The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and signs it can handle adversity? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
We have plenty of evidence that this team and coach can dominate early and often. Have there been any moments yet this season that might serve as a preview of how this team might perform in “winning time”? Joe Burrow and LSU have had these in spades (and should be #1 as such).
— Armando DelaHostria (@buckeyemondo) November 10, 2019
Ryan Day has a strong hunch about how his team would respond if Ohio State ever finds itself with the back against the wall in a four-quarter game.
But if the Buckeyes coach never has to find out for sure, that would obviously be his preference.
After nine straight blowouts and with No. 10 almost certainly on the way on Saturday at Rutgers, the question has started popping up more frequently for the Buckeyes: How will they respond in moments of adversity if they haven’t had to do it in games yet?
That’s certainly a valid topic of conversation. But it does tend to overlook the fact that the Buckeyes have done a remarkable job of focusing on the details every week, executing essentially from start to finish no matter who the opponent might be and consistently putting itself in position so it doesn’t need to have its mettle tested in the second half on Saturdays.
Just because the tough spots aren’t showing up in the Horseshoe or stadiums around the Big Ten doesn’t mean Ohio State isn’t learning to deal with challenges. And the serious, extremely competitive nature of practices on Tuesday and Wednesday are forging some truly steel-willed athletes, because simply cracking the lineup on arguably the most talented roster in the country is often a bigger test than the games.
Ohio State has also had to deal with long-term injuries for a pair of captains. The defensive line has been short-handed in essentially every game this season. The pile of distractions gets larger with every passing week, right along with the temptation to get complacent after everything the Buckeyes have already accomplished.
So, in some ways Day might have to get creative at times to dial up pressure situations and see how the Buckeyes respond — like they did last week by pulling off an onside kick out of seemingly nowhere early in the game. But every game kicks off with an even score, and while that might not be perceived as the same as a tight battle in the final few minutes, starting games the way Ohio State does still reveals plenty about it.
“Our team hasn’t really been in the fourth quarter of a dogfight yet,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “One of the things we have to do is we have to hold ourselves to a certain standard. We cannot at any point lose our discipline, lose our focus because we had 13 penalties in a game [against Maryland]. That’s unacceptable. That’s going to hurt us in a close game. Execution level has to be at an all-time high, effort. All those things, taking care of the ball, ball security, decision making, communication.
“Those are the things we’re really focusing on right now. All of those things have got to be really good if we’re going to win close games.”
At the rate the Buckeyes are going, though, maybe they still won’t have to do it for a while.
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