Urban Meyer kicked off California week with his usual press luncheon Monday, but the Ohio State head coach sounded much like he had at the end of UCF week last Saturday.
“Our plan to win – we did not play great defense, we did not want turnovers,” Meyer said. “Red zone we were for three for four with three touchdowns, but still not where we need to be. We are okay in the kicking game but really one of the few times that I can remember in the last, years and years, is that it really didn't have much of an impact.”
As he did Saturday, though, Meyer made sure to point out the positive: the Buckeyes came out on top where it matters most with a 31-16 final score.
“It was a good win for us,” Meyer said. “We have to fix, obviously, a lot of things, but we had victory meal last night, which I think it's a new tradition we are starting here, and it's mandatory for all players and coaches to be out and enjoy that win. I read one of our comments by one of our players about the difficulty of winning a major college football game and we never want to take that for granted. We have too much respect for the game and too much respect for our opponents to ever do that.”
He highlighted the individual efforts of two players on defense – linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins – and four on offense – lineman Andrew Norwell and wide receivers Evan Spencer, Devin Smith and Corey Brown – who earned “champion” designation after the defeat of the Knights.
On special teams, freshman linebacker Jamal Marcus was honored as the unit player of the week and joined classmates Adolphus Washington, David Perkins and Najee Murray as well as senior Taylor Rice as members of the champions club for the UCF game.
Hankins was the defensive player of the game while that honor went to Brown.
In looking ahead to the Buckeyes’ upcoming opponent, Meyer said to expect a potent passing game and an unorthodox defense from California.
“A Pac-12 team with Pac-12 players and coaches,” Meyer said. “Very unusual defense. They run the ‘Bear’ (defense) which is a 46, where they play the nose and then two 3-technique (tackles). It's a very unusual defense. Very good players. They led the Pac 12 a year ago on defense. Offense, they have a very accurate quarterback, 64 percent completion rate and a very athletic team.”
Meyer’s squad will play host to the Bears for a noon kickoff to be broadcast nationally by ABC, but it will not be at full strength.
The head coach declared running back Carlos Hyde (knee) out for the game but said there is a chance Jordan Hall (foot) could return.
“I don't know, (Hall is) going to run today, and I'll know more,” Meyer said of the senior who had foot surgery in June and has missed the first two games. “He was out there working a little bit yesterday, so there's a chance.”
Shortly after Meyer finished his address to the media, running backs coach Stan Drayton told reporters Hall had been medically cleared but practice would determine if he is ready for game action.
Meyer was optimistic about the long-term health of Hyde, who missed the second half against UCF after suffering a ligament injury while trying to catch a pass in the end zone.
“It's an MCL sprain,” Meyer said. “It actually did not swell, which I guess I know things, because I've dealt with so many MCLs. He's a tough guy, so I think it's fairly positive – as much as you can be – for a serious MCL sprain. He won't play this week.”
On the defensive side, the team will again be without sophomore end Michael Bennett (groin) while senior end Nathan Williams’ status is unclear at this time.
Williams is returning from microfracture knee surgery last season. He played in the opener this year but sat out last week with soreness.
“It’s the first time I've dealt with this type of injury,” Meyer said. “I don't know Nate as well as the guys that have been around here a long time. The one thing is he loves football, loves Ohio State. So it's just a tough injury. From everything I hear, he's actually on schedule, you know, so it just takes time. I'm hoping we have him for this week but I can’t say for sure. It’s going to be I think the same for the next ten weeks.”
Bennett remains out with a groin injured suffered in preseason camp and reinjured in warmups Sept. 1 before the Buckeyes faced Miami (Ohio).
“We MRI'd it and there was some damage there, so it's going to be a couple more weeks,” Meyer said. “I don't believe he'll be ready for this week.”
Without those two veterans, the Buckeyes will likely have to continue to rely on youngsters such as Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt to pick up the slack. They did so in a couple of different lineup combinations against UCF.
On offense, the onus is on young running backs Brionte Dunn and Rod Smith to fill in for Hyde, but Meyer said no one will be given the job.
“It's one thing getting your mind right to go to be a backup for third-string tailback for a game,” Meyer said. “It's another thing getting your mind right to be the guy that's going to jog out there with the first offense. There's no, ‘Just go play.’ Tuesday, and Wednesday is going to be very critical. Whoever has the best Tuesday and Wednesday is going to line up at tailback.”
Zach Boren, a fullback by trade who has seen his role expand this season, is in the running for more carries as well to take the load off of quarterback Braxton Miller, who carried 27 times last week.