For players like Michael Thomas, losing wasn’t a reality until after nearly two full seasons at Ohio State.
Since that first loss, it’s become commonplace, as the Buckeyes have now lost three of their last four games.
Thomas, a redshirt-sophomore wide receiver, said the time since OSU lost to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 has left him and his teammates itching to have another shot to prove themselves on the Ohio Stadium field.
“We just want to get that bad taste out of our stomach,” Thomas said Wednesday. “(To) a lot guys, it seems like it’s been the longest week ever.
“We’re just waiting to get back in the ‘Shoe and make Buckeye nation proud.”
After winning their season-opening game against Navy in Baltimore on Aug. 30, the Buckeyes took on the Hokies and fell, 35-21, after falling behind, 21-7, at halftime. Previously, OSU started slowly against the Midshipmen, going into the half with a 7-6 deficit before taking a 34-17 victory.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said Buckeye teams of old have been known for fast starts, and added he believes his team has to put that tradition in motion to have more success going forward.
“We had a pretty good reputation for a while there of coming out of the gates real fast, real hard and we haven’t done that yet,” Meyer said Wednesday. “I did some research on that, it was brought to my attention a while back and we haven’t. So we got to go take the lead and play Ohio State-style football.”
While starting slowly has been the Buckeyes’ problem lately — even dating back to the 2013 Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State when the Spartans jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half — they’ve been able to get back in the game late. Each time — the Virginia Tech game included — OSU has come back to at least tie it up in the second half.
But each of the four games dating back to Michigan State has led to an OSU loss — save the game against the Midshipmen — as the Buckeyes followed a slow start with a slow finish. Meyer said finishing the game strong will be a focus as well on Saturday against Kent State.
“Of course that’s the message, and it’s all about execution,” he said.
Regardless of what happened to end last season, or what has happened so far in 2014, at least one Buckeye doesn’t see his team’s long-term goals changing just yet.
“Season’s not over,” senior defensive lineman Michael Bennett said Wednesday. “We’ve still got however many games. There have been one-loss teams that have won the national championship before. It’s happened.”
Bennett said his team doesn’t have time to worry about what those outside the program are saying about the Buckeyes after the loss to the Hokies, despite OSU dropping to No. 22 from No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll.
“We’ve just got to keep chugging along, keep getting better and then just whatever happens, happens and they can say whatever they want,” Bennett said.
The first step along the road to achieving the team’s goals is set to come against Kent State on Saturday, marking the first time in 36 years the Buckeyes will be playing their second home game without an Ohio Stadium win already under their belt.
Sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott said the team is “hungry” to get back on the field to “make up for last Saturday.”
“It’s just crazy, it’s that feeling in your stomach,” Elliott said Wednesday. “You just ready to go, we’re going to come out angry on Saturday and work hard.”
Kickoff against the Golden Flashes is set for noon.