COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was direct when asked whether his players will be motivated by revenge in the long-awaited showdown with No. 2 Penn State this weekend.
If the idea of avenging last year’s upset loss at Happy Valley gets his guys worked up, he might be able to use it.
“You’ve got to figure you’re dealing with youngsters,” Meyer said Monday. “Is revenge a motivator? Hell yeah, it is.
“I’m not saying this will be it,” he said. “There have been times we used it and we looked silly using it, and there are times it worked. I don’t know yet. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday isn’t about that, it’s about execution of a game plan and focus.”
A year ago, Ohio State was No. 2 and rolling along at 6-0 when unranked Penn State pulled off the 24-21 upset. Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game, and the Nittany Lions sacked J.T. Barrett twice on Ohio State’s final possession to seal perhaps the biggest victory to date for Penn State in the post-Joe Paterno era.
“I think we were just stunned,” defensive end Sam Hubbard said. “We didn’t respect a really good opponent and kind of took winning for granted.”
The loss seemed to throw them out of sorts. The offense couldn’t quite find the sweet spot again after that on the way to being embarrassed by Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
“I’ll kind of listen and watch,” Meyer said of whether he’ll play the revenge card with his players before Saturday’s home game. “I think you’re talking about 18-, 19-, 20-year-olds. We’ve used (revenge) quite a bit, and then other times, we moved on.”
This time, it’s Penn State that is undefeated and ranked No. 2 behind Alabama. The Buckeyes, after blowing out lesser teams for five straight weeks, have climbed back up to No. 6 after a loss to Oklahoma in Week 2 sent them tumbling in the polls. They have improved on both sides of the ball.
Penn State got a little revenge of its own last Saturday by routing Michigan, flipping the script from last season.
The upcoming game at Ohio Stadium is a must-win for the Buckeyes, whose chances of returning to the playoff will disappear with another loss. A loss won’t be fatal for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions will have to muscle their way out of a glut of other one-loss teams to get to the final four.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley insisted that last year’s game has nothing to do with this one.
“I wouldn’t say we can really talk about how we changed because that was last year’s team, this is a new team,” said Barkley, who leads the nation with 211.1 all-purpose yards per game. “Obviously, we have a lot of guys coming back, but that is last year. That season is in the past, and this season is here, and we are able to get a good start going.”
Still, Penn State cornerback Christian Campbell said this game has been circled on the calendar since last summer.
“We have been wanting this for a long time,” he said. “I believe it’s going to be pretty exciting. I can’t wait.”
- Finishing clutch: No. 6 Ohio State rallies past No. 2 Penn State behind J.T. Barrett's near-flawless fourth quarter
- No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Penn State: QBs J.T. Barrett and Trace McSorley have their teams rolling heading into huge showdown
- College football: Grant Haley's big play led Penn State past the Buckeyes last season, but it's his overall play the Nittany Lions love
- Unstoppable: No. 9 Ohio State makes it look easy against Nebraska
- Meyer has Ohio State running like Fortune 500 juggernaut
- College football: Ohio State makes playoff, draws Clemson in semifinals; Alabama takes on Washington, which gets in over Penn State
- College football: Penn State makes final push for playoffs by rallying past Wisconsin to win Big Ten championship
- Ohio State holds No. 2 spot in College Football Playoff rankings
- Analysis: No. 6 Ohio State has plenty to fix after upset loss, but playoffs still a possibility
- Penn State stuns Ohio State: No. 2 Buckeyes fall as special teams stumble