Ohio St. rolled as expected over Illinois on Saturday, easily winning 55-14. The Buckeyes will finally face a ranked team this Saturday, squaring off against #7 ranked Michigan St. in a vital game for both teams.
COACH MEYER: We pounded the ball out of the end zone with the wind and tried to sky it against the wind. So obviously a big week, big week, and I hope the culture is here at Ohio State that the most prepared team will win, not the most interviews, not the most conversations you have. So the mentality that we want to have is we want to really work hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, to get ready for the game at 8:00 Saturday night. With that, I’ll answer any questions for you.
Q. What’s the status of green things in the facility this week, is that allowed or not?
COACH MEYER: I don’t know, we’re just working on third downs and all that. Just a big game. Great idea, though. Great idea.
Q. You’ve coached a long time. You’ve coached in many rivalry games at many of your stops. You have the rival here. Now you’re playing a team that you lost to last year, you are tied for first place; it’s a big game. I know you like to talk about motivation, that kind of things with the players, is there anything different about the rivalry game where the motivation is that deep?seeded every year it’s a rival versus a big game like this?
COACH MEYER: I think there’s a lot of difference. I got asked that last week a little bit. I can’t remember who did that. But I just grew up in the ten year war, and there’s a saying around here, you can lose every game you play except for the team up north. We all know that’s not true.
However, I’d love to have our players have a very clear understanding of rivalry games, the pageantry of it and when you come back to understand the rivalry.
We have one rival here. What’s happened in this situation is you have an excellent team. After watching them on film, they’re a great team. And they stand in the way of Big Ten championship. They stood in the way last year and we failed.
And so does that make them a rival? It makes them in the way of something that we all want. And that’s Big Ten championship. I think it happened a little bit with Wisconsin. I remember our first year it was big because they went to three straight Rose Bowls. I think this is a credit to their university, their coaching staff and most importantly their players.
And our guys know that. So to say this is a rivalry game, that would diminish the rivalry that’s been here for 100 years. This is a great game because it’s two teams battling for first place.
Q. Aside from the Xs and Os and the risks of playing a really good team, is there part of you that is interested to see what you’re made of and how far you’ve come and to test yourself against somebody who is an equal?
COACH MEYER: Yes, I’ve been asked that question several times. Just about playing a team at the same level as we are, which I don’t necessarily agree with. I think we’ve beaten a bunch of very good teams.
But they’re the king of the hill right now because they won the championship and you have to dethrone them. How do you do that? You outwork them Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Q. What was the difference in last year’s game?
COACH MEYER: What was the difference? I think obviously came down to a couple plays. They jumped out to a quick start. We did not play very good pass defense. Gave up a big one that we didn’t need to give up.
And on offense, had the ball at the end of the game, we didn’t execute to win the game. I thought offensively, watching it, that was two very good teams playing each other last year.
Very physical, physical game that they made a few more plays than we did. But I thought our pass defense hurt us last year in that game and obviously with the ball in your hand to go win it, we didn’t get it done.
Q. Just curious, how much in general on a week like this do you fall back on that psychology degree in terms of motivating?
COACH MEYER: I think you have to fall back on that when you’re playing teams?? there’s not a whole lot of?? if we weren’t very intelligent, you’d have to be real creative. There’s not a whole lot of creativity in this one.
Everybody knows what’s at stake. I think the most important thing that I have to do and the leaders job and the coaches is the immediacy of the task at hand.
Today’s Monday. What’s the most important thing on Monday? For them to get their rest and get the treatments. We played a game; they did not. So we have to equate this a little bit.
So we’ve had conversations. This will be more about just the task at hand. And that’s a Monday, and then a Tuesday, a Wednesday, a Thursday. And try to get as many camera?? people want to do interviews in our locker room now and all that.
Since now I work for Jerry, I guess we’re going to do all that. So I’m just kidding, Jerry. I think it’s all good exposure for our players and coaches, but the immediacy is to get focused. The most prepared team will win this game.
Q. Unrelated, it’s such a game of routine. It’s so important. Third straight night game, how much does that help you in terms of the kids
COACH MEYER: It’s probably real. I mean, it’s not a shocker now. So I think it does help us that we’ve had some night games to prepare for this one.
Q. Pat Narduzzi obviously has an extra week to come up with something for you guys. How in practice can you as coaches get J.T. Barrett ready to face something that he might not see on film?
COACH MEYER: We’ve seen it all this year. The one thing about their coach and coaching staff, they’re pretty set in what they do. They’re really good at it. This is not one of the star wars where change of defense every week, and there’s the inherent problems with that when you face a team that changes, changes, changes, because you’re not really quite sure.
But we have to be ready for adjustments. They won’t change their defense because they’re too good. It’s the ones that maybe are struggling on defense or come up with something.
But they’ll have a little wrinkle here and there that we have to be ready for. That’s why we’re watching what we did against them last year. And how do you prepare for it? We anticipate and you give them that rep in practice. That’s the only way to do it.
Q. In talking to your defensive coaches, do they say that they see a lot of difference between Connor Cook last year in that game and now?
COACH MEYER: You’d have to ask them. I’ve not had that conversation yet. I will. I’ve not been so knee deep in there. I haven’t had a chance to talk to them yet about it.
Q. You guys have been so prolific offensively this year. One exception might be short yardage situations. That’s probably going to be a big part of this week. Offensive line and just as you analyze the short yardage situation what do you think
COACH MEYER: Two things, I think we had a big back last year that ran through some tackles and I think our backs are pretty good and they’re going to get more physical, the older they get. But they’re playing pretty good.
Teams also give us some pretty tough looks to run into and I think we’ve got to be?? we’ve tried to do a little throwing in certain situations. So that’s certainly an area that we’re going to take a look at and obviously we had one last year we didn’t convert on a fourth down.
So that’s a big part of the game now. The personnel and defenses are so good in those situations that it’s something we’re going to sink a lot of time into.
Q. Michigan State has I think seven fifth?year starters; you obviously have a very young team. How much of a factor do you think that is?
COACH MEYER: It’s a huge factor. Last year I thought we were kind of a veteran team, certainly on the offense, with those linemen. And that’s certainly not the case this year.
So that’s a big factor?? once again it’s a factor but not much you can do about it but go back to work and do the best you can. So that’s certainly a factor.
Q. Something about Devin Smith, two years ago he had the huge catch. He’s had kind of a different role this year. How has he adapted and how important is he?
COACH MEYER: He’s great. He’s the best gunner in America. He does a great job for us on that. He’s also our downfield threat. Does a very good job on that as well. He’s adapted well. I’m not sure how much his role has changed other than the fact that we had no one else a couple of years ago. That was the biggest difference. Now we have a variety of different body types and skill sets that we try to utilize.
So his role or value hasn’t changed. I mean, it’s just a couple of years ago it was Braxton right, Braxton left, throw it to Devin down the field. And it’s changed a little bit.
Q. Last week you kind of captured the whole picture from your comments about driving towards student section after they’ve run off 24 straight points. I might have thought you were thinking about what first play is going to be second play, any new things to combat the noise. How often does that happen, it’s almost like a fan snapshot of what it was like?
COACH MEYER: I shared that with our players. I shared it with you guys, that was one of those moments I’ll never forget, a young football team, freshman quarterback jogging out after getting punched right square in the mouth for about a quarter and a half, getting ready to lose a game, because everything was pointing?? we’ve all seen that; you’re about to lose a game in overtime to Penn State at home and our guys snatched it up and did well. That was the offensive line and the quarterback.
So I’m not sure what that has to do with this. But that’s a snapshot.
Q. They had all the momentum, too, looked like?
COACH MEYER: I never felt like we let that one go. I felt they scored right at the end of the game against Wisconsin in overtime. This one, they beat us. And we had to come back and snatch a victory from a loss. And to do that with a young group of players, that normally doesn’t happen.
Q. Couple of years ago you said that the Michigan State game I think in ’12 was a turning point.
COACH MEYER: It was.
Q. Is this an opportunity, though, for a different sort of signature win, for you guys maybe to earn some national respect back?
COACH MEYER: I think so. I think that will be a conversation I have with our players. I think they know that already that there’s been, this is a game to get the respect that Ohio State deserves and has had in the past. You have to go compete and win this game and it’s going to be a task. But that’s real.
Q. After the game last year, some of us observed you sitting in a golf cart. What was kind of the immediate thoughts that were going through your head right after that game?
COACH MEYER: Just get a team back from a tough loss after?? just get them back after a tough loss, go play in the BCS Bowl game, because you see the horror stories of teams that don’t show up for Bowl games because they’re devastated. Your job as leader and coach is to move on.
I thought we did. We didn’t win the game. But our guys came back and played their tails off. It’s part of the game. We’ve just gotta do the best we can and we’ll certainly do our best this week.
Q. When you look back on that game, like you said, Michigan State is not going to change a lot defensively because of how solid they are. What gave you all the most problems last year in the Big Ten championship game?
COACH MEYER: Good players. Good players and a good scheme. That’s a rugged?? this is a rugged game. We’ve got to be very smart on how we go about our business and preparing the players this week on how much contact they have.
This is going to be?? the one thing about when?? the two experiences I’ve had with Michigan State in 2012 and ’13, I mean that’s a sledge hammer. These are, say what you want about any other teams any other conferences or whatever, this team can play at any level, any conference, anywhere. I’d like to think that the Ohio State Buckeyes can, too. This is going to be a big football game that we have to be very smart.
The whole key, I don’t mean to keep going back to this, but the only thing that matters is when the foot hits the ball at 8:00that night that our guys are mentally physically ready to rock and roll because it’s going to be a rugged game.
Q. When you look at J.T., do you feel he feels he has the freedom now to create sort of like what Braxton had last year and stuff, meaning, is he over that hump of just running the offense but also being creative in tough situations and making?? what’s your sense of how he’s embraced that?
COACH MEYER: The one thing that he does well, even better than Braxton, is when something?? because it happens quite often?? when something is not there, he puts his foot in the ground and gets us to second and four, second and five.
I can count three or four times that happened on Saturday. Those were not designed runs. But sometimes things don’t work out the way you envision them. Someone blitzes, someone flashes. Someone misses a block, screen pass, someone peels, and he puts his foot in the ground?? we’re even teaching him to get down.
So you get offensive football and we?? Jerry showed me again the stat. We’re number one in the country in average start field position on offense, average start field position on defense. And that’s for a variety of reasons.
Number one reason probably is we don’t have penalties on special teams. I don’t know if we’ve had any this year. I’ll go ahead and say that, we’ll get french fried Saturday.
The other thing is good coverage units. But the other thing is our quarterback. And the loss yardage plays don’t happen a lot.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.