The Ohio State Buckeyes did everything they could Monday to make Christmas feel like Christmas, even though most players were spending the holiday in Texas and away from their family for the first time.
The players went bowling. They played laser tag. They ate pizza. Strength coach Mickey Marotti — or “Mick Claus,” as Ohio State’s Twitter account called him — handed out gifts after practice at AT&T Stadium. New LeBron James shoes were one of the presents.
“LeBron’s been showing us a lot of love,” wide receiver Terry McLaurin said.
That helped make up for the different feel of a holiday spent mostly in a hotel.
“It was a nice day,” McLaurin said, “because even though we didn’t get to spend it at home with our families, we consider this our family as well.”
One day after Christmas, work continued for Friday’s Cotton Bowl against No. 8 Southern California (11-2). The No. 5 Buckeyes (11-2) practiced at AT&T Stadium for the second time since arriving in Dallas on Saturday. Later in the day, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson and six members of Ohio State’s offense — McLaurin, J.T. Barrett, Billy Price, Parris Campbell, Jamarco Jones and J.K. Dobbins —met with reporters at the Omni Dallas Hotel.
The Buckeyes continued to emphasize how important this game is despite the fact that it isn’t a playoff game.
“It’s extremely important,” wide receiver Parris Campbell said. “As a team, we know we can go down in history as one of the greatest teams in Ohio State history. For that reason alone, it’s a big-time game. Obviously, USC and Ohio State have a lot of history. That’s another reason. We have seniors to send out. You never want to send seniors out on a loss.”
Urban Meyer spend the early part of practice Tuesday keeping a watchful eye on Ohio State’s quarterbacks. It was a typical practice in every way, at least the part the media observed.
The Buckeyes hope these practices lead to a better result than they got in their last bowl game, a 31-0 loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl. Wilson sees no reason to think anything similar will happen.
“Our coaching staff has a lot of respect for these players,” Wilson said. “It’s a great group of seniors. It’s a very talented team. I don’t think the team’s underachieved. We didn’t play well at times, but they played well down the stretch. We’re a tremendously competitive team in practice, and our practices have been awesome. We have to play well against USC.”
Ohio State vs. Southern California, 8:30 p.m., Dec. 29, ESPN, 1410