|Badgers, Buckeyes each want to overpower the other|
|Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:46 AM|
By RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer loves the spread offense.
He loves winning with a robust running game even more.
In that regard, he’s far closer to Woody Hayes than he is to, oh, Chip Kelly.
“We like to pride ourselves on being balanced,” Meyer said Tuesday. “However, (our spread) is very physical — it’s not the chuck ‘n’ duck, basketball-on-grass type of offense at all. It’s a power-oriented run game.”
So in other words, when No. 23 Wisconsin comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday night to face the fourth-ranked Buckeyes, both sides want to throw the ball, but their first priority is jamming it down the opposing defense’s throat.
Even though most Ohio State fans think of Meyer’s spread as a cutting-edge offense with multiple receivers, backs getting the ball out wide, quick snaps, no huddles and lots of passes, in many ways it’s back to the future for the Buckeyes.
Make no mistake about it: The Buckeyes like to run the ball. And they like to run it straight at you, if at all possible.
Wisconsin first-year coach Gary Andersen, a former Meyer lieutenant who remains a close friend, isn’t misled.
“They’re going to do what they do. They want to run the ball first,” he said. “They want to be very effective in the play-action run game. You’ll see the football go out sideways to get you to run, get the defense tired, and they’ll come back at you and start running the ball and trying to be physical with you.”
Both Ohio State and Wisconsin are best when running. Wisconsin is third in the nation in rushing, averaging 350 yards. Ohio State is sixth at 311.
In the first half alone of last week’s 76-0 shellacking of overmatched Florida A&M, an FCS team, the Buckeyes passed 34 times. But that was an anomaly.
Wisconsin would like nothing better than for its big guys up front and in the offensive backfield to decide the game.
The Buckeyes swear that regardless of how people define the spread, they remain a power team.
“It probably is a little bit of a throwback,” Ohio State center Corey Linsley said. “In terms of our offense, we definitely run a high-tempo offense. That’s our whole goal. But the physicality has never left.”
The offense is based on double-team blocks on the line, he added.
“If we can’t do that,” Linsley said, “we’ll lose the football game.”
That’s a product of the coach. Meyer may be an innovator in the spread, but he first learned the game as an Ohio State graduate assistant under Earle Bruce in the late 1980s. Bruce loved power backs like Keith Byars, but his teams actually passed for more yards than they ran for almost every year. That’s because he used talented receivers such as Cris Carter, Doug Donley, John Frank and Mike Lanese in the open field.
“The head coach sets the tone for the program, the mentality of the team, the attitude of the team,” said Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith (who also happens to be Bruce’s grandson). “It’s no more evident than what we’ve done up to date here, just the intensity that we play with and the physical demeanor; that is who our head coach is, and that’s why we play that way.”
So Meyer will revert to his old self and try to power the ball against a Wisconsin team that will attempt to do the same behind a former acolyte of Meyer’s.
The Buckeyes are happy to be a part of it.
“It’s a more fun week of preparation in regard to it’s more physical,” Linsley said. “We’re pounding the ball. When we go 1s against the 2s in practice, it’s going to be run-blocking. We’re not going to sit back there and pass it. We’re going to work on our run game.”
THE BROTHERHOOD: Wisconsin’s first-year coach, Gary Andersen, is one of Meyer’s closest friends in the coaching fraternity. Andersen served on Meyer’s 2004 staff at Utah and their team went 12-0.
They have remained close over the years since, with Meyer calling the Badgers coach one of the best handful of hires that he ever made.
Andersen said he doesn’t think the history between the two has any impact on Saturday’s 8 p.m. start at Ohio Stadium.
“My take is that it doesn’t have anything to do with it. Obviously, Urban’s a good friend. I consider him a good friend. Who knows, maybe he doesn’t consider me a good friend,” he said, laughing. “We’ll talk. We won’t talk this week, I can guarantee you that much. It’s about the kids, and it always will be. I’m sure he would say the exact same thing.”
Meyer, in fact, made almost the exact same joke when asked about Andersen.
“I’m good with Gary,” he said before hesitating. “I think I’m good.”
Andersen said too much is made of the fact that they coached together for a year.
“I spent one whole year with him coaching-wise, and I was on the defensive side, and we never lost. So he probably came in the defensive room five times,” he said. “So it makes it easy. When it came to recruiting and everything else, he was always on the offensive side of the ball.”
Still, there are similarities between the two.
“I will say this: I think we both have an extreme passion — which is probably one of our nemeses that we both have is we’re maybe a little too passionate at times,” Andersen said. “We both learned that through the years. We both care about kids. I would also say this, that as we move through the years of coaching, that I like to think I’m a family man, and I do my best to take care of my kids. I know that Urban is no different there. He prides himself on his family and making sure that they’re well taken care of and giving them the best opportunities to succeed.”
STAT TO REMEMBER: Ohio State is 36-20 in night games, defined as any that start at 5 p.m. local time or later.
The Buckeyes are 8-3 at home, 19-10 on the road and 9-7 on neutral sites, with three wins from 2010 vacated due to NCAA violations. Ohio State has won its last four night games since (while subtracting the three vacated wins) losing seven of eight.
Wisconsin is 35-26 in night games, including 12-5 at Camp Randall Stadium, 18-20 on the road and 5-1 at neutral sites.
QUOTABLE: Ohio State LB Curtis Grant on playing a night game in the Horseshoe: “Words can’t even explain what it’s like playing in the ‘Shoe at night. The fans are crazy. That’s the main thing — the fans are crazy. And they give us a lot of energy, as we call it the Juice. That feeds through everybody, and at the end of the day, it helps us play.”
FAME WEEKEND: The 2013 inductees to Ohio State’s athletic hall of fame will be introduced during Saturday’s game.
This year’s class includes Matt Beaumont (baseball), Hugo Boisvert (men’s hockey), Dan Cheney (men’s lacrosse), John Cooper (football coach), Jim Daniell (football), Ninett Kossowsky (rowing), Melissa Miller (women’s soccer), Saskia M 5/8eller (field hockey), Laura Murray (pistol), Scoonie Penn (men’s basketball), David Pichler (men’s diving), Monica Rincon (women’s tennis), Tommy Rowlands (wrestling) and Jim Sweeney (pistol coach).