Meyer, Aztecs coach go way back


Beaten at home by a team from a lower division and booed by a crowd of 42,000 while making one crippling mistake after another.

Not exactly what San Diego State had in mind as a springboard to its game with second-ranked Ohio State.

The Aztecs committed five turnovers while dropping a 41-19 decision to Eastern Illinois, an FCS team that had gone 9-23 in its previous three seasons.

The fact that six other FBS programs lost to teams from that 63-scholarship division — including 25th-ranked Oregon State, Kansas State and Iowa State — certainly didn’t make the stunning defeat any more palatable.

Coach Rocky Long said his team got exactly what it deserved.

“I hope we practice better (this week) than we did leading up to the first game. We practiced poorly and we played poorly. If we practice well, I’m assuming we’re going to play well,” he said.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has enough of a history with Long to expect the Aztecs to be resilient.

During his two seasons at Utah in 2003-04, Meyer squared off twice against Long, who was coach at New Mexico. Of Meyer’s two losses with the Utes in that span, one was a 47-35 setback at home to the Lobos.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Meyer said. “They got after us pretty good. Our defense took a beating that day that I’m not sure I can remember our defense ever taking before.

“He’s very tough, physical, believes in pounding the ball. On defense, I remember he had a very creative, disruptive style, and that hasn’t changed to what he’s doing now.”

The Aztecs went 9-4 in 2012 in their second season under Long, who was the team’s defensive coordinator before that. They shared the Mountain West Conference title with Boise State and Fresno State and have gone to three straight bowls after making three total trips in the 40 years before that.

That’s why the Eastern Illinois loss left many in disbelief — even if the Aztecs played much of the game without star running back Adam Muema, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards last season. He didn’t play after being sidelined with an ankle injury in the first half. He’s considered probable for the OSU game.

“Many people think No. 4 (Muema) is the best tailback we’ll face all year, and I agree with that. When he went down, they weren’t quite the same,” Meyer said.

The Aztecs have gone 4-2 against the AP Top 25 under Long, including a 21-19 victory at No. 14 Boise State last season — the highest-ranked team they’ve ever beaten on the road. From 1997-2009, they lost 23 straight games against ranked teams.

That’s why Meyer considers the mind-boggling upset an aberration — just like the school-record 64 pass attempts by the Aztecs. Long has never been one to sling it all over the yard.

“I think I know Rocky. I know what he wants. I coached against him for a while. I know his personality,” Meyer said. “The head coach is going to get what he gets. We’re preparing for a heavy dose of No. 4.”

Long dismisses his part in that upset against Utah years ago, saying he doesn’t deserve the credit.

“That’s a fallacy (to say) we out-schemed Meyer before. I have yet to see a coach win a football game. I’ve seen players win football games,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what the scheme is, players have to execute the scheme. It’s all about players. I didn’t have anything to do with beating Urban Meyer that day.”

Long believes there’s a reason Meyer went into the season with the second-best winning percentage in the nation among active coaches and the 10th-best all time (83.5).

“I think he’s one of the top five coaches in the country,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of good coaches in the country, and a lot of us try hard to do our jobs the very best. But there are a few coaches in the country that have what I call `magic.’

“They have a special feel or touch that makes their team a little better than other teams that have similar talent. And now he’s at a place where he has really good talent. So he’s a great coach and he’s got talent with a little bit of special magic.”


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