Ryan Day May Never Shed Fiesta Bowl Disappointment
Ryan Day's reflections on his only loss as Ohio State's head football coach sounded an awful lot like Urban Meyer's immediate reaction to his worst loss as Ohio State's head football coach.
Addressing the No. 2 Buckeyes' 29-23 loss to No. 3 Clemson in the College Football Playoff at the Fiesta Bowl, Day said Wednesday the manner in which OSU's season ended still dominates his thoughts "every other second."
"Especially when the (championship) game was played Monday night," Day said. "It was front and center. It's hard to let go. I'm telling you, it's just hard, and we're not going to let go. I think you do have to move on with your life, but at the same time we told the team, 'We're not just going to flush this.' This is going to be here for a long time."
A paraphrase of that statement might read, "I'm not over it; we're not over it, and we're never going to get over it," which smacks up against Meyer's actual words following a 31-0 shutout against Clemson the previous time the two powerhouses played in OSU's previous Playoff appearance in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl:
“Ohio State is not used to this. I’m not used to this, and we will not get used to this. That’s not going to happen again. So we’ll get things worked out.”
Meyer's solution was to hire Day about a week later and turn the offense over to him. The Buckeyes, in the aftermath of the only shutout of Meyer's 17-year coaching career, have been the nation's highest-scoring team since.
But against Clemson, OSU settled for field goals three times on series that penetrated the 20-yard line, and it suffered late-game mistakes on offense and defense with a chance to win the game.
The Buckeyes also helped Clemson with two untimely personal foul penalties that sustained touchdown drives.
So, in hindsight, does Day believe Clemson won the game or does he fret that Ohio State lost it?
"I don't know," he said. "That's a great question. I know that two teams were evenly matched and very talented in a high-profile game like that. There was a lot of back and forth. I thought our guys competed really really hard. I thought we had a really good plan.
"We came up short in the end, but when you are playing a game like that and there are big plays all it takes is a few not to go your way. Whether it was the interception or running into the kicker or whatever those things are, if you don't get those big plays—we call them, 'gaps,' game altering plays—you're not going to win the game.
"We did not win the turnover battle. We didn't do well in the red zone. So, combine all those things together, we didn't win. But I felt like we were well-prepared and we played really hard."
Day said he put no effort into seeking an explanation for an overturned catch/fumble with five minutes left in the third quarter and dismissed insinuations the replay that cancelled OSU's touchdown return decided the game.
But he didn't deny the frustration of the loss will be hard, perhaps impossible, to shed.
"That's the way it should be," he said. "I felt like we had a chance to go win the whole thing and we didn't do it, so it's going to stay fresh in our minds."
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