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BIG TEN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: OHIO STATE v WISCONSIN


December 5, 2014


Urban Meyer


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

THE MODERATOR:  We'll go straight to questions for Coach Meyer.

Q.  Those moments with a former colleague, introducing your son, what is that like to kind of reunite that way?
COACH MEYER:  Well, I have a bunch of guys out there that have worked for us that are doing very well in the head coaching assignment.
I love Gary.¬† Gary is a guy that I only knew briefly when we hired him.¬† By the time mid‑season rolled around, he was one of my top guys, a guy I would close the door and lean on quite frequently.¬† Obviously one of the best in the business at what he does.

Q.  You've talked repeatedly about your defensive line depth, the issues there.  This is an important game for that.  How comfortable are you with your rotation at that position right now?
COACH MEYER:  We're still not where we need to be.  We put a lot of pressure on them.  Coach Johnson has put a lot of pressure to keep developing that depth, but we're not where we need to be.
We will rotate some guys in there.  Actually even took Chase Farris for a couple snaps.  In certain situations, you might see him line up for a few snaps on defense as well because he's a big dude that has some quick twitch to him.
So that's not our strength right now and it should be because we have bodies there.  The bodies have to get better.

Q.  You had a really emotional week last week into this week.  How has the team been progressing from Monday to now?
COACH MEYER:  It was rough.  Sunday I had to break the news to them.  Then Monday obviously was their day off.  Tuesdays are very hard practices, even this time of year.  You try to back off a little bit.  With the style of offense we're facing, no chance of breaking off.  Very physical practice on Wednesday.  You saw the team went to the funeral.  Very emotional for a lot of guys involved that knew him.
Ever since that moment, though, there's been high energy.  Obviously when the bus is rolling to this fantastic facility, a lot of energy, a lot of energy with our team right now, very positive.

Q.  How much more confident do you feel in Cardale seizing the moment than you did four or five days ago?
COACH MEYER:  He's prepared very well.  Tuesday is a rugged day for anyone in practice.  But I saw the improvement we needed to see on Wednesday.  I made it at least a couple hundred times since the beginning of the week that the quarterback is a product of those around him.  He still obviously has to execute and do his things.  The guys had a very good practice around him as well, starting with the offensive line.
I'm very confident in Cardale.

Q.  In your experience how much can a great runningback maybe control a game?  Is there any game from the past where you faced a great back that might be a comparison for Melvin Gordon?
COACH MEYER:¬† We faced several this year.¬† This is the deepest league as far as NFL runningbacks that I can ever remember.¬† We faced them.¬† I would like to say we somewhat contained them other than a couple big hits, the Indiana player, 2000‑yard rusher, great speed.¬† Minnesota's runningback was fantastic.
Obviously we have not seen him live, but on videotape.  This is probably the best of the bunch.
To answer your question, I have seen greats.  When we faced Alabama a couple times, Mark Ingram was a Heisman Trophy winner.  He controlled that game.  We had Carlos Hyde.  He controlled many games for us in the last two years.  Obviously that and the quarterback, those two positions are the two positions that can control the game.

Q.¬† The senior class here, their accomplishments are pretty well‑noted.¬† As several have said over the last several weeks, they haven't won a championship.¬† How much of a defining moment is it tomorrow night?¬† Is that a point you have to drive home with them or not?
COACH MEYER:  The most important thing on Friday now is rest and hydration, nutrition, get a good night's sleep.  We won't hammer them tonight.  I want them to relax and go to bed.  Tomorrow we'll hit that.
The way I was raised, from my first time I walked into Ohio State when I was 21 years old, when you decide to play athletics, football in particular, you're measured by championships.  I agree with that.  That's not how many yards you rush for, how many interceptions you have.  How many championships are you a part of?
That's why I frequently discuss Michael Jordan in our team because of the way he practices, the way he's a champion.  We talk about champions quite often.  As Bill Parcells said in the champions video we watched quite often, it changes forever who you are.  It ties a team together for the rest of their lives, a championship.

Q.  Could you discuss a little bit the importance, you have J.T. and Braxton both on the trip.  How are they going to be able to help Cardale get ready for the game?
COACH MEYER:  Very different personalities.  Very different for our progress.  Very important for Cardale to have them there.  Tom Herman leads that unit.  Very close group.  I was watching them today.  They all have great respect for each other.  Braxton is a different personality than J.T., but they're all different than Cardale.
Close group.  No question they were all going to be here.

Q.  You've made a case for J.T. to go to New York next week to be in the Heisman final look.  What is the one play, the one game, that you thought set him apart and made him special in that regard this year?
COACH MEYER:  Well, I get asked questions.  I made a case?  No, J.T. made a case.  Statistically he is a Heisman candidate.  You look at the history of the game.  Jerry, our SID, provided me with that information because I asked for it.
When I get asked questions, I don't want to just babble, I want to give statistical facts.  I don't have them with me right now.  But statistically he's right there, and he should be.
The one moment that I'll never forget, it wasn't maybe the most glamorous one, was the first overtime at Penn State when he took the team on his shoulders.  We didn't play particularly well in that game, but he took the game over into overtime and won it.
Obviously the statistical moment was the Michigan State complete game he played.  Maybe the third down and 23 when he dropped a dime right on Devin Smith.  That was a very accurate passer.  Statistically is a Heisman candidate.

Q.  When it comes to Wisconsin, a lot of the talk centers around Melvin Gordon.  What do you see out of their defense?
COACH MEYER:¬† Gary is a defense‑minded coach.¬† He and his staff have done a phenomenal job.¬† When we played them last year, we scored early on some passing plays, then it was very hard to run the ball against them.
I start looking at their front, it's all seniors.¬† Anytime you can say good‑bye to a bunch of great players you might have to play, good‑bye, and here we go.
The front seven has basically changed and statistically they're better than they were last year.  That's a credit first of all to development, which Wisconsin has always done a phenomenal job of developing player.  But their coaching staff and their players.
Very rugged defense.¬† Very multiple.¬† They blitz a lot.¬† You can tell they're very intelligent, well‑coached.¬† They do a lot of stuff.¬† If you do a lot of stuff and not make mistakes, you're intelligent and well‑coached.

Q.  There's a lot of games that are going to influence the final four and the College Football Playoff.  Do you shield your guys from paying attention to the other games?  Is that an issue you have to address with the players?
COACH MEYER:  You know, I have not even thought about that yet.  This is usually the night, I'll sit with our strength coach, we sit and measure our team, how we are tonight.  I'll watch our players tonight.  We don't ask a lot of them.  Best Fridays in football, there's a movie, college football, time to play cards and relax.
They're all smart guys.  They understand what's at stake.  During the season, I always encourage them to watch football.  But that's a great question.  I'll have a conversation with my strength coach tonight.

Q.¬† So much of your off‑season a lot of the kids talked about what happened in this building a year ago as the motivation to drive them through the season.¬† What do you think struck them today as they walked back in this building knowing the moment has arrived for them, and yourself?
COACH MEYER:  That was a tough day, walking off that field.  Obviously played a very good team, came up short.  Great game.  Down 17 points.  Come back, take a lead.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Came down to a few critical plays.
I haven't spent a whole lot of time, but for me to say I didn't think about that moment when I walked in that place, it did.  I moved on quickly.  Hopefully they did, too.  We haven't had a lot of chat time.  Tonight I'll visit with them when I get back.  They're at the hotel now.
Everybody that was in that arena and played, maybe the guys that didn't play, doesn't impact you the same.  But the older players that played, you'll never forget.  It's an opportunity for us to move forward and get us a championship.

Q.  You have a lot of guys who were here last year.  Do you notice a difference in some of the veteran leaders, maybe they're more calm and used to this setting?
COACH MEYER:  Probably.  I didn't really notice.  I thought last year we had some very good veterans.  Smart group of kids, invested group of players.  It does take your breath away when you turn the corner, walk in that facility.  Then we get to work.
To answer your question, I didn't notice that.

Q.  Are J.T. and Braxton able to play a role Saturday night in helping Cardale during the game?
COACH MEYER:  Oh, sure.  Obviously they're both injured so you have to keep them away from the fray.  I'm not sure exactly how Tom is going to do that.
I think we did have a quick conversation, I'm not sure what we decided on J.T. if he's going to be down or open.  Has to stay out of harm's way.  They will have a role, but it won't be any more than supporting their quarterback and their teammate.

Q.  The last two weeks against Indiana and Michigan, you put those teams away in the fourth quarter.  In both games the offense started fast.  Those were tight games later on.  The offense in general during that stretch, how have you felt about how things have been executed?  Now you have a new quarterback.  Even before J.T. got hurt, how have you felt about the offense in those stretches?
COACH MEYER:¬† Like probably anybody.¬† The expectation level is very high.¬† Score every time.¬† We're playing our rivals.¬† Top 10 in the country in defense because they have great players, extremely well‑coached.
Angry is not the word, but I was working to figure out how we get things going.  Indiana, we run into the turnover bug.  Three turnovers.  Then we settled down, went back, were more aggressive.
I don't think coaches look at it the same way.  You didn't score on four drives.  Sometimes that happens.  You have to figure out why.  They're on scholarship, too, doing a very good job defending.  You have to figure out what they're doing differently, come up with some plays, put the ball in the hands of the guys that can make things happen.
I have a job to do, that's to make sure the play‑makers are touching the ball.¬† I work very hard.¬† That's what I do during the game.

Q.  You had 11 days to get J.T. ready for the opener.  Seven here to get Cardale ready for this game.  Did you go back to that at all to get Cardale ready?
COACH MEYER:¬† Probably have to ask Tom eventually that, what actually goes in on his meeting room.¬† But much different scenario.¬† It wasn't just J.T. now.¬† That was a terrible offense that took the field against Navy.¬† Terrible not talent‑wise, not try hard, but execution.¬† It was the first time that group played together.
You saw methodical growth.  The most improved group of players I've ever been around.  It's just much different.
But then again, this outfit we're playing here, with all due respect, this is the number one defense in the country.  Much different approach.  We're diving into it.  In August we didn't dive into it.
If you look at the game plan, that's what we had to do to win that game, somehow win that game.

Q.  You talked about how Cardale has a strong arm.  Where is he in his development in terms of the other aspects of being a good passer?
COACH MEYER:  Very good touch.  Yeah, passer, he's a very good passer.  A lot of quarterback play is so much more the intangible, the leadership, getting you in the right play, understanding where the weakness of a defense is, rotation of coverages.  That's where he was a little bit behind J.T.
The good thing is I don't want to put him on the same level yet, we'll have to see tomorrow.  But I feel he's much more prepared in that area, not so much throwing the ball.
So much of quarterback is not just throwing the ball, but why you're throwing it there, the protection issues, just the complete saturation that a quarterback must have to run an offense.
The throwing the ball part is probably 10%.  If you're not a quarterback at this level, you can't throw the ball.  It's getting to the point of where the ball goes, all the complications that you have to do before.  The protection.  Most quarterbacks you see struggle, it's not because they can't throw, it's because of the understanding of where you're going with the ball, how to make sure you're protected.

Q.  We keep asking you about Cardale, where he plays into this.  Is that concern number one for you, or do you have three other concerns that are more pressing than that?
COACH MEYER:  Yeah, number one is tackling this ball carrier.  That's our number one concern, is getting this guy on the ground.  Then number two is making sure that we are protecting our quarterback.  They blitz a lot.  Very complicated defense.
For example, the other great defense we faced this year was Michigan State, not overly complicated, but very well‑coached.¬† Tough, rugged players.¬† Here it's a much different dilemma you're dealing with with Wisconsin.¬† They're all over the place.
The offensive line has to be right.  All of a sudden you walk into this facility.  It's very loud.  We thought we could probably handle the noise last year and not go on silent, but we were wrong.  So we're prepared this year a little bit better.

Q.  In order to accomplish your ultimate goal of winning a Big Ten championship here, you have to go through a friend to do so.  Talk about that.
COACH MEYER:  Go through Gary?  I'm sorry.

Q.  In order to win this game, to accomplish your goal of winning the Big Ten championship, you have to beat a friend of yours.  Can you talk about that.
COACH MEYER:  Oh, sure.  That's page two, page three or page four.  That's certainly not page one.
Gary and I are great friends.  We'll always be great friends.  Great respect for each other.  Great family people.  Our families get along.  That will never change.
For 60 minutes tomorrow we're going to be competitors.

Q.  This morning you said this is as close of a team you ever had.  You compared it to a couple of your Florida teams.  Talk about how that's come into play this week, what you've seen.
COACH MEYER:  I tell our staff this all the time, college football is one of the most complicated organizations that's out there.  Our clientele, not our employees, but the people we have to deal with every day are 18 to 21 years old.  For those parents out there that understand males on a college campus, it's not easy.
Motivation every day in a tough, violent sport.  You really have to be selfless to be good.  Now that I'm a little older, been around some really good teams, the closeness in the locker room, how they care for each other, to be able to fight through adversity, that's easy to measure.
People say we have an extremely close team, but they play awful.  I have some teams that weren't that close and we didn't play very well.  2012, our first year, I underestimated, because I didn't know the players.  By week eight, that was also an extremely close team because a lot of things happened during the course of a game, during the course of a week that only people inside that facility know what's going on.
Football is one sport that exposes you quicker than I think any sport there is.  If you're a selfish player, you get exposed.  If you are not working, you get exposed.  That's why my comment about this team.  This team has been through a lot.  They keep grinding and they keep winning.

Q.  You talked about the improvement that your offense has made from the start of the season to now.  What is the trajectory of your defense?
COACH MEYER:  Much improved.  Not where we need to be.  I think we had a chance to finish off a couple people.  I was asked a question earlier.  Gave up a couple big hits.  Real disappointed.
Certainly we're young.  We only lose a couple seniors on that side of the ball.  We've recruited fairly well.  We continue to recruit well.
We have a vision of Ohio State being a top‑10 defense.¬† I think we're 13th or 15th.¬† We're not there.¬† But this will be a great measuring stick for us tomorrow.¬† We got a lot of work to do.
I like our staff.  I think our staff is a very cohesive staff and the future is very bright.

Q.  You've been in a lot of games like this.  How will you be tonight when you're going to bed?  Right to sleep no problem, or what are you like the night before a game like this?
COACH MEYER:  Nut job.  I'm trying to think of the appropriate term.
No, I don't sleep very well.¬† I just keep walking around, staring at the players' eyes.¬† Even when they think I'm not watching them, I'm watching them.¬† I'm insane about that.¬† I want to make sure when the foot hits the ball tomorrow night at 8:00, our guys are well‑prepared, hydrated, properly rested.
At this point in my career I enjoy it, but it's not easy.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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