In the shadow of Ohio Stadium on Saturday, just outside Gate 7, images of Urban Meyer raising the championship trophy and leading his team onto the field were displayed proudly on the side of a recreational vehicle.
It was a reminder that this game had a different vibe for Buckeye fans than all of the Ohio State season openers before it.
Sure, it featured a sea of fans in scarlet and gray, tailgating as usual. Smoke rose from sausages and burgers cooking on the grills. Kids threw footballs all over the parking lot. Thousands lined the path leading into the stadium to get the perfect selfie as the OSU marching band made its way to the game.
>> Read more: Ohio State defeats Oregon State, 77-31 in season opener
But the absence of Meyer, who is serving a three-game suspension, had some fans debating the headlines of this past month, while others hoped the controversy would just go away.
“It’s time to move on now,” said Marty Dapore, an OSU fan who drove from Louisville, Kentucky, to watch the game. “There were lots of questions asked, and lots of questions answered. They may not have been answered to everyone’s satisfaction, but the decision was made, and it’s about the team now.”
>>Watch: Ohio State Marching Band halftime show
Meyer was suspended on Aug. 22 for the first three games of this season amid domestic-violence allegations against assistant coach Zach Smith, who was fired July 23. An investigation detailed a pattern of bad behavior by Smith and found that Meyer tolerated that behavior for too long. OSU athletic director Gene Smith was also suspended, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16.
The saga thrust Ohio State’s program into the national limelight for the wrong reasons and consumed most of its fan base in the weeks leading up to Saturday's game against Oregon State University.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
But inside and outside the stadium Saturday, most people made it clear that they were far more interested in seeing the Buckeyes' new starting quarterback than worrying about what Meyer did or didn’t do off the field.
“Urban Schmurban ... we are just ready to get on with this season and have our boys play football,” said Dustin Thurman, 32, of West Chester. He began tailgating near the Olentangy River at 5 a.m. with about 10 of his closest friends. “I love Coach Meyer, but now that the season is here, the focus should be on the players, and I bet he would agree.”
Not many fans were worried about winning without Meyer in the opener, but any doubts were erased by halftime, as Ohio State had scored touchdowns at a rapid pace. And Dwayne Haskins Jr., OSU’s new starting quarterback, easily replaced Meyer as the main topic of conversation by showing off the kind of passing skills that fans have been craving for years.
The only thing that could stop Ohio State was the weather. Severe storms rolled through the campus area and delayed the game beginning at halftime for a little over an hour.
And not everyone in the stadium was focused solely on football.
>> Read more: Complete coverage of the Urban Meyer investigation
Mark Hanson, 27, of Sweden, had never been to a college football game and wanted to see how the crowd compared with fans of that other game they call football (soccer) in his homeland.
AJ Frasure, 19, a member of the OSU band, was part of the “O” when he performed Script Ohio for the first time. The freshman tuba player from Dublin decided in the fifth grade that his dream is to one day dot the “i”.
And Dominic Bagnoli, 55, of Hartville, just wanted his 200 or so guests to enjoy themselves in that RV he calls the “Woody Wagon” that has that image of Meyer on the side.
While Bagnoli was greeting his guests, ESPN was reporting on the surrounding TV screens that Meyer was watching the game at home.
“You can’t make everybody happy, but I think the university did the right thing,” Bagnoli said. “I’m 100 percent with Coach Meyer and Gene Smith going forward. Bottom line is, I think Ohio State and all of us will get through this.”