COLUMBUS — Shaun Wade has tried to tuck the memory away and not think about what happened last year at Penn State.
In a game Ohio State ultimately won in the final minutes, Wade had his most forgettable moment at Ohio State, giving up a 93-yard touchdown to Nittany Lions speedster KJ Hamler on a simple slant route in the second quarter.
Wade tries to bury it and move on, but it’s tough.
“It’s still in my head,” he said. “It’s definitely still in my head, but I try not to think about it.”
As the No. 2 Buckeyes host Penn State on Saturday for the first time since that blown coverage by Wade, he is using it to fuel his preparation. Co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, however, has other thoughts.
“Was he talking about that recently?” Hafley asked when told Wade was talking about that play. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t remember it. He’s got to forget about that. It’s over. It happened so long ago. Playing corner, it’s about the next play. Whether you were good or bad on the last one, you can’t think like that.
“And I’ll make sure he doesn’t think like that.”
Maybe Wade can strike a balance between playing to avenge that touchdown he gave up and having a new mindset, one that focuses on the next play. And it should help that the work he did last week against Rutgers can be used as a nice springboard into the biggest game of the season for the Ohio State defense.
Wade made quick work of Rutgers on Saturday, tallying his first two turnovers since Week Two when he picked of the first Rutgers pass of the game and forced a fumble just two defensive snaps later.
That’s not a bad start to a game. And it wasn’t a bad day for Wade, who only played in the first half in the romping of the Scarlet Knights. That’s been the theme for Ohio State, which has been on an easy road since it beat Wisconsin on Oct. 26 — following that with an off week, a trouncing of Maryland and a final tuneup win at Rutgers before the schedule heats up.
So, Wade picked a perfect time to find turnover luck again. As the Buckeyes prepare to face a top-10 team, there’s an acknowledgment that Wade is a much better player than he was last year, when Hamler beat him inside and scored from so far out.
“He’s more experienced,” Hafley said. “He’s played more football. When those scars happen, hopefully you learn from them. We all have them. Darrelle Revis got beat for touchdowns. The next guy is going to get beat for touchdowns. I’ve made bad calls, and I’ve done things I shouldn’t have done.
“The important part is you learn from them. I’m sure he’s learned.”
Hafley has never watched the play that Wade can’t seem to shake from his memory. He doesn’t know the game situation, the coverage, the pass-rush or the help behind Wade. But he also doesn’t care.
To Hafley, Wade shouldn’t care either. That play happened last season, when the defense was as bad as it’s ever been at Ohio State. This year, the Buckeyes are No. 1 in the country in pass defense. Wade has been a huge part of that.
“I think Shaun is a new player,” Hafley said. “I think he’s a better player, and I think he’ll be ready this time.”
As Wade has made his way through this season at Ohio State and shot up draft boards while playing inside corner for the Buckeyes — and outside, occasionally — he was doing so while not creating turnovers. Wade learned not to press and just stay patient, letting the play come to him.
The patience paid off against Rutgers, where he built momentum for the biggest stage against the Nittany Lions this week.
“[Turnovers] will come to you,” Wade said. “As a football player, it’s going to come to you. You just have to be patient. [Damon Arnette] had his, Jeff [Okudah] had his. Jordan [Fuller] had his. Mine was going to come soon.
“It just came [against Rutgers].”
Wade isn’t going to press for a turnover against Penn State, either. While Hafley is trying to help him forget about one bad play, Wade will keep it tucked in the back of his mind.
But Saturday, he’ll try to replace it with a much better lasting image against the Nittany Lions. Instead of seeing Hamler streak toward the end zone, Shaun Wade might just have a play of his own to think about.