When college and hangovers are in the same sentence, most people would think of drinking. Yet in college football, there are hangovers as well, ones that have nothing to do with alcohol whatsoever.
Every team suffers from let-down games, some more often than others. They are a game (or games) in which a team suffers a loss to a lesser-talented team one week after winning a big game. For Ohio State, that could have easily happened this past weekend. After overcoming a large deficit in the final quarter against a very talented Penn State squad seven days prior, the Buckeyes were set to take on a lesser-talented Indiana team. The scarlet and gray had two things going for them: They were returning to Columbus and hosting the Hoosiers, and even if they slept through the first quarter or so, the Buckeyes were talented enough to take down Indiana on Homecoming.
With that said, they felt the effects of the week prior, admitting after the win that the game against the Hoosiers and the week leading up to it just felt different.
“I’m not going to lie, we were probably still tired from last week. Definitely was a little low in energy in practice during the week,” quarterback Dwayne Haskins said following the win over Indiana.
If anyone would feel the effects, it would be Haskins. The gunslinger was the anchor of a 12-point comeback in the final nine minutes against Penn State. The average person would assume that it would be somewhat easy to recover in a week’s time. But with class, practice, and everything else in between, if the first half against Indiana didn’t prove it already, it was clear that Ohio State was not only still tired, but their hangover lingered into the game against the Hoosiers. It all started with their slower, less energetic practices throughout the week leading up to the Homecoming game.
“It wasn’t the best practices we had, and I think that’s just because the away night games are such a struggle, because you finish the game late, you get back late, you still have to be up the next day for practice, so I think it pays a toll on guys’ bodies.” wide receiver Johnnie Dixon stated.
In case you thought it was just the players, it seems as though the coaches were tired as well. But, just like the players, they had to fight through it as well.
“I think when you come home from a game that’s so late, you come in at 5 in the morning, with the emotions running so high, you just don’t sleep very well for a little while. And that takes its toll throughout the week with practice and some of the recovery. These are college kids that still have to go to class,” offensive coordinator Ryan Day said. “These are not NFL guys that get to sleep in after a Monday Night Football game. So that takes a little time, and so I think that kind of leads sometimes to some letdowns.”
Although it was arguably the lowest point of the 2017 season, the Buckeyes seemed to learn from their embarrassing loss at Iowa last season. That ugly, never-talk-about-it-again game for the Buckeyes came at the hands of the Hawkeyes just one week after Ohio State’s big win over Penn State. But this time around, two things were different: They played at home after the game against the Nittany Lions and they learned from last season as well.
“Every day at practice this week, we brought up the whole Iowa situation last year, and we weren’t going to let that happen this year. We weren’t going to have a letdown,” said linebacker Tuf Borland. “Obviously sometimes when the defense doesn’t have it, the offense will pick us up and vice versa, and that just speaks to the brotherhood of this team and how close we are.”
In the win over the Hoosiers, both sides picked each other up at different parts of the game. Early on, it was the defense picking up the offense. Late in the game, it was the offense doing so.
Not only did they learn from that hangover loss last season, but their workouts throughout the summer seemed to help as well. They prepared their bodies to produce all season, not just in big games and definitely never to let them down at any time throughout the year.
“I think the thing that really put us in that position was all of our summer workouts. We used to go offense vs. defense, and we used to battle, so I mean, everyday guys are out there nearly about to fight,” Dixon said. “So I think that’s what put us over the edge to help us once we get to the season to fight through that stuff because we’re going at it every day.”
Haskins might have admitted that he and his team were tired in the week leading up to the win over Indiana, but he, being the leader that he is, didn’t use it as an excuse. Instead, he said that the Buckeyes must continue to improve and maximize their talent, all while making sure they continue to win. Just six starts into his career, it seems as though the redshirt sophomore already gets it, which is super important for any football player but especially for a quarterback.
“Even though we won, it didn’t feel like one of the best games we played. We can keep getting better. A letdown? No, but definitely some room for improvement,” said Haskins.
Luckily for the Buckeyes, their hangover that came following a huge win in Happy Valley didn’t cause them to lose the following week, unlike in 2017. With that said, many teams suffer from a let-down, hangover game every season, including this one. Ohio State may have been tired against Indiana and during practice the week leading up to the game, but they were able to fight through it and keep their undefeated season intact, which is really all that matters in the end.