Ohio State rides into Norman with young squad


COLUMBUS – Ohio State has not lost a football game on an opponent’s home field during Urban Meyer’s five seasons as coach, including two wins at Michigan, two at Michigan State, two at Penn State and one at Wisconsin and Virginia Tech.

But none of those were with a team as inexperienced as the one No. 3-ranked OSU (2-0) will take to No. 14 Oklahoma (1-1) on Saturday night.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer expressed some concern about how 16 first-year starters would react to “the newness of what happens on the road” at his weekly press conference on Monday. But he also admitted, “I’m concerned about everything.”

Ohio State has been dominant in its two wins – a 77-10 rout of Bowling Green and a 48-3 win over Tulsa in which the defense did the heavy lifting until the offense awakened in the second half.

Oklahoma, a College Football Playoff semifinalist last year, was ranked No. 3 in the preseason before it lost its opener 33-23 to Houston. Last week, the Sooners took out their frustrations on Louisiana-Monroe in a 59-17 win.

“I’m glad we have two under our belt for the new guys to play a little bit, and I’ve got a lot of respect for the personnel (at Oklahoma). We’re facing a very good team,” Meyer said.

“There’s no way to simulate going on the road in the off season or I would have done it. Gene (Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith) would have been a little bit upset if I said I need 60 grand to go take my guys to somewhere.”

Some of Ohio State’s more experienced players say they’ll be trying to give the young guys some instruction on how to approach their first big test away from the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium.

Quarterback J.T. Barrett said, “Don’t get caught up in the crowd,” would be the first thing he would tell young players. “We’re in somebody else’s house and we’re not welcome. You try to make sure they stay in the moment and stay focused on our task at hand, which is to go out there and play really good football.”

Defensive end Sam Hubbard, a first-year starter himself who was one of the top substitutes on the defensive line last season, said, “It’s a big moment for them. Away games are different. I’m going to do my best to just teach them how to handle themselves on the road, what to do and why Ohio State always wins big road games.”

One of the things OSU’s coach have done to acclimate its young talent to a big-game atmosphere is to show them tapes of the 2014 national championship game against Oregon, senior center Pat Elflein said.

“The way we prepared in 2014, we have to teach those young guys to do that. Don’t leave any stone unturned going into this game,” Elflein said.

“We’re going to watch the Oregon national championship game tonight (Monday) because they run similar defenses. I was just talking to coach about how hard we played in that game. We should try to show Michael Jordan and Isaiah how to play that hard. We need to play like that Saturday if we want to win.

“They’re going to have to learn real quick,” he said.

Some other notes from Meyer’s press conference:

— LOTS OF RECEIVERS: No Ohio State receiver has more than four catches this season and Meyer would like a little more clarity about who the top pass-catchers are.

“We’re still trying to figure out the receivers because they’re so new,” he said. “We don’t have the one guy that’s a go-to guy yet.”

— INJURY REPORT: Starting linebacker Dante Booker, who missed last week’s game, is still “questionable” this week, Meyer said. Then he said it is possible he should be upgraded to “probable.”

Booker suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee against Bowling Green.

— PRAISE FOR THE DEFENSE: “We’re playing really high-level defense right now,” Meyer said.

— PLAYERS OF THE GAME: Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, H-back Curtis Samuel and special teams player Parris Campbell were Ohio State’s Players of the Game in the Tulsa game.

“Parris Campbell was dynamite. He has fallen into that Evan Spencer category. He just does everything for us,” Meyer said.

By Jim Naveau

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Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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