Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – A somber Urban Meyer struggled to articulate how he felt following Ohio State’s uninspiring, 52-49, win against Indiana on Saturday night.
Meyer quietly told reporters that he couldn’t explain what he was feeling, just that he was anxious to be back at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to make sense of another Buckeyes victory that seemed to again raise more questions than answers.
He couldn’t say what was ailing OSU’s defense, but he vowed to become more involved.
The right words evaded the 48-year-old coach.
Following Meyer’s postgame press conference, though, perhaps they weren’t necessary anymore.
The vacant, defeated look on Meyer’s face might have said it all.
While he waited for a handful of his players to be interviewed outside Memorial Stadium’s visiting team’s locker room, Meyer blankly stared off into the venue’s east stands drinking a bottle of orange-flavored Gatorade G2 and eating a Chick-fil-A sandwich.
The look was anything but that of a coach who had just taken last season’s 6-7 team to 7-0 in his first season in Columbus.
Meyer, though, did exactly that as the Buckeyes kept their undefeated season alive – even if that meant throwing it on life support during different points during their game against the Hoosiers.
Saturday night’s game, in some ways, was mission accomplished for OSU.
The team’s 7-0 campaign is the program’s best start since storming to 10-0 in 2007.
The former Florida coach’s prolific offense had built back-to-back 50-plus point outings for the first time since 1997.
OSU’s ground game rolled to the tune of 353 rushing yards behind the legs of sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and junior running back Carlos Hyde.
The Buckeyes even moved up a spot to No. 7 in Sunday’s weekly Associated Press top 25 poll.
For OSU, however, none of it seemed to matter.
Perhaps the most pertinent issue at hand was grasping how the Buckeyes blew an 18-point lead against a perceived-to-be-inferior Hoosiers squad in front of a half empty stadium.
The concept remained muddled to Meyer.
“I wish I had the answer, if I had the answer,” Meyer said “That’s not very good.”
It was a game that Meyer said he was “very concerned” his team would overlook.
On Saturday, and maybe when it mattered most, it sure seemed that way.
Did the Buckeyes play flat after back-to-back emotional victories against Michigan State and the Cornhuskers?
Junior center Corey Linsley said, “absolutely.”
“I think there was a ton of reasons for the flatness but, you know, there’s no excuse for that, and obviously you saw it in the first half from both sides of the ball and towards the end of the game and the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “No excuse for that, but (it) definitely played a little role.”
The day, he said, “should’ve been a lot different.”
The Hoosiers, whose offense totaled 481 yards Saturday night, gave OSU more than it expected to have to handle.
“We kinda underestimated their offense, I would say, a little bit,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Stoneburner.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, Miller and Hyde seemed to be as equally game as Indiana’s aerial assault.
Linsley said even co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell took note of the performances of the two offensive backs who combined for 54 attempts.
“Coach Fickell made a comment about how well Carlos played so, you know, even they noticed through everything,” he said.
Fickell’s defense, though, was perhaps the biggest area of concern for Meyer after surrendering 49 points to the Hoosiers and 87 points in the last two weeks.
So much so that Meyer vowed to take a more active role on that side of the ball.
“We’re not very good in certain areas right now,” he said. “The spread offense right now is fully exposing us.”
Meyer, bluntly, said he still doesn’t know what’s ailing the Buckeye defense.
“I don’t know, I gotta get more involved right now and I don’t know what the issue is,” he said. “So I don’t think you can pinpoint one thing right now.”
Redshirt senior cornerback Travis Howard said the way the game panned out couldn’t have been further from how they drew it up.
“We came in there and we told ourselves that we was gonna hold this team to maybe a touchdown,” Howard said.
Being gashed for 49 points, Howard said, is “horrendous.”
But members of the Buckeye offense said they aren’t keeping score – not when it comes to placing any sort of fault upon their defensive-minded teammates.
“We just kinda, you know, people (are) getting down on themselves, but other people (are) picking them back up,” Linsley said. “You look over on that side of the ball and you got, I can’t pick out one guy that I could be like, you know, I wouldn’t put everything on that guy.”
Hyde said Saturday’s near mishap “ain’t us.”
“Some people was a little down. Even though we won, people was a little down because, you know, that ain’t us,” he said. “How we finish like that – that ain’t us. But you know, we got a win, so you know, we enjoy the win. But that ain’t us.”
Redshirt sophomore cornerback Bradley Roby, who scored a touchdown off of a blocked punt by Howard in the second quarter, didn’t shy away from blame.
“(Indiana) did what they were supposed to do and we just didn’t do our job,” he said. “It’s just everybody has to do their job and do it all 60 minutes.”
Roby’s unmistakable, unwavering confidence wasn’t shaken.
“We can hang and play with anybody, I feel like we play to our opponents’ skill level. That’s something that we have to learn and mature as a team,” he said.
The Buckeyes, he said, are a work in progress.
“We keep winning,” Roby said, “but we gotta keep getting better at the same time.”