Buckeyes Say They Will Be Motivated Despite Dismal Illini Record
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Since conference play began the Buckeyes have had obvious motivation in almost every game.
The Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Penn State games were all nationally televised night games. The games against the Badgers and the Nittany Lions were in home tilts and the journey to Evanston was the Buckeyes’ first major road test.
It was easy for the OSU players to get juiced for these games because of the time and the opponent.
Against an outmatched Purdue, Ohio State was looking to get some revenge for losses or games that have been too close.
“I think historically – the last five years – Ohio State struggled at Purdue so we were aware of that and we addressed that early in the week,” Mewhort said.
“It’s easy to get up to play Penn State, primetime at night in front of 108,000 people in the Horseshoe, but going to Purdue and getting up at seven AM to play a noon game, the environment is a little bit different.”
This week, the undefeated Buckeyes travel to take on an Illinois team that has lost 19-straight Big Ten games. Ohio State has won five-straight against the Illini and is favored by 33 points.
“We’re not ignorant, we know about the different facts about Illinois, but they’re still a Big Ten football team and it’s a road game for us so that’s always gonna be a challenge and we can’t prepare for it differently than we would any other game,” said Mewhort.
How do the Buckeyes stay motivated for a game that seems so easy on paper? For one, accomplishing their goals.
“We’ve got to win and we’ve got to win big,” linebacker Joshua Perry said.
“I think that’s one of the biggest things because they’ll talk about our strength of schedule, but if the voters see us beating teams by a lot of points then they’re going to have to give us a little credit.”
Ohio State set out this season to win championships. Losing a game like this would not only hurt the Buckeyes’ national championship aspirations, but could also create issues for a Big Ten title. Wisconsin is only one game behind OSU and a loss to the Illini would allow them to take the top spot with one more slip up.
“Right now we’re just focused on winning our division and winning the Big Ten,” Mewhort said.
“It’s one day at a time and you can’t get ahead of yourself because when you start letting things slip… that’s when you lose a game and that’s something we don’t want to do.”
The school record for consecutive wins is also in sight. A victory over Illinois would tie the record.
“That’s the first time I’ve heard it,” receiver Evan Spencer said. “But yeah it’s really cool to be a part of history like that and to contribute the way that we have to that record.”
What kept the Buckeyes motivated last year – despite not much to play for – was leadership. This year’s team believes they have developed something similar.
“We have awesome leaders on our team,” Spencer said.
“We have certain leaders within each position group and certain leaders throughout the team, whether they’re on the field 70 plays a game or on the field 12. We just have guys throughout the roster that help us go.”
The most important leader is the head coach and Meyer will not let this team slow down.
“No issue whatsoever,” Meyer said of his team losing focus against Illinois.
“This is a very invested team. I'm watching that.”
“It will be like a bomb goes off if I start to see that or we all start to see that, because this is a very invested team… Tomorrow we're going to really get after it.”
Mewhort agrees that there is little to worry about.
“I think we proved going to Purdue that this is a mature football team and there’s good leadership here,” he said.
“We had this bye week to get rested, we had a good practice today and we’re going to go into it full boar and come out swinging.”