COLUMBUS, Ohio – If you’re waiting for the Urban Meyer of yesteryear, you should grab a seat and a newspaper.
It may be a while until he comes back.
You remember that Urban Meyer, right? The never happy, kind of always angry, Meyer? If you’re waiting for that version from days gone by, the one who would to tear into an assistant or a member of the up-to-no-good media? Keep waiting. The Urban Meyer in charge of Ohio State’s football program today is measured, reasonable and – believe it or not – content and confident in his suddenly flawed football team.
At least publicly.
After narrowly escaping Northwestern on Saturday evening, Meyer’s first words to the media were so sweet they were all but dripping with honey.
“I like the fact we started fast,” he said, addressing the offense and it’s first drive struggles throughout 2016.
Shortly after that, he kept the positivity coming.
“We’re a project. Young players and we’re still working things out. But I’ll tell you what, I promise you I’m going to enjoy this win and so are the players and we’re going to move forward.”
Forward to Nebraska, who will enter Ohio Stadium at 7-1 and as a top-15 team nationally. As I wrote earlier this week, the only game that matters on Ohio State’s schedule right now is the next one. Not Michigan. Definitely not Michigan. On Saturday night, as the Buckeyes fifth-year head coach was pressed on all the things wrong with his team, he chose to focus on what’s still going right.
“What this team has done so far, I love [our] scheduling. I don’t bother with schedules,” Meyer said. “Our team went on the road to play in three ridiculous, really tough environments. They grew up. They got tougher.
“They went and played [Northwestern] that just beat Michigan State, Indiana and Iowa, two of them on the road and they were in a street fight and they end up winning. Very proud of them. I love these guys. They’re very young. That’s fine. That’s no more excuses about that. But we’re going to continue to get better. Is this team whatever everybody wants them to be? Probably not yet, but they’re working very hard to get to that point.”
Can an Urban Meyer team be a “project” and he be happy about it? Years ago, that notion would’ve been impossible to believe, but here we are. The offense continues to struggle, and it increasingly appears the issues stem from a lack of confidence in play-calling. Days before his team’s latest struggles, Meyer noted those concerns and shrugged off the thought of any changes to procedure or personnel.
“I feel OK,” Meyer said Monday when asked about play calling. “I’m not going to change it. We’ve just got to get a little better. And I feel OK with it.”
So here we are, it’s Sunday morning and the Buckeyes are 7-1 and even though they were out-gained by Northwestern until their final offensive drive, things are OK. The offensive line, which was eaten alive by Penn State a week ago, did a good job on Saturday. Ohio State avoided hurting itself (too much) with penalties against the Wildcats, and that’s an improvement. The Buckeyes held Northwestern’s Justin Jackson to just 76 yards rushing and Curtis Samuel was an integral part of Ohio State’s offense.
Most importantly, however, is this: Ohio State played pretty poorly and found a way to win.
“We’re 7-1 with a bunch of new players that I love to death right now and enjoy coaching them,” Meyer, dismissing the notion that he should be unhappy with how things are playing out this season, said. “We’re kind of a dogfight team, I guess. That’s fine. It builds a little character, I guess. Age is your coach, builds character for your players. We’re just going to go try to find a way to beat Nebraska.”
Everything is OK, see? There’s no reason to panic, Buckeyes fans, because Urban Meyer isn’t.
At least not publicly.