COLUMBUS, Ohio — Somewhere near the midway point of his Monday morning news conference, Urban Meyer issued an edict to his sports information director, Jerry Emig.
“Make sure our players don’t have to do this, OK?” Meyer told Emig.
The reporters in the room thought he was joking. Emig must have too. Three players, as well as Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, eventually appeared for routine interview sessions on the practice field of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
Meyer’s tone, however, suggested he would have preferred otherwise.
The Buckeyes head coach insists he has already moved on from Ohio State’s heartbreaking 24-21 loss at Penn State on Saturday — although that was admittedly tough to do with the line of questioning he found himself facing on Monday — and he’d prefer his players do the same.
Meyer is no stranger to losses, even as infrequently as they seem to have come over the course of his coaching career. In his 15 seasons as a head coach, 12 have now included at least one defeat, including in all three of his national championship campaigns.
The key to getting over a loss? To steal a phrase from one of Ohio State’s sponsors: Just Do It, even as difficult as that may seem while facing constant questions about a stinging defeat.
“This is the most time I’ll spend on this today because we’ve got to put this one to bed,” Meyer said after admitting that players and coaches alike are hurting. “You’ve got to move forward.”
The Buckeyes would be wise to heed their head coach’s advice. With a career 160-28 record in tow, Meyer knows a thing or two about bouncing back from a loss.
Just two years ago, Ohio State overcame a defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech in the second week of the season before going on to win the first College Football Playoff championship. In 2008, his Florida team fell in the fourth week of the season and still recovered in time to capture the BCS crown. In 2006, the Gators — just like these Buckeyes — lost their seventh game of the season, yet still went on to win the national title.
Just twice in his previous seven seasons as a coach has Meyer suffered more than one loss in a single year — one of the two exceptions being Ohio State’s 2013 campaign, in which its second defeat came in an Orange Bowl against Clemson that doubled as an exhibition.
In essence, Meyer is really really good when it comes to dealing with both the ups and downs of a college football season. And with five games left — including a Nov. 26 date with still-undefeated Michigan — all of the Buckeyes’ unspoken postseason goals for the 2016 campaign are still entirely attainable, should they follow their head coach’s recent history of bouncing back.
“That’s why they call us coaches,” Meyer said. “It’s not time to go dive into people. It’s time to correct issues.”
Those issues reside primarily on the offensive side of the ball, where Meyer admitted on Monday his team has “regressed” since the start of the season. Statistically speaking, the Buckeyes passing attack has performed just fine, but the film seems to tell a different story, and Ohio State can now add an offensive line that surrendered six sacks to the Nittany Lions to its growing list of concerns.
The Buckeyes have five weeks until their matchup with the Wolverines, but also face a new sense of urgency as the loss to Penn State has now eliminated any room for error.
Will this Urban Meyer team be able to bounce back like its predecessors? We’ll find out soon.
But the Ohio State head coach knows where he has to start when it comes to escaping the negativity that still seems to surround Saturday’s loss.
“(It will be) easier to flush,” Meyer said, “when I walk out of this room.”