After Ohio State’s 56-0 win over Rutgers last Saturday night, Urban Meyer seemed a little unhappy to be asked exactly what a three-game winning streak against overmatched teams like Army, UNLV and Rutgers meant.
But when he was asked a similar question in his weekly press conference on Monday, he sounded a little different. OSU has shown improvement the last three weeks, but it is also realistic about who that improvement was accomplished against, he said.
“The good thing about this team and coaching staff is we’re not walking around with blinders on,” Meyer said. “We’re optimistic and we’re pleased with the progress, but we’re also realistic.
“Where are we? Anybody can see we’ve improved. But when it comes time this week, can we continue it against good competition, very good competition?” he said.
No. 10 Ohio State (4-1, 2-0 Big Ten) will play Maryland (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) on Saturday in OSU’s Homecoming game. Considering what the Terrapins have been through, they might also be described as surprisingly good competition.
By the third game of the season, Maryland had lost its top two quarterbacks to season-ending ACL injuries.
Tyrrell Pigrome went out during a 51-41 upset of Texas in the season opener. Two games later, highly regarded freshman Kasim Hill suffered the same injury in a 38-10 loss to Central Florida.
But Maryland rebounded with a 31-24 win over Minnesota last week with No.3 quarterback Max Bortenschlager (18 of 28 for 154 yards, 2 TDs) in charge of the offense.
Maryland is trying to avoid a repeat of last season when it started 4-0 but finished with a 6-7 record.
Coaches connected: Maryland coach D.J. Durkin was an assistant coach for Meyer at Florida in 2010 and was a graduate assistant at Bowling Green for him in 2001 and 2002.
Meyer called him one of the top coaches he has employed over the years.
“I tried to hire him a couple times and then we got him at Florida. He was an impact coach. Of all the guys I’ve had, he’s one of the top two or three I’ve had on my staff. I’m not surprised. He’s one of my favorite coaches we’ve ever had and one of the best coaches,” he said.
Check the scoreboard: The fact that Mike Weber got 10 carries in his first significant action last week after battling a hamstring injury and starting running back J.K. Dobbins got only six was the result of Ohio State jumping out to a big lead by halftime, Meyer said.
“We want to get him (Dobbins) 12 to 15 carries but things happened. All of a sudden you look up and the scoreboard and say, ‘Get him out of the game,’ “ Meyer said.
Thumbs up, thumbs down: Three of the four prominent Buckeyes who missed the Rutgers game are out again this week or questionable.
Linebacker Chris Worley has missed the last two games because of a sprained foot. He is “probable,” Meyer said.
Defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones, who needed stitches for a cut on his leg and did not travel to Rutgers, is out again this week. Back-up running back Antonio Williams is “questionable.” And safety Erick Smith, who also did not travel to Rutgers for an unspecified reason, will not play.
“He just has to handle his business He won’t play this week,” Meyer said about Smith. “He has to take care of his business.”
Kicking change: While Meyer is happy with the improvement he has seen in kickoff coverage the last two weeks, he didn’t see that from freshman kicker Blake Haubeil, who was doing the kickoffs, and has replaced him with field goal kicker Sean Nuernberger.
The danger in that move, of course, is the possibility of the kicker being injured on a kickoff, such as in 2009 when OSU lost Aaron Pettrey to an injury against New Mexico State.
Players of the game: J.T. Barrett, who became OSU’s career passing yards leader against Rutgers, shared Offensive Player of the Game honors with Johnnie Dixon. The often-injured receiver caught two touchdown passes and had another called back because of his offensive pass interference.
Linebacker Dante Booker was the Defensive Player of the Game.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.