As Ryan Day took the podium after No. 4 Ohio State’s 40-28 win over No. 15 TCU, it was not as the acting head coach.
Urban Meyer officially returned to the football program as the head coach after serving a three-game suspension to start the 2018 season.
During that time frame as acting head coach, Day had one goal in mind: to give Meyer a team in the best possible position to succeed after three games. After winning three straight games to start the season, Day said that goal has been met.
“Our goal was to get 3-0 so that when Coach got back, he had a team that was 3-0,” Day said. “That goal is accomplished, but we have a lot ahead of us.”
For Day, he has not viewed himself as the head coach for the last two weeks. Per the suspension, Meyer was allowed to return to the team during the week starting on Sept. 2, returning to his normal head coaching duties every day but game days against Rutgers and TCU.
However, those game days were not something Day was used to. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach had never been a head coach before prior to being named the acting head coach on Aug. 1.
Leading a coaching staff with two former head coaches on it, Day said he received a lot of help from both defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson during his time as head coach.
Day said Schiano’s help during Meyer’s suspension is something he will never forget.
“He is the classiest person I’ve ever been around in the coaching profession,” Day said. “The way he’s handled himself, helping me along the way, counseling me on day-to-day stuff.”
Even in the locker room, the players saw Day’s impact in Meyer’s absence.
“I think Coach Day did a good job keeping the system going,” redshirt junior running back Mike Weber said. “Everything we do on a daily basis didn’t change because he was gone. He showed us those things to keep doing what we’re doing if he was here.”
Weber said Day did a good job at getting the team to focus on the long-term, saying that when Meyer returned to practice, “it was like he never left.”
Meyer’s presence even when absent, that idea that “he never left,” is due to the culture that players and coaches say he created at Ohio State, setting up a system in which Day could succeed in the role as acting head coach.
When Meyer returned, Day said the majority of the play-calling for the upcoming game, whether it was for Rutgers or TCU, was made before Saturday.
Day said the recruits and coaching staff that Meyer brought in got Ohio State through the suspension.
“Obviously, the culture that he’s built here is amazing and the foundation that he’s built here. And that’s what got us through these first three games and through preseason,” Day said. “The players that have been recruited here and coaches that are here have kept this thing going.”
Even with his impact, Day said he felt a sense of relief after completing his last game as acting head coach, helping lead Ohio State to its first ranked win of the season, immediately mentioning the amount of help he has received from both the players and the coaching staff.
However, there is something to be said about taking over a program and earning three wins in a coach’s first three games in the lead role. Day said he has not had a chance to think about that aspect of it, saying that he is ready to move forward: as an offensive coordinator and a quarterbacks coach.
“I haven’t really had a chance to sit back and think about that, to be honest with you,” Day said. “Just trying to get the quarterbacks better, trying to help the offense as best we can. And then, you know, when Coach isn’t here, keeping the thing going. And so, obviously, we get him back tomorrow. And [I’m] fired up about that.”