COLUMBUS — Ohio State sounded exactly how it normally would coming off a loss.
Angry. Frustrated. Disappointed. Hurt.
The Buckeyes had a game taken away from them last weekend, so they did lose something when their trip to Maryland was unexpectedly cancelled three days before that Big Ten matchup. But obviously it wasn’t a real defeat on the field or something that should actually cost them anything in the standings as long as they handle their business again on Saturday against Indiana.
Either way, though, Ohio State has historically responded with some of its best efforts when its used those words to describe its mindset in the past. And that might be a warning sign for the Hoosiers as they arrive in the Horseshoe as three-touchdown underdogs for a showdown that has unexpectedly become the most important in the East Division race this season.
“Me personally, I was not happy at all,” Ohio State left tackle Thayer Munford said before practice on Tuesday. “We had just gone doing like a whole, hard practice — and we were just so ready to play Maryland. At the same time, though, with coronavirus this year, it’s not on our side. We just have to take it on the chin and get ready for Indiana.”
The Buckeyes made it clear they weren’t expecting any sympathy considering all the challenges the pandemic has brought to people around the world this year, though it’s certainly understandable why they were stung by the setback considering all the effort they’ve poured into making this season work. The opportunities Ohio State fought so hard for are limited this season, and not only can it not get back that chance to play, it also decreases the margin for error for a College Football Playoff contender.
Those factors have collided with Indiana now actually on top of the East Division standings by virtue of having played four times. And it’s added even more urgency for Ohio State since it can’t afford to give away a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Hoosiers or slip up in the eyes of the selection committee as it chases both another Big Ten title and playoff berth.
“They’ve handled it really well,” Day said. “At first they were really disappointed. They were angry. Then we just went to work and kept going. We knew going into this that something like this might happen. We’ve seen it happen across the country, so we’re not the only ones — and nobody feels bad for us. We’ve got to move on, and that’s what they did.
“I think our guys handled this very maturely and focused on their work and their practice. … I thought they handled it well, and I think they’ve handled a lot of these things well, especially when you make so many sacrifices and you do everything you can to be healthy to play in a game and then you still don’t have an opportunity to play. It’s a hard pill to swallow. But the good news is it’s behind us, and now we’re on to Indiana. That’s where all the focus is.”
The Buckeyes wound up with a couple extra days to put it on the Hoosiers. And typically taking on Ohio State when it’s angry or coming off a bye isn’t a comfortable place to be.