CHICAGO – Urban Meyer’s résumé includes 165 victories in 194 games with three national championships as a college football head coach. And one stinkin’ shutout.
That smudge mark still irks him.
“It was awful,” Meyer said Monday at the Big Ten Media Days. “I could sugarcoat it and tell you something [different] but it was awful. It forces you to re-evaluate everything you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
That lone shutout in Meyer’s Hall of Fame career came in his most recent game, a 31-0 trouncing by Clemson in the College Football Playoffs semifinals last season.
The Buckeyes managed only 215 total yards, converted three of 14 third-down opportunities and turned the ball over three times.
A program as storied as Ohio State doesn’t lay that kind of egg and then shout, ‘‘Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.’’
“Ohio State doesn’t lose 31-0 like that and not have something happen,” Buckeyes center Billy Price said.
Meyer overhauled his offensive coaching staff, hiring former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson as coordinator and former San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Ryan Day to that same post.
Wilson’s hiring meant an uncertain future for co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner, but before that dust settled he was hired by P.J. Fleck in January to coach the Gophers’ offensive line.
The Buckeyes’ mission in all this change: Fix a passing game that ranked 81st nationally last season, starting with J.T. Barrett, who returns for what feels like his 10th season as quarterback.
Price cited two examples of changes that will be most obvious to outside observers: The offense will play at a faster tempo and attempt to add more vertical passes.
“It’s still going to be the Ohio State offense,” Meyer said. “However, we had some weaknesses a year ago, and I’d like to see some improvement. And I think Kevin will have a major impact.”
The loss to Clemson was the worst of Meyer’s career, and he fumed afterward, saying, “Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this.”
Meyer preferred not to relive his agony when asked about it Monday.
“That ship has sailed,” he said. “It’s gone.”
Price sighed when the topic came up.
“I’m tired of talking about that game,” he said. “It’s a stinging feeling. The multiple times that it’s been brought up [Monday], it’s terrible to think about it. It comes back to lessons being learned.”
And making necessary changes. Meyer called the timing of his hiring Wilson “remarkable” after Wilson resigned as Indiana head coach last December amid controversy. Wilson’s treatment of players contributed to his departure.
Before becoming a head coach, Wilson earned a reputation as an innovator as an offensive coordinator, most notably during his stint at Oklahoma.
“This is a veteran coach that’s led some of the top offenses in America,” Meyer said. “Very well-respected in our profession.”
His next project comes with plenty of experience. Barrett has started 30 games at quarterback, owns 23 school records and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting during his magical freshman season in relief of injured Braxton Miller.
And yet Barrett’s inconsistency as a passer remains problematic. There was even social media chatter this spring over whether Barrett should remain the starter — even after he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a junior.
Wilson’s task will be to make the passing game more explosive as a complement to the running game and a Buckeyes defense that ranks among the nation’s best.
Meyer defended his quarterback by highlighting deficiencies around him last season.
“There’s an incredible amount of growth he still has left in him,” Meyer said. “His year is going to be dependent on the performance of those around him as well as him. The luxury he had in 2014 was we were five units strong on offense when he played. We weren’t that way last year on offense.”
Nobody is playing violins in the background. The Buckeyes are loaded again and expected to compete for the national title. Like always.
One shutout doesn’t change that.