Urban Meyer acknowledges that revenge is a motivating factor in football, especially when you’re coaching 18-, 19-, and 20-year-olds.
So as No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten) prepares to play second-ranked Penn State (7-0, 4-0) on Saturday in Columbus, 12 months after being upset by the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium, will Meyer use revenge as part of his message to his team?
“We haven’t decided,” the Buckeyes head coach said Monday at his weekly news conference.
“You have to figure you’re dealing with youngsters. Is revenge a motivator? Hell yeah, it is. Now I’m not saying this will be. … There’s times where we’ve used it and we looked silly using it. There’s other times that it’s worked. I don’t know yet [about this week]. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday isn’t about that. It’s about the execution of a game plan and focus.”
The Buckeyes were ranked second in the nation last October when they entered the Beaver Stadium “White Out,” and appeared to be in control with a 21-7 lead entering the fourth quarter. But the Nittany Lions closed with 17 points, and a 60-yard return of a blocked field goal by Grant Haley was the difference in a 24-21 upset.
Asked another question about discussing revenge with his team, Meyer replied, “I’ll kind of listen and watch. We’ve used that quite a bit, and then at other times, we’ve moved on.”
After averaging 57 points in its previous four games, Ohio State had a bye last weekend. Meyer watched the Penn State-Michigan game at his home, but it couldn’t have been a relaxing time given the Lions’ performance on both sides of the ball in a 42-13 victory.
He called Saquon Barkley, the Lions’ Heisman Trophy front-runner, “the best all-purpose guy we’ve probably faced, maybe in my career.”
“He’s obviously a great running back, but they do a good job using him and creating matchup issues,” Meyer said. “No disrespect for the great running backs, you have different ways of bottling up great running backs. It’s hard, especially this guy, it’s really hard.
“But the fact that they motion him out and create matchup nightmares , that’s what makes this guy … I’d be careful to say this but he’s as good an all-purpose running back as we’ve seen, and that’s 30 years.”
He called Penn State “one of the top offenses in America,” one that features “very good players and a very good scheme that puts defenses in a lot of stress.”
Defensively, he said the Nittany Lions “menaced the team up north,” his favorite reference for archrival Michigan.
“They just come after you,” he said. “They’re really aggressive. Their defensive line is not a read and react, they’re up the field. They were all over the place.”
He also called middle linebacker Jason Cabinda “a great player.”
“The combination of him and that defensive line, like any very good team, that’s what you notice right away is the explosiveness of the defensive line and a guy like No. 40 [Cabinda],” he said.
Three Penn State players were honored for their performances against Michigan. Barkley was named Big Ten offensive player of the week for the third time this season after rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns, and catching three passes for 54 yards and one TD. Cabinda received co-defensive player of the week in the Big Ten after contributing a game-high 13 tackles and a forced fumble. Quarterback Trace McSorley, who passed for 282 yards and one touchdown, and ran for 76 yards and three scores, was named offensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Also, Haley and free safety Marcus Allen were named to the list of 13 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award given at the end of the season to the nation’s outstanding defensive back.
Barkley also was named to the Paul Hornung Award’s weekly honor roll.