The Buckeyes’ season ended last month with a disappointing 29-23 loss in the Fiesta Bowl, setting the stage for a national title game between Clemson and LSU.
With the pain still fresh from the heart-breaking defeat, the Ohio State players and coaches surely had no desire to watch a game they believed they should be playing in.
But that didn’t stop Ohio State head coach Ryan Day from laying down a mandate.
Day told his players to watch the title game, and to do it with a few thoughts in mind.
“I told the team and the coaches that I wanted everybody to watch that game,” he said recently. “As hard as it was going to be from beginning to end and then think about the things — how bad do they want to get back into that game next year, or back into that situation and get to that game. And then what are they willing to do and sacrifice to get back there.”
Day himself watched the game and thought about those things, as hard as it was.
“That was hard to watch,” he said. “That was hard to watch. I’m not going to lie. It was very difficult.”
As the season grew, talk began to pick up regarding Ohio State potentially facing LSU and its quarterback, former Buckeye Joe Burrow. It would have been a great story and a great matchup. And though he wasn’t sure what his team would have done against LSU, Day wishes he had the opportunity to see what that game could have looked like.
“It would have been fun to play them,” Day said with a smile in his eyes. “I don’t know. That’s why you play the game. I certainly wish we had the opportunity to play them.”
Despite the disappointing end, Day is able to recognize that the season his team had was a success. With a first-year head coach, a new quarterback, and a new defensive staff, the Buckeyes were able to check off plenty of boxes despite missing out on the last couple.
“When you go 13-1, you win your conference championship, you win the rivalry game, that’s a hell of a season now. Doesn’t matter where you are, hell of a season,” Day said. “But, again, we didn’t reach all of our goals. So that keeps us wanting more.”
Though the goal remains the same next season, the process starts all over again. With the sights on getting one game further and into the National Championship game in 2020, Day has to remind his team of the work it took to get to that point.
“When you come off of something like this it’s easy to say, ‘let’s just get back to that,'” he said. “But there’s so many things that need to be done to even start with that first game against Bowling Green next year. And we’ve got to go to Oregon, and that’s going to be a long trip.
“You have to rebuild this thing again and you start with one game at a time. And, again, the easy thing right now is to think about how do we get back to the semifinals. But so many things have to go well to get to that point.”