Buckeyes Figuring Out How To Handle Success

For months, all the Ohio State football team learned how to do was handle adversity. Now, after three straight wins, it's clear the Buckeyes have figured out a pretty good idea of how to do that. But can the team handle success? That's what we'll find out down the stretch, but the first such test vs. Indiana yielded a mixed bag of results.

Tyler Moeller is an astute individual, so when he was asked what the identity of the 2011 Ohio State football team is, the senior nickel back was able to come up with an interesting answer.

"We do have a strong identity," he said after hemming and hawing for a second. "We're tough. Anything that comes our way I think we can handle. We dealt with so many things on the field, off the field this year. If something happens, I think guys are doing a great job of handling it, kind of just shrugging it off, handling it face up. That's the biggest thing about our team, we can handle adversity."

While Ohio State isn't exactly dealing with the mess at Penn State at the moment, given what the Buckeyes have gone through in the past 11 months, Moeller had a point. From coach resignations to the departures of numerous players to a litany of suspensions to the most losses in a regular season in seven years, the Buckeyes have been through more than just the average team.

Which makes the current situation the Buckeyes find themselves in so interesting. After three straight victories – including two over ranked teams – and with Big Ten Leaders Division leader Penn State in the midst of scandal, the Buckeyes appear to be the front runners to advance to the inaugural league title game.

In other words, with handling adversity down, the team must now figure out how to deal with success. It's a different spot for a team that has been starting up to 14 new players from this time last year, but fullback Zach Boren said the key is to approach the new winning ways much like the previous struggles.

"I think the thing is you just have to take each game week by week whether you're in a rut with losing a game or you're on a high with winning games," the junior said. "You still have to take each game week by week. You can never let your guard down and that goes either way."

However, there might be a bit of a reason to worry after Saturday's close 34-20 win vs. Indiana in Ohio Stadium. Even considering the likely possibility of a letdown, most fans and writers alike figured the Buckeyes wouldn't have much trouble vs. the one-win Hoosiers.

Instead, Indiana took an early 10-0 lead and was tied, 20-all, with the Buckeyes late in the third quarter before OSU pulled away in the end behind a Braxton Miller touchdown run, a Travis Howard interception and a Carlos Hyde score.

Afterward, head coach Luke Fickell said the team wasn't at its sharpest, at least at the start of the game.

"I thought the key was for us to come out with some poise after a big (win vs. Wisconsin), some energy," Fickell said. "And I'm not sure that obviously that showed to start with. Maybe our youth showed up a little bit in that, and you try and stay after them as much as you can, but we needed to come out with a little bit more energy."

If the Buckeyes aren't careful, a similar fate could be waiting at Purdue, a place an OSU team that went on to win the Rose Bowl lost at in 2009. That year, the Boilermakers entered with just one win on the way to the surprising upset of the top-10 Buckeyes.

The on-paper talent discrepancy isn't as big this time – Purdue is 4-5 overall, two games behind the Buckeyes – and Ohio State is more youthful this time around.

Still, Moeller expects the team to learn how to handle success just as it figured out how to triumph over adversity.

"It is different to an extent," he said. "When you're winning, you have a good feeling, but I don't think this team will get that feeling of complacency just because of everything that has happened to us and the losses that we have had. I think that rolls into the adversity side of things. We know next week that any team can beat us."

Looking at things another way, perhaps the confidence the team has put together during its winning run will help push it to new heights.

"It puts everybody in high spirits when you go on a little win streak like this," said first-year starting guard Jack Mewhort. "It definitely feels good. That's what it's all about. At the end of the day when you have W's on the schedule, there's no better feeling."

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