For 24 consecutive games, there was one thing that couldn’t be argued about the Ohio State program.
Urban Meyer did not have to give a postgame press conference after a loss.
Fans and reporters wondered how the intense, straightforward coach – one who let fear of losing and, even more, the fear of not doing a complete job – would handle a loss, especially in light of the health problems that forced him from Florida.
Now, Meyer has had to give two in a row. In the wake of Ohio State’s 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Gator Bowl, the Buckeyes have dropped two contests in a row when the Big Ten title game loss to Michigan State is added into the equation.
As it turns out, losing still stings, but Meyer was still philosophical after the loss to the Tigers gave OSU just its third multi-game losing streak of the past nine seasons.
“Thank the Orange Bowl and congratulate our opponent,” Meyer said. “They played really hard. That was a great coach and a great friend. Great game. Didn’t finish the job.”
The Buckeyes were still into the hunt with less than two minutes remaining when senior C.J. Barnett intercepted a Tajh Boyd pass and returned it to Clemson 48, but quarterback Braxton Miller was intercepted two plays later when his pass over the middle to Corey “Philly” Brown was short and intercepted by Stephone Anthony.
“He got hit in the shoulder, I think on one of the sacks,” Meyer said. “He’s a fighter. He fought through it. We can all get better. It was a post to the No. 2 receiver.”
Meyer also refused to place blame for the loss on Brown, whose muffed punt with Ohio State holding a 29-20 lead in the third quarter led to a quick Clemson score that changed momentum.
“Philly is one of those guys I’d rather not do that,” Meyer said. “He’s one of those skilled athletes and really wanted to make a game-changing attempt to do something. Once again, he’s not coached to do that. We’re not playing the blame game, guys.”
The second-year head coach also pointed to the other side of the ball when it came to giving credit. In particular, Meyer raved about the play of Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins, a future first-round draft pick who set Orange Bowl records with 16 catches for 227 yards, picking up two touchdowns while constantly beating the Buckeyes both over the top and in the screen game.
“They do a good job,” Meyer said. “Whenever you have a guy that has that much vertical speed, it creates a cushion, and then you just keep flipping those bubbles to him, that’s tough to defend. Obviously, we didn’t do a good job, but I don’t want to take anything away. I don’t know all the receivers in the country, but I can’t imagine any better than that guy.”
In the end, it all added up to Ohio State’s second consecutive loss after two straight campaigns that included perfect 12-win regular seasons. But considering Meyer took over a team coming off a 6-7 record that included a bowl loss in Florida to end the 2011 campaign, the head coach is still proud of the growth that has happened over the past two seasons.
“I made a comment, we had a team meeting two years ago, and if you’d have told me when I walked out of that team meeting that this group would buy in and we’d go on a nice run and have the highest scoring offense in program history and 24 straight wins and all that, I’d have looked at you and said you’re out of your mind,” Meyer said.
“Sometimes you have to go through things. I’d rather not, but that’s part of – we played a good team in the Orange Bowl, and it was a high-scoring game with a lot of plays. We didn’t finish it.”