COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer wanted to raise hell.
The Ohio State head coach had just watched his team play one of its worst halves of the season. The Buckeyes were down 16-6 against Wisconsin, and it very easily could have been a 24-6 deficit had they not forced the Badgers to settle for two field goals at the end of the second quarter.
He walked into the locker room ready to let his players have it, only to see they were already busy.
“We’re not playing well, and I look in the locker room and I’m ready to kind of go after everybody,” he said. “I see (defensive coordinator Luke) Fickell has the, you know, they use that projector, and they’re going through making adjustments. All the defense is sitting right in front of them. I go walk in on the offense and get ready to implode a little bit, and they’re in there, (offensive coordinator) Ed Warinner and everybody is working like pros, working on things.
“The worst thing I could do is open my big mouth and get in the way of a bunch of people working their tails off and being professional, as they were.”
Warinner spent the first half in his customary spot upstairs and had no idea what type of mood or scene he’d arrive to when he finished the trip from the press box to the visiting locker room. Like Meyer, he was pleasantly surprised to see a focused group of players who hadn’t let a six-point first half faze them.
“I got a chance to talk to the team on Monday, and that’s what I said to the team,” he said. “I said the thing that impressed me the most was when I came out of the press box, I didn’t know what I would walk into in the locker room. What I walked into was a bunch of guys that were focused, ready to listen, let’s make some adjustments and figure out what we need to do to play better.”
That episode is the latest evidence that the Buckeyes are flashing maturity beyond their years. Half the scholarship players have freshman eligibility, and the Buckeyes returned only six starters from last year’s team that went 12-1. Most of those players have only played in two road games in their career, and here are the results: a 45-24 win at No. 14 Oklahoma and a 30-23 overtime win at No. 8 Wisconsin.
A schedule that many thought could saddle a young team with as many as four losses now looks like one in which the Buckeyes could run the table for just the second time under Meyer. The Oklahoma win was impressive, but the Wisconsin one was important. It showed Ohio State’s young stars could handle going up against a worthy adversary.
Ohio State uses an efficiency metric to evaluate drives, and Warinner said the Buckeyes were 6 for 6 in efficient drives in the second half.
“This team, for a young team, did not get rattled,” Warinner said. “They were on the road, behind, and not really playing very good on either side of the ball. But they were focused, they wanted to get this thing right and the coaches were the same way. It was all business. The intensity cranked up, and we went out and did what we had to do. I’m proud of our team.”