COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer won’t be on the sideline again this week when No. 4 Ohio State plays host to Rutgers in its Big Ten opener at Ohio Stadium, but his presence definitely will be felt by the Buckeyes.
Meyer was allowed to return to the team on Monday under the terms of his university-imposed, three-game suspension in the domestic violence dispute involving former assistant Zach Smith. He just won’t be able to be on the sideline again this week and the following Saturday for the game against TCU.
Acting head coach Ryan Day said Monday that Meyer is heavily involved in game planning for Rutgers (1-0), which is coached by former Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash.
“Coach was up with everything right from the start,” Day said.
Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano confirmed that Meyer jumped right back in after being away from the team since his suspension in early August.
“Excited to have him back, everybody is,” Schiano said. “Coach is a very focused guy, as you know, and we hit it running, got back to it.”
Day will still be in charge on the sideline Saturday and he expects to feel more comfortable, balancing the head coaching duties and also calling plays along with offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
“Any time you do something for a second time, it becomes easier and more efficient,” Day said.
“Decisions that are made up to the game is really where most of the coaching is done, and then once we get on the field the game plan is in and now it’s just a matter of calling the plays and going from there.
“So, yeah, it’s kind of Coach is back, and we’re going with Coach, and once we get to the game the decisions are almost made before we get there.”
The Ohio State coaches will be strategizing for Rutgers, which opened at home last week with a 35-7 victory over Texas State.
Ash was pleased with the Scarlet Knights’ opening effort but realizes, having coached at Ohio State, that the Buckeyes (1-0) are a completely different animal.
“It’s our job to go over there and try to play the best we can play and play better than what we’ve played, especially in the last couple years,” Ash said.
The Scarlet Knights have been pummeled in four meetings with the Buckeyes since they joined the Big Ten.
“Defensively, we are going to have to stop the run,” Ash said. “We are going to have to get some takeaways and not beat ourselves. Those are things we have not done in the last couple years on both sides of the ball against this opponent.”
The Buckeyes opened the 2018 season with a 77-31 victory at home over Oregon State.
The Ohio State offense accumulated 721 yards, the second highest total in school history, behind first-time starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins. The sophomore made an impressive season debut, completing 22 of 30 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns with one interception, and added 24 rushing yards on two carries.
Mike Weber led Ohio State’s two-headed monster at running back with 186 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Oregon State.
The Ohio State defense, though, was far from dominant. Preseason All-American Nick Bosa registered two sacks, but the Buckeyes gave up 80- and 78-yard touchdown runs and a 49-yard touchdown pass.
The big plays were mistakes attributable to new starters in the back seven that defensive coordinator Schiano, a former Rutgers assistant, won’t tolerate this week.
“We need to improve, that’s for sure,” Schiano said. “That’s not what we want to see out there, but the opportunity is there.”
The Scarlet Knights started true freshman Artur Sitkowski at quarterback in their opener and he was 20-for-29 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown. Running backs Raheem Blackshear and Jonathan Hilliman each scored two touchdowns, and freshman Isaih Pacheco rushed for a team-leading 76 yards on 11 carries.
“He is a big, strong arm drop-back passer with good mobility. He’s not a stiff back there,” Schiano said of Sitkowski, “so you have to be ready to be able to have ways to get him down when he does move. So it will be interesting.”