And these things are true: Ohio State was playing on four days rest, having dispatched Virginia Tech the previous Monday night. An appeal to the NCAA for the coaches to be able to meet with the players on the mandated rest day of Tuesday was denied, forcing preparation for Hawaii to begin on the Wednesday before the game. And, most of all, a team like Hawaii – which amassed an 8-29 record the three previous seasons – probably doesn’t light the same fire in players that an opponent like Michigan State might.
None of those excuses came from starting quarterback Cardale Jones, though. Jones, who heard smatterings of boos during an effective but overall subpar performance, didn’t hold back when asked about the sputtering offense.
Having previously dismissed a reporter’s suggestion that center Jacoby Boren could have been more reliable, Jones was quick to instead assert that any struggles were reflective of his play.
“I think the play of the offense today was below average, and that’s a reflection on me,” he said. “The tempo and execution is definitely a reflection of me as the quarterback of the offense. It was hard to find a rhythm to get the offense passing and running, and like I said before, that’s definitely all on me and nothing to do with the offensive linemen, nothing to do with snaps, nothing to do with dropping balls or anything.”
He again declined to shift the blame when he was asked if the coaching staff was taking him out of his rhythm on the plays where Braxton Miller lined up at quarterback and sent Jones out wide. Instead, he took the opportunity to praise what Miller offered the offense.
“It actually helps us because it takes some of the run plays off me and J.T.,” Jones said. “I’m not saying every time Braxton is in it’s going to be a run play, but certain things we want to take advantage of in the run game with using a quarterback to run, Braxton is 10 times better than me and J.T. at doing that. It’s a way to keep him involved in the run game, keep the defense on their heels and continue to do what we do.”
He had company in the excuse denial department, with head coach Urban Meyer offering his own shutdown of built-in excuses.
“I think that's a very solid excuse, one that's not allowed,” Meyer said of Ohio State’s short week. “I made that clear down there. I mean, that's good, that's good to bring that up and say that's the reason we didn't play necessarily well on the offensive line. You'll never hear that. If I do, then that coach has got a problem and that player has got a problem. That's not execution. That takes away from that team.”
That sentiment is to be expected from a man paid millions of dollars to lead and develop college students, but seeing that level of maturity from the players themselves is a different thing altogether. The idea that Ohio State got a bit of a raw deal certainly came up in player interviews, but it didn’t come from Jones, who is still growing into the leadership role that comes with being the starting quarterback.
“(We played) super below average,” Jones said. “Not our expectations at all. I know we won and our defense shut them out. Thank God for our defense today. I’m kind of glad we hit this pothole early in the season because it gives us something to look forward to and work out. It was a reality check for not just me but the whole offense, basically saying we’re not as good as we thought we were.”
Although Jones wasn’t one of the six players voted a team captain for the 2015 season, he acted every bit of one in the interview room after the game.