Ohio State might have won the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship in 2014, but the one thing the team cannot hang its hat on is a perfect season.
While the Buckeyes won 13 straight games to end the season, a 35-21 defeat at home to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 put an early but permanent mark in their loss column.
Now, 366 days after the upset loss, OSU is set to have a chance to return the favor to the Hokies on their home field of Lane Stadium.
“Due to the fact that we did lose to them last year … that’s something that we can’t get back at them, because although we won it all last year, still in our loss column there was a ‘one’ in there, and they’re the ones that unfortunately gave it to us,” redshirt junior safety Tyvis Powell said. “So it’s just about going out there and making sure that doesn’t happen again.”
While members of the team said they vividly remember the 2014 matchup and have been studying tapes from that game for weeks, senior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt said the extra motivation the team feels is not completely revenge-based.
“I wouldn’t necessarily call it revenge, but it’s something that’s been in the back of our heads since that game,” he said. “I think we definitely have a little extra chip on our shoulders knowing what happened last year, how we finished the season last year knowing they were the one team that was able to beat us, so we definitely have a little extra chip on our shoulder going into this one.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer echoed his players’ sentiments and said Monday’s game is one the Buckeyes have been looking forward to for a long time.
“There is a little nudge around here because they beat us, and really the way they beat us,” he said. “Offensively right now there is a lot of distaste for the way that thing happened.”
In last year’s meeting between the schools, OSU was decimated by the talent of the Virginia Tech defense. Then-redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, making the second start of his collegiate career, completed just nine of 23 passes and was sacked seven times. He also threw three interceptions, including two by then-senior safety Kyshoen Jarrett and a late 63-yard pick-six by then-junior safety Donovan Riley.
Powell said a big reason for the Buckeyes being unprepared for Virginia Tech last year was their season opener the weekend before against Navy. The safety said the Midshipmen, a team known for running the triple option on nearly every play, forced the Buckeyes to spend their entire practice time preparing for that untraditional offense rather than a more typical one used by teams like Virginia Tech.
“Last year we spent a lot of time trying to master that triple option offense. It was really difficult to go from that then jump straight to a regular spread offense,” Powell said. “It’s good to finally just focus on one thing and that’s kind of what we’re going to see all year, instead of focus on one thing for one game that we’re never going to see again.”
Schutt added that with no Navy game ahead of Virginia Tech in 2015, he expects the team to be better adjusted and then some, when the extra motivation is factored in.
“For this game specifically, I think we put in more than we would for a normal game just because of what happened last year,” Schutt said. “We felt unprepared last year coming into that game, both offensively and defensively, and this year we’ve been working on this game plan all summer and are excited about next week.”
OSU’s rematch with Virginia Tech is scheduled for an 8 p.m. kickoff on Monday in Blacksburg, Virginia.