Meyer gets hyped up when rivalry week arrives

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has thrived in rivalry games through his career, going 22-3, mostly because he’s been able to impart to his players how important they are.

But before he could motivate his teams, he first had to gain an appreciation for those games himself. And it wasn’t easy for a native Ohioan to grasp how much Utah gets worked up for BYU and Utah State or Florida for Georgia and Florida State.

“When I went out to Utah, I had to be introduced to that, but I dove into it,” Meyer said at his media luncheon Monday. “I made our staff learn everything about it. I made our staff take a test to figure out what the rivalry meant, because I don’t want coaches to be phony.

“I don’t want somebody from Ohio stepping into Salt Lake City and making them act like it’s a big deal, but deep down you don’t believe it is. Players see right through that.

“I was educated real fast. I asked and tried to learn as much as I could.”

Meyer didn’t need to go through any sort of orientation to understand the history of bad blood between OSU and Michigan, who will meet for the 110th time on Saturday. Although he studied two of his predecessors who had success in the game, Earle Bruce (5-4) and Jim Tressel (9-1), Meyer was steeped in Buckeye lore from his earliest memories in northeast Ohio.

“I grew up during the 10-year war,” he said, referring to the battles between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler from 1969-78 where the Buckeyes and Wolverines were almost always battling for a Big Ten title. “I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age.”

Meyer violated one of his chief tenets by calling Michigan by name. He’s scolded his players for using anything but “That Team Up North” or “our rivals.” He does that to give the Wolverines a poke, similar to how Michigan coach Brady Hoke always refers to Ohio State as “Ohio.”

When told he slipped, a crestfallen Meyer said: “Did I really? Wow. I apologize.”

Asked what he called BYU while at Utah, he said, “The Team Down South.”

And Florida State? “The Team Out West.”

He added: “I’m a huge fan of college football. I think that’s what separates it from a lot of the other sports. I’m a fan of pro football, too. But the pageantry and rivalries are unique in college football.”

The OSU-Michigan game may have lost some of its luster with the Buckeyes’ recent dominance (10-2 record since 2001) and the Wolverines’ woes (41-33 record since 2008). But in 1999, ESPN rated it as the No. 1 sports rivalry in the 20th century, just ahead of the boxing trilogy between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.

Michigan holds a 45-58-6 edge in the series, but since OSU’s first victory in 1919, the overall record is 45-45-4.

Beginning with Woody Hayes’ first season in 1951, the Buckeyes have a 33-27-2 advantage.

“Do we make a big deal out of this game? Absolutely. Do we go over the top about rivalry games? Yes, we do,” Meyer said. “That’s the way I was brought up. We kind of go over the top here, and we always have.”

Honorees: Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier tied school records with 16 solo tackles and five tackles for loss against Indiana and was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week. He had 20 tackles overall.

“Ryan Shazier played as well as he can,” Meyer said. “He had 54 ‘production points.’ We’ve always done production points, and 30 is probably the most I’ve ever seen.”

The OSU coaches named defensive tackle Michael Bennett, a junior from Centerville, as the co-defensive player of the game with Shazier. Bennett had two sacks and three tackles for losses.

“Mike Bennett is playing at a very, very high level. He’s healthy again. He started the season very strong and went through some injuries. He’s getting stronger and stronger again,” Meyer said.

Miller impressive: Braxton Miller earned praise from Meyer for a second-half pass where he stood in the pocket, took a hit and made a first-down completion to tight end Jeff Heuerman on third-and-17.

“That is his best play at quarterback since we’ve been here,” Meyer said. “That is his best, and he knows it, I know it, (offensive coordinator) Tom Herman knows it. It was his best play as a QUARTERBACK. I’m not saying as an athlete that jumps around and lands on his head. Those are just from being a very gifted young men.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

WWE releases pro wrestler over rape allegation
WWE releases pro wrestler over rape allegation

Eric Arndt, who performed under the name Enzo Amore, was released by World Wrestling Entertainment on Tuesday following allegations he raped a woman in October while in Phoenix. According to Joseph Currier of the Wrestling Observer, the Phoenix Police Department confirmed it had responded to a local hospital over a sexual assault that occurred on Oct...
Former Centerville standout reportedly moving to Miami
Former Centerville standout reportedly moving to Miami

Tito Odenigbo, a Centerville graduate, is reportedly planning to transfer to Miami (Fla.) for his senior season of college football.  The former Elk played 27 games at defensive tackle for Illinois over the past three seasons, including five starts.  He had 29 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, last season.  247Sports reported Odenigbo&rsquo...
Cincinnati Reds announce promotional giveaways for coming season
Cincinnati Reds announce promotional giveaways for coming season

Looking for an extra reason to head down to Great American Ball Park this summer to see the Cincinnati Reds in action?  Check out their newly released list of “super Saturday giveaways.”  It’s an interesting mix of old- and new-fashioned items, including the obligatory bobblehead of Tucker Barnhart to commemorate his winning...
Morris continues to climb KR’s career girls basketball charts
Morris continues to climb KR’s career girls basketball charts

One scouting report describes Kenton Ridge High School junior Mikala Morris as a “power-post prospect with deceptive quickness” and a “blue-collar banger on the glass.” The scouting report could use a tweak, just like Morris has done to her game this season. As the lone six-footer on the Cougars’ roster, the 6-foot-2 dominating...
Bengals QB Dalton finalist for NFLPA Community Award
Bengals QB Dalton finalist for NFLPA Community Award

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is one of five finalists for the NFL Players Association’s Byron “Whizzer” White Community MVP. The other finalists are Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin...
More Stories