For the third week in a row, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and players spoke in disappointed tones about the game they had just played.
For the first time Saturday, the Buckeyes had actually lost.
They will have two weeks to digest a 49-20 TKO by Purdue before taking the field against Nebraska.
Is that enough time to fix what has ailed Meyer’s team?
“Sure,” Meyer said. “Yes.”
Skepticism is warranted given that the coaches have fully acknowledged for a month or more the various problems that have kept the Buckeyes from reaching their immense potential and yet not much has changed — at least not for the better.
FLASHBACK: Buckeyes projected to be nation’s best team
The defense has had issues with tackling and execution since day one.
An offense that began the year looking unstoppable has morphed into a one-dimensional pass-happy team that struggles to run the ball and can’t score touchdowns in the red zone.
Every unit, including special teams, has been penalty-prone from the start of the season, too.
If the coaches know what’s wrong, why can’t they fix it?
Meyer had no answer, but he insisted the right guys are in the locker room.
“We have good players, good coaches and we’re going to get to work,” Meyer said. “We lost a game last year and came right back, so we have good guys and we’re going to work hard (on) what’s off and get this thing right.”
He was referring a shocking blowout loss at Iowa last November. That 55-24 shellacking did not prevent Ohio State from winning the Big Ten, but it was ultimately a factor in Alabama getting into the College Football Playoff instead of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has more time to fix its issues but more leaks to plug to keep the ship from sinking.
The Iowa game was in many ways a fluke. The Hawkeyes pulled some things out of their hat Ohio State hadn’t seen, and they executed at a level that was unusual for a team that finished 8-5.
Purdue, 3-3 entering the game, beat Ohio State doing all the things the Boilermakers were known for. They threw the ball around, attacked inside with the running game and were opportunistic on defense.
The Buckeyes just had no answers.
If knowledge isn’t the problem, what is?
“I feel like the top, our leaders are really tough and we’ve just got to make sure that permeates through everybody,” Ohio State captain Terry McLaurin said.
“I remember being a young guy and feeling a loss. When you’re so invested as an older guy, it hurts even more,” McLaurin said. “So my message to some of the older leaders is we’ve just got to make sure everybody feels life or death, it’s not just football.
“I come out here every single day – this and school are all I do, that’s it. My main message going forward is just treat this like it’s life or death. I mean, I know we’re not in war or anything like that – I would never disrespect our military and what those guys do – but that type of mentality where you’re going into battle (understanding) somebody that’s trying to knock you off, if you don’t come ready to go, it’s happening.”
As far as wins and losses, lots could still happen for this Ohio State team.
The Cornhuskers picked up their first win of the season Saturday, a 53-28 decision over a Minnesota team that hung surprisingly tough with the Buckeyes a week earlier before losing 30-14 at Ohio Stadium.
Then comes a trip to Michigan State on Nov. 10. The Spartans are a disappointing 4-3 after being flattened 21-7 on their home field by Michigan on Saturday. (The Wolverines had a 395-94 advantage in total yards.)
After a trip to Maryland (currently 4-3), Ohio State will return home to face a 7-1 Michigan team that has been building momentum since laying an egg at Notre Dame to open the season.
As usual, everything could be on the line in The Game, but only if both teams take care of business between now and then.
The Buckeyes begin the process of starting over this week.
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