An Interview with:
COACH URBAN MEYER
THE MODERATOR: We’re joined by Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Ezekiel Elliott and Darron Lee. Nate Meyer’s also joined us.
COACH MEYER: I want to really thank the Sugar Bowl and the city of New Orleans for their hospitality. I think a lot of times, because this new year, the playoffs, the bowl experience is somewhat different. We try to do the best we can to make sure that our players show the respect and the appreciation for all the people, the committee members and the judge and everybody that takes care of us.
It is one of the truly great bowls in college football history. I don’t want to ever lose that. I was conscious about that and made sure our players showed that respect.
I’ll tell you, I love these players, man This is a group of guys we played awful at times. We put our defense we didn’t play Ohio State football that we preach and that’s field position. And we overcame it with some excellent efforts, which you have to do at times, like the guys next to me.
But this is one of the great team wins we’ve been a part of. Because we didn’t play well at times but we found a way to win.
Q. Urban, describe for us your feelings when you came down with the interception at the end of the game. They were driving the ball but you guys came down with it and secured the win.
COACH MEYER: You start questioning why we threw that ball. It was my call to throw it down the field. And you’re going to not gain a yard anyways against very good players, they’re playing zero coverage. Everyone is within two yards of the line of scrimmage and it was my call. So, maybe it wasn’t the right call.
So, I just kept thinking I screwed this thing up. And then I have once again a lot of confidence in our defensive staff. They’ve got so much better, our players, our defense during the course of the season. The 590 game against Wisconsin and to defend Amari Cooper and hold him to 79 yards, I think it was 79 yards, 71 yards, best receiver in college football.
So, that’s what all was going through my mind is get that darn ball down so we get out of this with a win.
Q. Coach, a lot of teams play Bama, sometimes the players don’t believe they’re every bit as good. You get down on Bama a lot of teams don’t believe they’re good enough to come back. Yours obviously believed that. Was that anything that you had to coach through the last few weeks to believe that they were good enough to do those things?
COACH MEYER: That’s a great question. And that’s true. That’s true that there’s a perception out there that we’re not.
And I think Lou Holtz was the only guy that picked Ohio State, if I’m remember right. I think Robert Smith, maybe but he’s a Buckeye.
There’s a perception out here. I’ll tell you when I think the tide turned a little bit when Wisconsin beat Auburn. Everybody on our team knew that. I made sure they knew that.
When Michigan State came back and beat an excellent Baylor team. And maybe the Big Ten’s not that bad. Maybe the Big Ten is pretty damned good. And it’s certainly getting better.
And because the mind is a fragile thing. You know, all of a sudden you get down against a team like that, that’s No. 1 in recruiting every year for the past six, seven years, our guys know that.
You see them on film. Great team. But we’re pretty good, too. And we beat to go in East Lansing and beat a team that beat Baylor to put, to play the way we did against Wisconsin, a team that just beat Auburn, that’s the psychological approach to getting 18, 19 20yearolds to believe, because if you believe that was our whole we had a reflection moment with our team and a speaker on whatever Friday, the day before the game, and he talked about how strong belief can increase your level of play. Bad belief or poor belief can also lower your level of play.
So, there’s no doubt that when we saw Wisconsin beat Auburn, that was a major, major moment for us getting ready for this game.
Q. Where were you when you told them that result?
COACH MEYER: Our players saw it. Nowadays, it’s about ten seconds after it’s over, everybody knows.
Q. You said you addressed it with them. Did you just mention it?
COACH MEYER: Where was I? Dinner, the pregame meal, I think it just happened. And then we also talked about, we have a little highlight video before we get on the bus. We talked about that.
Also I watched the end of the Michigan State game. And we were pulling hard for them. And then our players you should have seen their face, man, they knew. They knew.
Q. Urban, along those lines, I think I don’t want to misquote you I think you said the SEC the king of college football and they’ve gone I think the SEC west teams went 2 and 5. And Auburn lost and the two Mississippi schools, how much has the rest of the country closed the gap. And, also, I think Oregon won by 40 today. Can you talk about
COACH MEYER: Oregon won by 40.
Q. 59 to 20?
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT: Oh, oh.
COACH MEYER: I gotta go. We gotta go get ready for that one.
Q. Florida State had five second half turnovers. Selfdestructed?
COACH MEYER: Mark, I don’t know that the gap, all I’m worried about is, I think the Big Ten Conference, the conference that we’re a part of, certainly showed that it is getting better. That’s not saying that the last couple of years, maybe we weren’t, because there’s one way to silence people and that’s go out and play and I say that in we all do, we’re a bunch of good coaches and players that worked their tails off and investing in a lot of resources into these traditionally great programs.
So at some point you’re going to get good results and very fired up for our conference right now, because at some point it gets exhausting when you keep hearing and hearing and then you start believing.
And that’s fine if you coach, but if you’re a player, pretty damned good players sitting to my left here. They can play anywhere in the country. That legitimizes watching the bowl games today, and over the past three or four days we saw them and you’re darned right, as a coach you watch it but more importantly those players watched it.
Q. For all three of you, if this was the BCS system, Alabama and Florida State would be playing for the national title. Instead it’s you guys and Oregon, how much does this validate the playoff system and how gratified are you guys to be part of that?
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT: Obviously we’re really thankful for the playoff system. They gave us a chance to go out there show that we’re one of the better teams in the nation and we deserve to be in the national championship. So, I think the playoff system definitely helped.
DARRON LEE: I agree. I think it benefited us in this situation. I mean, you get to see the two best teams playing for it all. And it’s an honor to be in there, so I’m glad the playoff system is intact now.
COACH MEYER: I was a head coach of a Utah team if there was a playoff, there was a chance we would be able to get in. I think it’s good for college football. Once again, we’re part of history. And we also don’t want to swing and miss.
I want these players to appreciate that you’re part of college football history. And I think the playoffs are good. I asked Nick before the game, I said what do you think? And I think it’s good for college football. I really do.
My concern, and I think I’m probably going to address it again, is what are we doing for these players that they have to go one more week, and their families. Are we going to get their families to Dallas, we should. That should happen immediately that there should be an immediate committee meeting somewhere say these families can’t let’s get them to Dallas and watch their sons play in college football history. And I hope you all write that. That’s more important than anything else being said today.
How do these two players who played their hearts out for the Ohio State University, for the Big Ten Conference and for college football, let’s get their families there so they can watch them play.
Q. Urban, along the lines of what you’ve been talking about does it feel like a breakthrough kind of win, you’ve won a lot of games but you have one more to go get but is this breakthrough?
COACH MEYER: Yeah, I do. I thought the one against Wisconsin was a breakthrough. A lot of good players in that room were going to leave their careers without a championship. That’s not right. You come to Ohio State to compete for championships and win them.
A guy like Mike Bennett, he’s going to get a nice big ring. If he wins another he gets a really big ring. It was a breakthrough game against I think the career record in SEC is 010 I just started seeing things flashing, flashing, kept seeing that stuff rolling on on TV, that stuff rolling through the TV the last week.
But it was a breakthrough win against an excellent team.
Q. Ezekiel, talk about the big runs, the running lanes, how large did they look for you when you popped them and nobody is there. Safeties were missing, what was going through your mind at that point?
EZEKIEL ELLIOTT: I knew going through the game that the Alabama defense front was going to be very tough, very big, very physical. It was going to be a little bit hard for our O line to get some movement off the ball. But they did a great job.
I knew I would have to hit those holes hard and break a couple of arm tackles to break a couple.
Q. Coach, 2:55 left, first half. He gets you six instead of settling for three like the first two drives. What was the emotional impact of scoring a touchdown right then in terms of the lasting emotional uplift for your kids?
COACH MEYER: Was that the reverse pass?
Q. No, that was a run.
DARRON LEE: Ezekiel ran it in.
COACH MEYER: He did?
Q. You want this sheet of paper so you can see your own
COACH MEYER: Fouryard line. Lou Holtz used to always say this, when I worked for him, when he first hired me at Notre Dame, 1996, he said: The momentum and I’ve always believed this too the momentum, especially for a young team, which we’re still a very young team, is worth at least seven to 14 points during the course of a game.
And the most important momentum of any game is the last five minutes of the first half, first five minutes of the second half. We came out smoking in the second half, too, because I could hear it as we were walking in: We get the ball. We get the ball.
So we believe in that. I believe in it. And that’s where a lot of times we’re aggressive on both of those drives, because those are momentumchanging moments of a game, the first five and the last five and the first five.
Q. Back in Gainesville, when you were coaching the Gators, you used to say that football is a game of checkers. And I’m wondering if this game, this result means that you have better checkers than Alabama, and also is there something to be said about the man moving the checkers?
COACH MEYER: I still believe that this is all about the checkers. That’s why we’ve got to get the checkers’ families to Dallas to watch them play. Checkers are valuable things, man. And I got two very talented checkers right next to me.
I think after playing Alabama now, I think they have more depth in the defensive line. I think the talent level is pretty similar. I think they have more depth right now. They’ve been building the program. We’re still at early stages of this program.
I know it’s year three, but we’re going through that void right now. And we don’t have the depth in certain positions, and they do. And so you’re talking about the best the last few years as good a program as there is. So that’s the only difference.
Q. How about the guy moving the pieces?
COACH MEYER: The guy moving the pieces is a fortunate guy that wakes up every morning and very grateful for the opportunities given to him.
Q. Coach, yesterday you were asked about Nick Saban’s legacy and where he might rank among the game’s greatest coaches and you were very gracious. Earlier tonight you talked about the perception of the Big Ten versus the SEC. You said you had to get your players to believe that. Was it sort of the same thing for you, you haven’t seen him in five years, you haven’t coached against him for a while; was it sort of the same thing for you against him?
COACH MEYER: I think it’s I don’t think it’s a coach’s game. I know people try to make it that way. I think it’s a players’ game.
You give Coach Saban a bad group of players and he’s not a very good football coach. Same with me. If I didn’t have these guys and that group of sophomores and guys like Mike Bennett and some of these guys that really bought into what we’re doing, then we’re not.
So I do think, because he’s done it consistently, he’s going to go down as one of the alltime greats. But once again, he’d be the first one we’ve talked about this. It’s all about these players.
DARRON LEE: Love you too, Coach.