TCU coach: Absence of Meyer boosts Buck­eyes

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Kevin Allen USA TO­DAY

TCU foot­ball coach Gary Pat­ter­son talks glow­ingly about Ur­ban Meyer’s abil­ity, not­ing that Meyer is 79-8 as Ohio State’s coach. But he be­lieves Meyer’s absence dur­ing a three-game sus­pen­sion has made the Buck­eyes stronger this season.

“They’re in mid­sea­son form,” Pat­ter­son said. “Prob­a­bly that sense of ur­gency put them in that sit­u­a­tion.”

Pat­ter­son speaks with au­thor­ity about Ohio State be­cause he has spent this week prepar­ing his No. 14 Horned Frogs to play No. 4 Ohio State in a prime­time clash Satur­day (8 p.m. ET, ABC) at AT&T Sta­dium in Ar­ling­ton, Texas, home of the NFL’s Cow­boys. ESPN’s “Col­lege Gameday” will be on TCU’s cam­pus in Fort Worth.

Meyer won’t be there be­cause he is serv­ing the fi­nal game of his sus­pen­sion for the han­dling of the Zach Smith sit­u­a­tion. Smith, a for­mer as­sis­tant coach, was fired in July af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions of do­mes­tic abuse. Meyer has been al­lowed to par­tic­i­pate in prac­tice.

“Peo­ple ask me about (Meyer’s) absence,” Pat­ter­son said. “(But) you have three guys (on Ohio State’s staff) who could be a head coach.”

Pat­ter­son was speak­ing about de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Greg Schi­ano, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Kevin Wil­son and co-of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ryan Day, who is serv­ing as act­ing head coach.

In two games with­out Meyer on the side­line, the Buck­eyes have piled up 1,300 yards of to­tal of­fense and scored 129 points.

The de­fense al­lowed only three points to con­fer­ence foe Rut­gers last week. Her­alded de­fen­sive end Nick Bosa has three sacks.

Rut­gers coach Chris Ash said he con­sid­ers Bosa one of the coun­try’s best play­ers. “He plays with a high mo­tor,” he said. “Great fun­da­men­tals, tech­niques. He has a lot of dif­fer­ent moves. He’s not just a pass rusher. He’s good on the run, also.”

Ash said of­fen­sive lines are forced to be cre­ative in block­ing Bosa “to make sure he doesn’t ruin ev­ery pass at­tempt.”

But the real story of the games with­out Meyer has been the dy­namic na­ture of Ohio State’s of­fen­sive, par­tic­u­larly sopho­more Dwayne Hask­ins Jr., who has thrown for nine touch­downs in his first two games as the No. 1 quar­ter­back.

“The most progress he has made is in the class­room,” Day said. “Un­der­stand­ing the of­fense, un­der­stand­ing foot­ball, re­ally go­ing to work. There’s so much that goes into be­ing a quar­ter­back, the route struc­ture, the pro­tec­tions, the run game, the tak­ing the com­mand of the of­fense.”

Hask­ins, who is 6-3, 220 pounds, also has ben­e­fited from fre­quent trips to the weight room.

“He’s more of a phys­i­cal pres­ence,” Day said. “He’s a big guy back there. He’s stronger. He has more mass to him.”

Though Hask­ins has been a dom­i­nant per­former, the Buck­eyes are find­ing play­ing time for dan­ger­ous run­ning quar­ter­back Tate Martell.

Against Rut­gers, he was 10-for-10 pass­ing and ran for a 47-yard touch­down. As a passer, Day says, Martell has “im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly.”

Bring­ing him in for a se­ries now and then causes con­ster­na­tion for de­fenses be­cause his skill pack­age and elu­sive­ness are dif­fer­ent than Hask­ins’ list of tal­ents.

The Horned Frogs rep­re­sent the big­gest chal­lenge for the Buck­eyes early in the season

“(TCU has) a vet­eran group that has played a lot of big games be­fore,” Day said.

TCU has outscored op­po­nents 97-19. The Horned Frogs have rushed for 474 yards. But their top play­maker is se­nior wide re­ceiver Kavon­tae Turpin, who has caught eight passes for 111 yards.

“There’s a lot of things he doesn’t like to do, but the two things he loves to do is prac­tice and play in games,” Pat­ter­son said. “Some guys just want to play in games, but this guy shows up for four years (in) prac­tice and in ball­games. He’s the same. If you’re go­ing to beat Ohio State, you’ve got to have some guys who can make plays on both sides of the ball.”

TCU and Ohio State haven’t played since 1973. This game has cre­ated ex­cite­ment in Fort Worth be­cause there is faith that TCU has a shot at an up­set.

“We’ve al­ways done things peo­ple said we couldn’t do,” Pat­ter­son said. “That’s what we will try to get done this week.”

AARON DOSTER/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Ohio State’s Nick Bosa closes on Rut­gers quar­ter­back Ar­tur Sitkowski on Satur­day in Colum­bus, Ohio.

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