Urban Meyer will forever remember last year’s 56-10 blowout of Miami (Ohio) in the season opener as his first victory at Ohio State.
It also serves as a reminder of what he’d like the Buckeyes to avoid in their season-opener against Buffalo on Saturday.
Though the scoreboard indicated a thorough domination of its opponent, Ohio State came out sloppy in its first action of the season against Miami and failed to score until the second quarter. The Buckeyes won, but what stood out the most to Meyer was sloppy and inefficient play.
“I want us to play well,” said Meyer in his press conference Monday, describing what he wants most in Ohio State’s season opener. “I want us to play clean. Remember, last year the first quarter, it was (3-0) after the first quarter. Should have been worse and could have been worse. So I just didn't think, really, up until about the third or fourth game that we acted clean.”
What does playing clean mean? To Meyer it means more than simply winning the football game. The Buckeyes were superior athletically to Miami – and at the end of the game the scoreboard proved that – but they still struggled with fundamental aspects such as blocking and tackling.
Wide receiver Philly Brown has multiple theories for why that happened. First, he said Ohio State didn’t adequately respect its opponent. But what was most telling was when he said the Buckeyes still weren’t ready to play at a high level last September.
“I think last year we didn’t have the comfort level that we needed to have as a team,” Brown said. “Before we knew it, we were losing (3-0). We came out slow on special teams, defense and offense. This year Coach Meyer is trying to emphasis coming out fast and really respecting everyone.”
It’s hard to remember what the Buckeyes were at this point a year ago.
The finished product to last season was a team that finished 12-0, but Ohio State began the year ranked No. 18 in the country. And it was regarded as a vulnerable team, one handcuffed by a youthful roster in addition to NCAA sanctions that disqualified them from any postseason hopes.
Now ranked as the No. 2 team in the country and a favorite to compete for a national title, Ohio State will have the chance to prove that it’s grown.
Opening up this year against another MAC team, the 36-point-favorite Buckeyes can show their coach they don’t need a four-game cushion to play efficient football.
“I'm hoping that we leave that field Saturday obviously with a win, but you feel good about the fundamentals of your football team," Meyer said. "If you do that, that's a real positive and we didn't feel that way, it took us a while last year.
“I made this comment, many, many times, that fundamentally, we were 12-0 and some really great things happened – some incredible leadership, motivation and a team that got really, really close, which is probably more important than everything. Not probably, it is. But the second most important part is just blocking, tackling and great football position and all the great things that we work so hard at. I mean, we start in January on that. That's a big part of The Chase."
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