During the first open week coach Urban Meyer said the timing was right as his young team needed more game repetitions. This time around, he’s not sure it’s a good thing.
“What I’m most concerned about is we have momentum and it’s being taken away,” he said. “We’ve got to keep that momentum somehow”
Ohio State has scored 51 points a game since their last idle week, averaging 621 yards of offense against Cincinnati and Maryland. The defense has had some breakdowns in the passing game, but held those teams to 26 points a game.
It is uncharacteristically early for a second open week. Last season the Buckeyes were idle just once, resting in the 11th week of the season. Ohio State has not had two open weeks during Meyer’s time at the helm.
“I would say it’s been strange because it’s real early,” defensive end Steve Miller said. “We’re really not that banged up yet, but it’s not that bad to be taking a break.”
Over their week off leading up to the fourth week of the season Meyer pitted the first team defense and the first team offense against one another more than he usually does, doing his best to simulate game situations. That week was at the right time, allowing the Buckeyes to regroup after a loss to Virginia Tech that they followed by rolling Kent State.
“The first one I think came at the right time, you can see we played pretty well afterwards,” Meyer said. “This one I don’t know, it remains to be seen. It’s uncomfortable to be honest with you. I’m not used to the two in the first six, seven weeks of the season. I went back and looked, I always do research, this never happened to us before. I don’t want to be paranoid, but I am.”
This hasn’t happened to the Buckeyes under Meyer. The last time the coach had two open weeks in a season was his 2008 campaign with Florida, sitting in weeks three and eight. He also had two open weeks in 2005 with the Gators and in both his seasons with Utah. Meyer hasn’t had two open weeks this early, however, since the 2002 season. That year Meyer was at Bowling Green and the Flacons rested in the second and fifth weeks of the season.
“It’s just execution,” he said when asked what the focus was this week. “We had a couple red zone opportunities (against Maryland) that we’ve usually been fantastic in the red zone and we failed. So I can tell you what the emphasis is on that side of the ball.
"On defense the last couple of games we’ve played excellent defense and then we have two miss hits, coverage blown or a guy gets beat, so we’ve got to fix that. The team that just beat our rival, we’re getting ready for them early too. The emphasis is just to get better and we’ve had two good days.”
As the coach alluded to the Buckeyes have begun preparation for Rutgers, who topped Michigan last week and visit Columbus on Oct. 18. In the meantime Meyer is working with a different strategy than he did in week four.
“I think it was more game reps last time,” he said. “This one, I’m getting (freshman defensive lineman) Jalyn Holmes a million reps right now and some of the players that we have to get ready to go. Mike Bennett we pulled off of him a little bit, Joey Bosa, we pulled off of him a little bit, we didn’t do that three weeks ago.”
Meyer said the team started the week with strong practices when he spoke to the media on Wednesday and that he expected more of the same as the week unfolded.
With a second Saturday off the coach said he expects some of the players to travel home to visit family, but since most had the opportunity to do that on the first open week there will be more players staying in Columbus this time around. Just because they won’t be suiting up on Saturday, doesn’t mean they won’t be around the coaching staff, though.
“It is our second weekend, I know some guys aren’t (going home), so they’ll be maybe going over to coaches houses on Saturdays,” Meyer said. “We’re going to finalize our plans. If they’re not going home I want them around a coach.”
It will be the Buckeyes last chance to sit and rest on a Saturday for at least the next seven weeks, eight if they qualify for the Big Ten Championship game. Whether it’s at the right time or not, Ohio State should enjoy their final week off.