Meyer: Buckeyes gained from experience at Penn State
COLUMBUS (AP) — When a team faces an uphill climb yet still ends up winning, it gains something from the experience.
At least that’s what Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is banking on.
Meyer’s 13th-ranked Buckeyes survived their own mistakes and a Penn State rally to win 31-24 in double-overtime on Saturday night.
So, was just getting out of Happy Valley with a win a good thing?
“It’s not a good thing,” he said. “It’s a great thing.”
The Buckeyes looked as if they could name the final score while building a 17-0 halftime lead. But then they watched the Nittany Lions come alive to tie the game in the final minute and then take a seven-point lead after the first possession of overtime.
But the Buckeyes stayed alive on quarterback J.T. Barrett’s 5-yard run and then came right back to score on a 4-yard run by Barrett before a loud and rowdy crowd of 107,895 on white-out night at Beaver Stadium. They then had a defensive stop to get out of Happy Valley with smiles on their faces.
“You’re down by several points in that environment, and (you can’t) look to anyone else for help. There’s 11 guys out there, and you have to score a touchdown, and we did,” Meyer said.
“Invested players and invested teams really celebrate wins, and our guys did. You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. That builds toughness.”
Meyer never said the words “Michigan State” but he might as well have. The Buckeyes play at the eighth-ranked Spartans a week from Saturday in the game of the year in the Big Ten.
Barrett sprained a ligament in his left knee against Penn State and is limited in practice this week. But he is expected to be full go against the Illini (4-4, 1-3) on Saturday night.
It’s clear that Meyer felt his team needed to develop some toughness to win not only at Penn State, but also in other hostile environments the rest of the way.
The coaching staff has spent time this week impressing upon the Buckeyes that they need to learn from how they responded to being down in overtime last week.
“They’re still young men and can take some moments for granted,” said running backs coach Stan Drayton.
“It’s up to us as coaches to press pause, reflect and really point out some key points. They tend to get it. And when they get it, that’s when it turns to execution and has a positive effect from there on out.”
The Buckeyes say they’re aware of the pitfalls of getting ahead of themselves. Since a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech at home, they’ve won five straight and can tie the Big Ten record with their 20th consecutive conference win on Saturday.
Illinois earned the Buckeyes’ full attention by upsetting Minnesota last weekend.
“We aren’t looking past nobody, because that’s how you get beat,” safety Tyvis Powell said. “We take every opponent seriously; when you go in there and think you can just slap somebody to win, that’s when you get in a fight.”
“Nobody should even be thinking about Michigan State at this point,” he said.