Meyer warns players not to look past Maryland

Bill Rabinowitz
brabinow@dispatch.com
Linebackers Tuf Borland (32) and Malik Harrison, lower left, lead a swarm of Ohio State defenders stopping Michigan State running back Connor Heyward on Saturday. Coach Urban Meyer said his starting linebackers, including Pete Werner, had "one of their best days" in the victory. [Joshua A. Bickel]

Ohio State is fresh off a 20-point victory over then-No. 18 Michigan State, and Michigan awaits in two weeks.

Next on the docket, though, is Maryland, a team Ohio State has handled with ease since the Terrapins joined the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have won by an average of 39 points in the teams' four meetings.

But before you begin to wonder whether the Buckeyes might look past Maryland, OSU coach Urban Meyer said during his Monday news conference that he has already addressed that with his players.

“I had a chat with them,” Meyer said. “I think this is one of the more talented teams in the Big Ten.”

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Meyer pointed out that the Terrapins beat Texas in the season opener, that they have talented players at the skill positions, and that their defense rates well statistically (30th in the nation in yards allowed).

He didn’t mention that Maryland is only 5-5 and 3-4 in the Big Ten after a 34-32 loss to Indiana last week. The Terrapins have been hit hard by injuries and endured the tragedy of offensive lineman Jordan McNair dying of heatstroke after a June conditioning session. The fallout from that eventually cost coach DJ Durkin — a Meyer protege — his job.

Ohio State’s season has been tumultuous as well. Even at 9-1, the Buckeyes are perceived as underachievers. A 29-point loss to Purdue will do that to a team.

Still, Meyer believes that the Buckeyes are on the right track, or at least approaching it. Nationally, that’s not the perception. Even a 26-6 victory at Michigan State hasn’t done much to win over the skeptics. The Buckeyes dropped one spot in both the coaches and Associated Press polls this week.

Meyer was both a bit incredulous and understanding about the skepticism. He embraces the reality that expectations at Ohio State are always lofty.

“It was a great team win,” Meyer said. “But we're not where I would like us to be.”

He was encouraged about a defense that held the Spartans without a touchdown, and a punt unit that repeatedly pinned Michigan State near its goal line in the second half.

Ohio State’s linebackers, probably the most criticized position group on the team, all earned the “champions” designation.

“Tuf (Borland) had a great day,” Meyer said. “He graded at almost 90 percent. Malik Harrison, at 90. Pete Werner, at 90. One of their best days.”

On offense, the line has been the target of barbs, particularly for its run blocking. After a month of ineffectiveness, the run game broke through against Nebraska two games ago. On Saturday, Mike Weber ran for 104 yards against a Spartans defense that had been the stingiest in the country against the run (71.7 yards per game).

“I think we can play a little bit better,” Meyer said of the offensive line. “That was a rugged day now. It's not exactly where we need to be. But I think I am satisfied with where we're at.”

That was his general tone on Monday. Meyer knows the Buckeyes must make significant strides to live up to their preseason billing as the Big Ten favorite and a College Football Playoff contender.

But there is plenty he likes about his players.

“I like the people,” he said. “No, I’m sorry. I love the people."

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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