INDIANAPOLIS, IN- The pressure of playing from behind and playing through adversity was something Ohio State had talked about and prepared for all season, but it was never something they had to experience… until Saturday.
For the first time this season the Buckeyes had to fight through a deficit and had to come back to win a game.
“To go down the way we did, come back and play in the second half, yeah, I think you’ve seen our talent, our execution, a lot of things, but today showed our team’s heart,” head coach Ryan Day said. “I think that’s what makes this the best win of the year.”
Day warned his team and coaching staff this week that at one point in Ohio State’s 38-7 win against Wisconsin in October, the score was 10-7 in the third quarter. But his group responded to that moment with four unanswered touchdowns.
This time Wisconsin took the 21-7 lead into halftime. Before Saturday, the Buckeyes’ biggest deficit all season was 6-0 at Michigan after the first drive of the game in Ann Arbor.
The Buckeyes had also never trailed at halftime until Saturday. This was a new feeling for Day entering the locker room. The pressure to respond was upon him.
“Was I nervous? Yeah, I was a little nervous, yeah. We had a group of guys in that locker room who were barking at each other that they weren’t going to leave this place without a win,” Day said. “Then we all got together and said, This is like life, it isn’t always going to work out the way you want it. The challenge was we were going to find out what was really made inside of us. I think you saw that.”
The third quarter was quite a comeback for Ohio State. From the moment the Buckeyes came out of the tunnel after halftime the momentum shifted in Lucas Oil Stadium.
“The first real time face adversity, we’re losing in a game — because that was the big question mark in my mind, what were we going to do down two scores at halftime? We don’t know. The way we responded in that third quarter was unbelievable,” Day said. “You could feel the electricity in the stadium. We imposed our will. I think that goes to show you how special this team is.”
On the first drive in the second half, the Buckeyes scored in just 1:39 and cut Wisconsin’s lead to a touchdown. On the next drive Wisconsin turned the ball over and the Buckeyes settled for a field goal, making the score 21 to 17. Wisconsin then missed a field goal and on the next possession the Buckeyes scored to take the lead. From there on out it was all Ohio State.
“Coach Day, he just kept saying, ‘Just keep swinging’,” junior defensive end Chase Young said. “We just kept swinging, kept swinging, kept swinging. We turned it out. It turned out for the best.”
As stressful as it was for everyone involved, the biggest question mark surrounding the team was what they could do when they faced adversity. They have had glimpses of adverse moments in games, but this was more extreme than before.
The Buckeyes didn’t have a chance to take a lead in the game until the third quarter on Saturday. Once they took the lead, there was no looking back.
The players had to make adjustments, play through the nerves and the pressure, and the leaders had to take charge. Young thinks it was a good thing that people got to see what this team was made of when things weren’t going their way.
“It’s definitely a good game for the nation to see when we get tested, how we handle adversity,” Young said. “I feel like as you see today, we handle adversity pretty well. So I feel like that’s a big part of playing this game.”