With Maryland game off, Ryan Day wants to keep Buckeyes' routine as normal as possible
Ryan Day knows that 2020 has provided enough unpredictability that nothing should surprise him.
But the Ohio State football coach was caught off guard Wednesday by the sudden cancellation of Saturday’s game against Maryland. At 2 p.m., athletic director Gene Smith informed Day that cancellation was a possibility because of a COVID-19 outbreak at Maryland. Minutes before a regular team meeting at 2:30, that became reality.
“I’m surprised in that it happened so quickly,” Day said Thursday. “We were getting ready to practice on a Wednesday, and it’s like, ‘We’re not playing. How did that just happen?’ I guess that’s on me. I shouldn’t be surprised about anything that happens now.”
In an instant, all the preparation for the Maryland game was for naught.
“Literally at that moment,” Day said, “I just told everybody, ‘We’re done with Maryland.’ Coaches are kind of looking at you like, ‘OK, what are we doing, coach?’ ’’
The Buckeyes still practiced Wednesday afternoon. They worked on basic plays and fundamentals as they transitioned to preparing for Indiana next week. Starters were dismissed early so backups could get extra reps.
“We’re very disappointed that we’re not playing this weekend,” Day said. “But if you’re going to look at the positives, it’s an opportunity for our guys to continue to rest and heal, although we haven’t played very much football. It’s less exposure (to COVID by not) going to Maryland, and it allows a few more days of preparation for Indiana.”
Day said coaches began game-planning Wednesday night for the 10th-ranked Hoosiers. Otherwise, the Buckeyes will try to retain a semblance of their normal routine. They’ll have a light walk-through practice on Friday. On Saturday, Ohio State will practice in pads.
“When you keep changing the routine on coaches and players and staff members, it wears you down,” Day said. “It just does. It’s a distraction. So we’re going to try to do everything we can to not do that and keep our routine the same.”
Even so, Day acknowledged concern that extra free time this weekend could result in players not sticking to the strict discipline required to safeguard against the coronavirus.
“We hammered it home yesterday,” Day said. “Yesterday couldn’t be any more reminder of where we’re at in this whole thing. It’s the first time we’ve really been affected by it, by no fault of our own.
“But this is kind of the way it goes. This is going to be difficult here moving forward. We’re just going to continually make sacrifices, and we’ve done that. But at any moment, it can turn sideways, so we’ve got to stay on it. It’s going to be really important, really the No. 1 thing we think about when we wake up in the morning.”
But this week’s cancellation is proof they’re still at the mercy of the virus. Even if they can stave it off, the Buckeyes have to hope their opponents do as well.
“When you do everything right and make all the sacrifices and are still not able to play, it’s just hard,” Day said. “It’s hard to look your team in the face and tell them you’re not playing a game.”
The Maryland game is canceled and not merely postponed because when the Big Ten reversed its decision in September to not play this fall, it opted to begin Oct. 23 with no off weeks included. Smith was among those who pushed to start a week earlier so games would have a chance to be made up if COVID forced games to be called off.
“I was hopeful that we could start Oct. 17 so we could manage these disruptions and reschedule these type of games like other leagues have, but we don’t have that opportunity,” Smith told The Dispatch. “So we are where we are.”
For a Big Ten team to be eligible for the conference championship game, it must have played a minimum of six games.
“We lost four games on the front end, and now we lose another one, so (it’s) not fun,” Day said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it, and to worry about things you can’t control is nonproductive.”