Twenty games. Twenty victories.
Coach Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team appear as if they can do no wrong.
The Buckeyes (8-0, 4-0) dominated from the outset Saturday, sending Penn State (4-3, 1-2) back to Happy Valley on the wrong side of a 63-14 outcome. Such a lopsided victory on national television might seem like Meyer and company were looking to impress the national media and change the perception of the Big Ten’s inferiority, but the OSU head coach won’t be saying that anytime soon.
“That was certainly not our mindset,” Meyer said following the win. “Our mindset is ‘find a way to win this game against a very talented team’ … I’d be disappointed if I said (making an impression is) our focus. That’s not our focus.”
OSU has held steady at No. 4 in the AP top 25 poll since week three of the season and is currently in the same spot in the BCS standings behind unbeaten Alabama, Florida State and Oregon. If the Buckeyes have hopes of playing for a national title in January, winning by large margins might be the only way to do so with the Big Ten currently lacking national respect.
Redshirt-senior safety C.J. Barnett agreed with his head coach, though, and said the only thing his team can do is take care of its own business.
“We don’t really worry about (polls). We don’t really focus on that,” Barnett said. “All that stuff will take care of itself … If we win all our games and take care of our business, I don’t think it will be a problem. I think that we can only handle what we can handle. That’s all we control, is how we play.”
Impressing the voters, though, was a priority for some players heading into Saturday.
“This was definitely a statement win,” redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby said. “That’s the attitude we carried to this game, that we were going to make a statement on prime time when everybody was watching, and that’s what we did.”
OSU kept Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg under wraps for most of the game, picking him off twice and sacking him four times. Hackenberg left the game in the third quarter with an injured shoulder.
One of those sacks came at the hands of junior linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led OSU with 10 tackles. Shazier sided with Meyer and Barnett, saying that winning games is all the team cares about, not the polls.
“We (are) trying to go out there and just win every game and try to win them handily like we should,” Shazier said. “We’re just trying to go out there trying to win every game, and at the end of the day, things (are) going to happen how it’s supposed to.”
Meyer called the victory “arguably our best team win” of 2013, and said he felt the Buckeyes played well on offense, defense as well as special teams, but particularly the pass rush.
“I like where we’re at right now. I like where we’re at as a team,” Meyer said. “We all needed to see some pass rush and pass defense and guys step up and they certainly did. That was the most impressive part of the game to me.”
OSU scored on six of its seven first half possessions, taking a 42-7 lead into halftime after Miller threw a dart to senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown from 25 yards out with only seconds left. Freshman running back Dontre Wilson, who scored his first touchdown since the San Diego State game Sept. 7, said the Buckeyes did want to prove something to their doubters.
“It’s a pretty big statement because everybody always downgrades us and puts us down,” Wilson said. “So for us to come out with this performance against Penn State, a good team that just beat Michigan, it’s a pretty big statement.”
The Buckeye offense racked up 686 total yards, good for third best in program history. A total of 408 of those yards came on the ground, as junior quarterback Braxton Miller, senior running back Carlos Hyde and redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton ran for a pair of scores each. Miller also threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, and said he is “very comfortable” with what the passing game is doing right now.
“I know what I’m doing and (the) defensive coverage, and I know where the guy is going to be,” Miller said. “It’s exciting to see a (teammate) with the ball in his hand do something with it.”
With this kind of strength on the ground and a multitude of players playing at such a high level, the end result was something worthy of recognition, Barnett said.
“We definitely want to make an impact on the country and have people notice us. We like that,” Barnett said. “We would love for every game to be like that. Hopefully we can just come out and execute like we did tonight.”
The Buckeyes are set to travel to West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday to take on Purdue (1-6, 0-3). Kickoff is scheduled for noon.