Coming off their first regular-season loss since 2018, Ohio State’s players and coaches know there is no room for error if they’re going to reach the College Football Playoff for the third straight year. And if Wednesday’s practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was any indication, the Buckeyes are responding well to the unfamiliar defeat.
“We haven’t had a better practice than today all year, offensively, I would say,” junior wide receiver Garrett Wilson said. “They’re trying to learn new things on the defensive side, so that comes with a learning curve. The energy and just the attention to detail just the last two days, I feel like it hasn’t been like that since camp started.
“We knew we had some problems, but whenever you lose, it magnifies them all. There’s no room for messing up in practice anymore. If there was before, there’s none now.”
While the defense received a bulk of the criticism for the loss to the Ducks, and rightfully so, Wilson said Ohio State’s offense – which racked up 612 yards of total offense – is also to blame. After all, the Buckeyes scored just 28 points and came up empty on two fourth-quarter drives that could have tied the game after defense mustered back-to-back stops.
“I mean, you can say what you want about defense, but we had two chances to tie the game up,” Wilson said. “We don’t feel like we did enough on the offensive side. We want to control what we can control, so that’s putting points on the board every drive.”
Wilson was asked if the loss was a blessing in disguise, as it may uncovered deficiencies on both sides of the ball. That didn’t set well with him, though.
“I hate losing, so it’s not a blessing to me… ever,” Wilson said. “I hate talking about it. I hate losing, but you have to use it, though. You can’t just have a loss and not use it to get better or realize what the problems were and really address them now.”
Redshirt junior offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere – who along with Wilson, redshirt freshman running back Miyan Williams and freshman punter Jesse Mirco were the only players made available to the media on Wednesday – noted there has been a different intensity at practice this week.
"We're hungry," Petit-Frere said. "This is a learning experience for a lot of us because, you know, it hasn't happened in a while here. It’s a learning opportunity for all of us – the coaches, the players, everyone – to learn what we did wrong, how to improve and to fix the mistakes that we made so that we can become a better team.
“There’s just been a great hunger with all the players on both sides of the ball and we’re just hungry and ready to compete again.”
There’s also been a renewed attention to detail, as the Buckeyes know their preparation in practice directly impacts their performance on game day.
“We just learned about doing all of the small things right,” Petit-Frere said. “Details about things you wouldn’t even think about. How we stretch, the way we walk into practice, the way we walk into a huddle, the way we do anything.
“All those small little details are things that we’ve done for so many years. That’s why we’ve won, and when you lose track of some of the small details, things like this can happen. So, we’re getting back to the basics, we’re making sure we do all the small details right, correcting all the small mistakes and never taking anything for granted.”
The offense can only do so much, of course, so Ohio State’s defense – which surrendered 505 yards of total offense and 35 points to the Ducks – must improve. But Petit-Frere is encouraged by what he’s seen from the guys lining up across from him.
“We had a lot of great energy today throughout almost the entirety of practice,” Petit-Frere said. “The offense was going at the defense, the defense was going at the offense. It was just a great competition day. A lot of going at each other and great competition, like competition that made each of us better and made us learn. If someone did this type of move, then how would I counteract that? And we’d go back at it again and that guy would beat the other guy.
“It was just going back and forth with each other and just competing. So, to Garrett’s estimation, yes, it was a great day of practice, not only because of the small details I talked about before, but because of the juice and the energy we had as a team.”
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