Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, top left, escapes the grasp of Penn State cornerback Jordan Lucas, bottom left, as Ohio State offensive lineman Corey Linsley, right, blocks Penn State defensive tackle Kyle Baublitz during the first quarter.
COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has not forgotten what it is like to lose. His last one was Nov. 27, 2010 — Florida at Florida State — thank you very much for reminding him.
"Do I still feel it?" he said Monday. "Yeah, and I just want to avoid it at all costs."
His players are the same way, though with hazier memories. Asked about the Buckeyes’ last loss, tight end Jeff Heuerman said, "When was it?"
Such is the good and bad of life on college football’s Fifth Avenue.
With fourth-ranked OSU (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) on a national-best 20-game winning streak — one shy of the school record — heading into Saturday’s game at Purdue, it begs the question: How difficult is it to motivate a team that has not lost in two seasons?
"That's something we think about all the time," Meyer said. "I mean, that ‘L’ word is not a good word for anyone. So the one thing is we coach very hard. Lou Holtz said it best: ‘You coach hardest when you win.’ When you lose, it's very fragile. Now, you come out to practice and you are like, ‘My gosh, you act like the offense is the worst in the country, especially on Tuesdays. They're ‘Bloody Tuesdays’ around here for a reason.
"As long as we're still coaching that way and we will, they'll be very hungry."
After Ohio State capped a mostly tense first half of Big Ten play with a 63-14 rout of Penn State, Meyer is aware of the potential for a comedown as his team enters the jaywalker’s row pre-Michigan stretch of the schedule.
OSU has road dates at Purdue (1-6, 0-3) and Illinois (3-4, 0-3) and a final home game against Indiana (3-4, 1-2) before the regular-season finale Nov. 30 in Ann Arbor.
Saturday, the Buckeyes will awaken for a noon start in West Lafayette, Ind. — a place Heuerman alternately described as "kind of gray" and "not the most beautiful city in the country." The Boilermakers haven’t brightened things much, either. Led by first-year coach Darrell Hazell, a longtime former OSU assistant, Purdue’s only win was a 20-14 squeaker over Indiana State of the Football Championship Subdivision in Week 2.
Players on Monday said all the right things. If Purdue has taught OSU anything in recent years, it is that nothing is guaranteed. The Buckeyes have lost three of their last four games at Ross-Ade Stadium and needed backup quarterback Kenny Guiton’s charmed late cameo to keep their perfect season intact last year.
"Our coaching staff does a great job, regardless of the opponent," Heuerman said. "[Today] will be a tough day. Bloody Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s when games are won and lost."
Said linebacker Curtis Grant: "[The 2011 loss at Purdue] makes you want to work a lot harder because any team can be beaten on a given day."
Still, Meyer said he will keep his finger hard on the team’s pulse this week. Asked how he will keep a team that knows nothing but winning agitated, he smiled and said, "We’re pretty good agitators around here."
"The goal is to compete for championships in November," he said. "So that's our focus. We're going to be in November, and we are competing for championships. You can bet the focus is very intense."
MEWHORT HONORED: Left tackle Jack Mewhort and running back Carlos Hyde were named Ohio State’s co-offensive players of the week.
Meyer said Mewhort "played as well as we have seen him play, and he always plays at a high level." The St. John’s Jesuit graduate continues to lead a line that on Saturday cleared the way for 408 rushing yards — the most by OSU since 1989.
"It's hard for me to say we're the best offensive line in America because I just don't get to see everyone else," Meyer said. "But I've done this a while, and I’d take this offensive line over any offensive line that I've seen."
EXTRA POINTS: Just how tough is Meyer’s grading scale for the weekly team honors? Quarterback Braxton Miller, meanwhile, was named the Big Ten’s offensive player of the week after throwing for a career-high 252 yards and accounting for five touchdowns. Meyer said it was "no coincidence" Miller has been a different quarterback since Guiton began to warm up in the second half at Northwestern. "He knows the guy behind him, the freaking stadium is calling his name," he said. "[Miller] better be pretty good." ... Sophomore defensive back Devan Bogard will have surgery this week after tearing his ACL in the same knee as last season. "Crushing blow," Meyer said.