's 102-yard, 12-catch performance. Austin Mack also stepped up in the absence of Campbell, hauling in six receptions for 90 yards.
If Zone 6 will be without Campbell for another week, they should be okay. Against the Nittany Lions, the whole receiving corps stepped up and made clutch catches. Granted, that game was at home, but the jitters that plagued the group in the early part of the season seem to have gone away.
3. “You treat them like elite warriors, and elite warriors are trained to celebrate the win for whatever it is, 24 hours. Come back in and I'll give you the next mission and do all your best”
Now that November is here, staying in the hunt for a championship becomes the focus. Actually, it’s always been the focus since Meyer took over the program in 2012.
The mentality that you need to have in the waning weeks of the season is what separates contenders from pretenders. Countless times there have been teams who roll into the final part of the year, only to collapse.
Meyer's ability to keep his team focused is a big reason for why he's been so successful as a coach. After the huge win against Penn State, the Buckeyes are now in the driver's seat for a conference title appearance. From here on out, falling into the trap of playing complacent doesn't appear to be on the docket for this OSU team; they'll be ready for their next opponent.
Before he said the quote, Meyer was asked by the media if he's talked to Barrett about the Heisman. His answer was basically no, and that they were focused on winning at Iowa—he even said that Barrett had the same sentiment.
Getting caught with a classic case of the look-ahead won't be a problem for the final four games. This team is laser focused on each task that appears in front of them.
4. “They're just tough. They're like their coach. Their coach is a tough guy. They're like the State of Iowa. They're tough people. I love Iowa. I love -- I never met too many people or players that just don't have that Iowa characteristic of toughness and I'm going to hit you as hard as I can.”
Getting the road win against the Iowa Hawkeyes is the new mission at hand for Ohio State. Kirk Ferentz's team has been known to play typical Big Ten football, one that includes grinding efforts in low scoring contests. With this game being an afternoon road test, the difficulty is elevated.
This season, it took a, literal, last second touchdown pass by Trace McSorley to lift the Nittany Lions to victory against the Hawkeyes. Last season, Michigan wasn't as lucky, as they fell from the ranks of the undefeated—and that loss played a pivotal role in Penn State advancing to the Big Ten Championship.
It'll be a tough one on Saturday. Then again, it's always a tough game on the road at Iowa. The last time OSU was there, they escaped with the victory. Will the same happen this time around?