- By Marcus Hartman Staff Writer
Monday will be no ordinary day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
One might think the Ohio State football team is ready for routine after a tumultuous preseason, but the Buckeyes will probably make an exception in this case.
That’s because Urban Meyer will be with them again after six weeks away.
The notion brought a smile to running back Mike Weber’s face Saturday in the aftermath of Ohio State’s 77-31 win over Oregon State in the season opener for both teams.
“I’ll be happy to see him, give him a big hug and get ready for Rutgers,” said Weber, who ran for 186 yards on 20 carries and scored four touchdowns (one receiving).
As one of the older players on the team, the junior was leaned upon to provide leadership with Meyer sidelined by an investigation that ultimately found he mismanaged assistant coach Zach Smith. Meyer’s six-week suspension is over Monday, but he won’t be able to coach on game day until a Sept. 22 visit from Tulane.
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“We kept it rollin’ when Coach Meyer was here, and we just kept that rollin’ while he was gone for the moment,” Weber said. “When he gets back, we’re gonna just keep it rollin’ like he never left. We have a good senior class, Johnnie (Dixon), Terry (McLaurin), all them guys, for the team, that’s what we needed, what we got from our captains.”
Although far from perfect, Ohio State’s opening win was resounding — especially on an opening weekend in which fellow Big Ten East contenders Penn State and Michigan State had to rally late to win against Group of Five opponents at home and Michigan lost at Notre Dame.
Along with their 77 points, the Buckeyes piled up 375 yards on the ground, 346 through the air (the 721 total yards are the second-most in school history) and 35 first downs against an Oregon State team in the depths of a rebuild under first-year head coach Jonathan Smith.
The Ohio State defense provided plenty of things to work on this week, though, and one can only imagine how Meyer felt wherever he was watching the Beavers rip off scoring plays of 49, 75 and 78 yards.
“He probably watched the game differently than a normal fan was,” Weber said, guessing he might have yelled at the television a time or two. “He knows all the ins and outs. Can’t wait to have him back.”
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Meyer’s absence can be hard to quantify, but he was missed.
On one hand, he is renowned for his inner drive and ability to motivate everyone else in the facility to match his work ethic.
On the other, he seems to have put together an organization that is strong on multiple levels, from a pair of coordinators (Kevin Wilson and Greg Schiano) who have head coach experience to the aforementioned group of leaders among the players.
Whether he knew it or not, Meyer even had a man on his staff ready to handle the role of interim head coach.
Ryan Day had only been a Buckeye for a year little over a year when he was tapped Aug. 1 to lead the program in Meyer’s absence, but by all appearances he answered the bell.
“I don’t think I proved anything to myself. It was just one of those things where you gotta jump into the pool with two feet, just do it,” Day said Saturday.
“When you have those (players) behind you and this coaching staff behind you, that’s what it is. And, again, I’ve said this before — My job is not to replace Coach Meyer. My job is to just keep this place until he gets back and never wanted to replace him, just want to keep this thing going in the right direction.”