Fresh off a season-opening win against Navy, the Ohio State football team is set to reshuffle the game plan for a matchup with Virginia Tech.
After taking on the Midshipmen — who run an unusual triple-option offense — the Buckeyes were tasked with turning around and devising a completely new game plan for the Hokies. Especially when it comes to the team’s defensive staff, coach Urban Meyer said there could be more opportune situations for back-to-back games to start a season.
“Our defensive coaches were saying it’s hard enough to play Navy,” Meyer said Wednesday. “And then a week after, you wish you had an easier team than this.”
Meyer went on to call the Hokies “extremely talented” and said they are one of the top 10 programs in the history of college football.
OSU is scheduled to play Virginia Tech under brand-new permanent lighting at Ohio Stadium on Saturday at 8 p.m.
The third-year OSU coach said playing a night game at the Horseshoe in front of a national audience is important when it comes to recruiting potential future Buckeyes. He added that similar games have sparked a special atmosphere in Columbus in years past.
“Night games Buckeye style, and that stadium’s awesome,” he said. “We’ve had some great games there the last two years.”
Junior offensive lineman Taylor Decker is also looking forward to playing under the lights, saying that there is nothing like night games at Ohio Stadium.
“The stadium is going to be packed, it’s going to be loud,” Decker said. “Fireworks, lights, it’s just an awesome environment and if you can’t get amped up for that, I don’t know what can excite you for a game.”
Decker — who is the only returning starter along the OSU offensive front — is part of the position unit Meyer called “concern No. 1” during a Monday press conference. Regardless of his concern with the group, though, the coach said his offensive line has already improved — even since the beginning of the Navy game.
“O-line is much better, they settled down in the second half (against Navy),” Meyer said Wednesday. “They’re no longer rookies, they’re veteran players now.”
Even though he addressed improvement along the offensive line, Meyer said that side of the ball still has some issues heading into Saturday’s game.
“I have not spent a lot of time watching (Virginia Tech’s) offense, we have enough issues on the other side,” Meyer said.
Issues and all, the OSU offense still posted 27 points against the Midshipmen, while redshirt-freshman linebacker Darron Lee returned a fumble for a touchdown to account for the Buckeyes’ other touchdown. That offensive performance sparked a comeback that gave OSU its national-best 25th consecutive regular-season win.
That’s 25 straight regular season wins against all opponents, but it doesn’t include a matchup with the Hokies. OSU and Virginia Tech — despite being two of the 25-winningest programs in college football history — have never played each other.
Despite having never played, there will still be some familiarity between the two sidelines.
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler coached with Meyer at Florida during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Meyer was the top dog for the Gators, but Loeffler helped the team to a 21-6 record as Florida’s quarterbacks coach.
Meyer called Loeffler a “fine coach,” but said he’s not sure how much their past history will help the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Loeffler won’t be the only coach Meyer has a history with roaming the Hokies’ sideline, though. The Buckeyes’ coach said he’s known Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer for years, and even turned him onto one of OSU’s keys to win.
“Back in 1998 maybe was the first time I became engrossed in the kicking game, it was because of coach Beamer,” Meyer said Wednesday.
Meyer went on to say he’s happy with his own kicking units, especially after a strong performance last weekend.
In the Buckeyes’ team meeting room, there is a sign hanging on the wall that lists OSU’s plan to win a game. One of the four keys listed is to “win the kicking game,” along with winning the turnover battle, scoring in the red zone and playing great defense.
While playing great defense is part of OSU’s game plan, it’s something Decker said he expects from Virginia Tech as well — especially from the Hokie defensive line.
“First and foremost, they are really talented, they’ve got some good players,” Decker said on Monday. “And when they go, they’re really good so you’ve got to be on your game and you’ve got to be prepared for that.”
That same talented Virginia Tech defense is set to play in front of what could be the largest crowd in Ohio Stadium history, as well as the largest crowd the Hokies have played in front of at any venue.
A multi-million dollar offseason renovation project saw the university add 2,600 new seats to the stadium, bringing the capacity up to 104,944 at the Horseshoe. A university release stated as many as 108,000 attendees are expected at Saturday’s matchup.
The game is set to be the first time Meyer’s team plays in front of the larger crowd, on the stadium’s new turf field and comes out of a brand-new team entrance tunnel. Regardless of any potential excitement surrounding the team when they come out of the tunnel for the first time, Meyer said he wants just one thing to be on the his players’ minds.
“I want them to play really hard,” he said.
The matchup with the Hokies is set to be the first of three consecutive home games for the Buckeyes before the start of their Big Ten season. OSU is scheduled to play Kent State at noon on Sept. 13 before taking on Cincinnati at 6 p.m. on Sept. 27.
The Buckeyes’ first conference game of the season is slated for Oct. 4 against Maryland in College Park, Md.