Ohio State has cruised to a 2-0 start without head coach Urban Meyer on the sidelines.
After missing all of fall camp and all the preparation for the Buckeyes season opener, Meyer did return to lead the team’s practices as of last week, but he’s still serving a suspension that will keep him away from the club on game days through this Saturday’s kickoff against TCU.
He’s being punished for not monitoring an assistant, former wide receivers coach Zach Smith, closely enough, and yet his punishment entails him handing over the reins of his program to his assistants.
That includes former college head coaches Kevin Wilson (Indiana) and Greg Schiano (Rutgers). Meyer has admitted that earlier in his career he would not have considered adding someone with head coaching experience to his staff, but he has since evolved on the issue.
The Buckeyes acting head coach, however, is quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day.
“This team has been trained for this type of adversity,” Day said. “There’s been a foundation set here, so when you go through something tough, if you have a good, strong foundation set, you can make it through to the other side.”
Day made a concerted effort to run things as much like Meyer would as possible, but when Meyer returned to workouts, players noticed there was what they called a slightly different vibe.
At least one noted a way in which Meyer’s presence was felt quickly.
The team struggled through the heat and humidity last Tuesday. Wednesday, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon said, Meyer “challenged us to come out…with a better demeanor, and we did.”
Did that end up making a difference on Saturday? It’s actually hard to look at the numbers and argue it did.
Ohio State followed up its 77-31 victory over Oregon State with a likewise dominant 52-3 win against Rutgers.
The defense gave up fewer chunk plays against the Scarlet Knights, and Schiano argued that Meyer deserves more credit for the defense than he gets.
“He’s involved in every facet of this program,” Schiano said. But “I think the biggest thing you miss is his leadership, the inspiration, the things he provides, not only the players, but the coaches.”
Overall, though, things played out in similar fashion. The ship of Ohio State sailed on without its captain.
Maybe that’s the point.
“The culture here? That’s what he does,” said defensive lineman Nick Bosa. “Like, that’s coach Meyer’s thing. He comes in and creates a culture and hires the best people in the country. So when you lose him, it’s still the same thing.”
In other words, Ohio State has cruised to a 2-0 start without head coach Urban Meyer on the sidelines, and for that, the Buckeyes owe Meyer the credit.
(You can follow Lori Schmidt on Twitter @LoriSchmidt)
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