- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - Losing has never come easy for Urban Meyer.

Since he was a kid playing baseball, football and basketball back in Ashtabula, Ohio, Meyer could handle the pain, the long workouts and the criticism.

But the losses lingered and hurt.

Now that he’s the head football coach at Ohio State, things haven’t changed.

“I’ve never, no, I’ve never handled it well. Awful loser,” he said recently in his quiet, paneled office inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. “I guess I’d rather be known as that than as a good loser.”

He knows that much of the country views him as less than a gracious loser. Maybe that comes from having so little practice at it _ his teams have only lost 24 times in his 12 years and 152 games as a head coach at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and with the Buckeyes.

Fact is, he doesn’t care what others think about him, or his program. He either ignores or isn’t even aware of the opinions of those outside of the bubble he’s built around his team.

“Once again, perception isn’t something that drives me, it’s obvious,” he said.

All of that is important because the Buckeyes are dealing with defeat for the first time in two years.

The 49-year-old Meyer’s Buckeyes are coming off a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 7. The setback not only cost Ohio State the conference crown, it dropped it out of the running for a spot in the BCS national title game (Auburn took the Buckeyes’ spot against Florida State) and also ended Meyer’s and the program’s record winning streak at 24 in a row.

Afterward, a photo taken inside the stadium showed a dejected Meyer eating pizza, glumly, while sitting in a golf cart. It went viral on the internet. Indeed, the loss _ and all that went with it _ was a punch in the gut for the Buckeyes, who had almost forgotten what it felt like to lose.

“Coach Meyer, I could tell it was kind of tough for him because we all were expecting to go to the national championship game,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said.

Meyer said a few things to his players in the locker room after the defeat to Michigan State. Then everybody _ players, coaches, staff members _ took a few days away from each other. They reconvened late last week to begin practice for a date with Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Meyer, who when younger would withdraw after a loss, appeared at least to his players to have accepted the defeat. After their first workout, Meyer pulled his players around him and bared his emotions.

It was clear that the loss still burned in him, but Meyer knew the Buckeyes were watching him to see how to react to it. Meyer called it “a cathartic moment.”

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