After Iowa’s dominating defeat of Ohio State last Saturday, Buckeyes Coach Urban Meyer main challenge is to keep his team motivated for the rest of the season. Ohio St. is all but eliminated from the National Title talk. Meyer talked about this and the loss in his press conference on Monday:
Q. Urban, obviously you guys went into the season with expectations of competing for a national championship. Now that that might not be a possibility, how do you make sure that this team stays motivated?
COACH MEYER: That’s something we work on not today, that’s something we’ve been working on all year, and you try to get a close team that cares about each other and plays really hard. It’s not going to be some speech I give to the team.
So it’s a process. It’s a journey that we’re on. And there’s still plenty of things great things ahead.
Q. One of the things maybe that came out of this game was maybe a lack of discipline. You guys had personal foul penalties that allowed them to extend drives and things on offense as well where you just didn’t keep it a clean game. What’s your thoughts about how those things have kind of crept into your team’s play, and how frustrating it must be for the players and coaching as well?
COACH MEYER: There were a couple of devastating penalties that kept drives alive. And no excuse for them. We addressed them, and I can think of two or three right off the top of my head that were drive savers, targeting and just a couple of silly penalties.
That’s something we’ve addressed. And you can’t — those kind of games you can’t have those.
Q. Was the targeting, was it out of frustration because they couldn’t get there? Or what explanation were you given on — it appears he head-butts the quarterback. What was going on there?
COACH MEYER: Talked to him. He came up, apologized. It was unique. It wasn’t an open-field type thing. He was just lunging at the ball is what he told me. There was no intent is what he told me.
Q. Have you been able to put your finger on any of the reasons for J.T.’s inconsistency between the two games Penn State and Iowa last week?
COACH MEYER: Really inconsistent. He’s been on a nice roll with efficiency, taking care of the football. And that was not normal by him.
So we watched it closely. Obviously today’s a big day to get going on the next game. But I felt like he forced it, especially right before the half. That was a devastating one. We’re not a sling ’em type group, we’re a highly efficient throwing team. And he’s been great up to this point.
Q. Did he tell you anything specific about what happened?
COACH MEYER: No.
Q. Just the nature of this series with Michigan State, the closeness of it, and the ability to bounce back now.
COACH MEYER: It’s going to be key. Like the person who asked earlier, what do you say? This is something that we’ve been working on for a long time. You still look at the standings and Ohio State and Michigan State are 1-2 in the Big Ten East.
And everybody knows this game for the last, what’s our sixth year of playing them or something, usually it’s just a prize fight. So the tougher team usually wins. And we’ve got to understand what we’re going to play against. Great respect for them and they’re playing well.
Q. You know better than anybody how high the expectations are here. So after a loss like Saturday, people are asking, wondering what’s going on, what’s wrong, where is the program headed. I know when you came —
COACH MEYER: Where is the program headed?
Q. Yeah. You when came here. You took it to the top. You fixed it. I would imagine the challenge of keeping and maintaining that hype is different than fixing something. Is there a problem with the —
COACH MEYER: That’s kind of deep. We’re playing Michigan State this week. We gotta really practice well and fix the turnover issue on offense and play a little better on defense. Kicking was much better.
Q. When you were down last week this time, you talked about the maturity that your team showed in rallying against Penn State. Iowa scored 31 straight points after it was tied at 17. Did you misjudge the maturity level or the ability? Or is it a case of Iowa playing really well and you were just having a bad day?
COACH MEYER: I thought Iowa played really well. And we didn’t play really well, and turnovers and not being able to get off the field on defense caused that game to turn out the way it did.
Q. You were asked this last week about J.K. Dobbins and you said you don’t micromanage. You often said in past years you want to make sure your top playmakers get the ball a certain amount of times. He only got six carries on Saturday. Is that something that you are disappointed with, something you are going to make sure you change in the future?
COACH MEYER: We have a conversation about it. If there’s a huge disparity between — I think, Mike’s playing hard. I think J.K. is our starter, had a couple of nice runs. Those are things we talk about. But once again I think coach Alford does a nice job. He should have more than six carries, but we got behind and started throwing it a lot.
Q. Is it possible that you may start micromanaging that? Or why don’t you get involved with trying to get J.K. the ball, if that makes sense?
COACH MEYER: Because I think you have two quality tailbacks. I think that J.K.’s going to be a 1000-yard rusher here pretty soon. And like I said, just the way the game materialized in that third quarter, there wasn’t a whole lot of runs after that point. But those are certainly conversations J.K. deserves the ball.
Q. When you guys had those consecutive injuries on the offensive line it seemed to change things. At this point is the depth still not where you want it on that unit?
COACH MEYER: Not even close.
Q. Iowa did seem to do a good job with their offense, hitting the tight ends, getting you some play action, they found some things that worked. And it seemed like defensively they obviously had scouted you guys well and maybe sniffed out some of the things that you guys had done effectively in your past game previously. Did they have a better game plan on both sides of the ball than Ohio State did?
COACH MEYER: I think they executed their game plan well. I thought the first few drives was, through the first quarter and a half, it was up and down the field and then we went on a — had those injuries, it was 17-17, the ball at midfield.
And you feel like you’re somewhat controlling the line of scrimmage — our offense I’m talking about. And high-end execution in the pass game and then it, just bunch of three-and-outs, and we couldn’t get off the field. Then you start panicking on the offense, and that’s not good for anybody.
Q. After the Oklahoma game we talked about you guys noticed that the linebackers had gotten hurt in play action in coverage and Oklahoma hit you guys there. That happened again against Iowa. When you have something that happens, you think it’s fixed and it happens again, is that a failing of that position group and then of that position coach to allow that to happen again?
COACH MEYER: Sure, it is. And the week before I thought they played very well. They didn’t play very well this week.
Q. How do you evaluate that? Bill Davis is a first-year coach here. It’s two losses and we’re talking about issues at his position group. How do you evaluate that as the head coach?
COACH MEYER: I evaluate it.
Q. In six of your last seven losses, the quarterback has had more carries than your leading running back. I’m wondering, is that a coincidence or is that a sign of what the defenses that have had the most success against you are doing?
COACH MEYER: That’s a good question. A lot of times when you’re struggling that’s your kind of get-out of-jail-free card. I can see now that you brought it up it’s not by intent. And a lot of those are scrambles. When you’re behind and you start throwing the ball, you’re going to get some pressures where the guy’s going to run a little bit.
Q. Is there an ideal ratio that you’d like to see there?
COACH MEYER: As far as Q runs? You don’t want to have that many. You want eight to 10 to 12. You don’t want to have that many.
Q. When you first got here, I remember you saying that you hoped that this program would get to a point where there would be a lot of early NFL departures, like that would be an annual thing?
COACH MEYER: I said that?
Q. You said that that’s a sign that things are cooking well or something like that. Now that that’s kind of come true every year, you guys have guys leaving early to the NFL, are there challenges that you’ve faced in this program other than just the idea of having to replace them on the field? I’m talking about bigger than just every year having to replace them?
COACH MEYER: Sure. I don’t remember saying that. I think that’s part of life in the big city, that when you recruit good players and develop them and they play well there’s chances — great chances, that it creates all kinds of issues. When you start talking about as many as we’ve had, as far as the turnover, as far as keeping that recruiting board fluid, as far as an early signing date, that’s going to be all — this is all major, major numbers game that you have to somehow manage.
And the date, I think, is January something, 15th or 14th, whatever that date is, that you find out. Signing date’s already been over for a while. Those are all things that — and we’re playing Michigan State — but those are all things that occupy a lot of time.
Q. I had a few questions from readers asking if you felt like that this has become such an NFL factory that it’s hard to get complete buy-in from the team in terms of just players who have been here for a long time because there’s people continually leaving every other year and they’re coming here more so to be developed —
COACH MEYER: It’s something you’ve got to watch. You’ve got to watch. It’s something that happened at Florida a little bit where guys — every player that comes to Ohio State has a dream of playing in the NFL. And they should.
But you have to — whether it’s agents, whether it’s people in people’s ear and those are all things you have to have constant conversation with them about and watch closely.
Q. This team throws the ball more than any team you’ve coached in your career statistically. You’re running the ball less than you have at any other time since you’ve been here. We’ve talked a lot about the passing game. I know you’ve worked hard to become more balanced. Is it possible that in that quest to become a better passing team, you’ve maybe lost a little bit of your identity as a power running team?
COACH MEYER: We discussed that as well. Really through about a six-game run there, we were a nice balance as far as run-pass ratio, throwing for a little bit more than we have. But, yeah, that’s much different makeup right now than when we were a heavy, heavy, used to be about a 70 percent run. It’s about 65, about 55/45 now.
Q. About the quarterback runs, we know when you’re running the read, if they are going to let the quarterback keep it, he should keep it. How do you adjust to make sure when they’re doing that you still find ways to get the ball in the tailback’s hands?
COACH MEYER: That’s hard, because that’s exactly what Iowa was doing. Those weren’t designed Q runs, those were, they were going to take the balls out of J.K.’s hands, a lot of those runs. Those are all things we have to game plan and continue to work and find ways to give hand-offs to the tailback.
Q. Going back to your defense real quick. I know you won’t get into detail about it, but what did you and Greg talk about over the last day and a half, about what you saw out there, 48 points. Obviously they got a pick-six. But generally what was your biggest disappointment about the way the defense played?
COACH MEYER: Missed tackles and I didn’t feel — this was one of the first games I can remember not controlling the line of scrimmage and just not getting off the field on third downs because of penalties or because of — we had them backed up many — several times and they got out of the hole. We just had conversation and let’s move on towards Michigan State and try to go win this game.
Q. Is it a sense, too, though, that Iowa had a really good — looked like they were almost a step ahead in their play calling, whatever you want to call it — they had you guys, you know what I mean, on the flip-flop. And they had a lot of drag routes where they cleared out underneath and things like that. Was that a case of that, too, of the other team, like, calling the plays at the right time? Another word?
COACH MEYER: I think there were some miscues too. We didn’t play very well. So, yeah, anytime you see that type of thing, you don’t want to just say it’s all miscues. It’s the week before there wasn’t the miscues and there were this week. And now the question you have to ask is why.
And that’s not so much the how, but why did that happen? Are we not practicing? Have we got the right people playing? All those types of things.
Q. Michigan State’s obviously watching that. They’ve seen tight ends do some damage against you guys, some of that kind of stuff. Just what’s your biggest concern about Michigan State’s offense coming into this game?
COACH MEYER: He’s really throwing the ball. He threw for 400 yards. Have not watched a lot of them. Today is, what, Monday, I don’t watch them until Tuesday.
But I visited with our defensive staff. And he’s thrown for 800 yards the last two games. One was overtime, several overtimes, but he’s throwing at a very high level and they’re a much different team.
They’re not — used to be kind of a 70/30 run/pass. It’s not that right now.