Ten years after upset, Meyer and Long meet again

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Kyle Robertson | Dispatch
Safety Devan Bogard and the Ohio State defense will get reinforcements today against San Diego State: Cornerback Bradley Roby and safety C.J. Barnett return after missing the opener.

Urban Meyer had guided Utah to its first national ranking in seven years when the Utes met the New Mexico Lobos on Oct. 25, 2003. The Utes wouldn’t stay in the polls long. The Lobos, coached by Rocky Long, ripped Utah 47-35, scoring 23 straight points at one point to take control.

“They got after us pretty good,” Meyer recalled this week. “Our defense took a beating that day that I cannot remember our defense ever taking before.”

That game proved to be a turning point in Meyer’s career. He would not lose another game as Utah coach — the Utes won their final four games in 2003 and went 12-0 the following year. After that, Florida came calling for Meyer, and the rest is history.

For Long, the upset of Utah wasn’t a career-changer. He left as New Mexico’s winningest coach but resigned after his team went 4-8 in 2008. He became defensive coordinator at San Diego State before being promoted to Aztecs head coach in 2011.

Now Meyer and Long will meet again. If San Diego State beats Ohio State today, it will be a much bigger upset than the one New Mexico pulled 10 years ago.

The good vibes the Aztecs felt after winning their final seven games of the 2012 regular season evaporated with a stunning 40-19 loss in their opener at home against Eastern Illinois, a Football Championship Subdivision team.

But Meyer has considerable respect for Long and his style of football.

“Very tough, physical, believes in pounding the ball,” Meyer said. “On defense a very creative, disruptive style, and that hasn’t changed.”

Asked this week about the notion that he’d outcoached Meyer’s Utah team a decade ago, Long was dismissive.

“That’s a fallacy, that we outschemed them,” Long told the U-T San Diego newspaper. “It’s funny how different coaches see those things differently.

“I have yet to see a coach win a football game. Players have to execute your schemes. I didn’t have anything to do with beating Urban Meyer that day. That was all the players.”

Long’s players let him down last week. The offense faltered after star running back Adam Muema was lost to an ankle sprain, and quarterback Adam Dingwell threw four interceptions. The offensive line struggled and the secondary was picked on.

For its part, Ohio State was far from flawless in the final three quarters in its opener. After taking a 23-0 lead against Buffalo, the Buckeyes meandered through the rest of the game.

But OSU coaches believe the adversity will serve them well.

Right after the game, defensive coordinator Luke Fickell acknowledged that he was somewhat disappointed with his unit’s play.

“Of course, you’d love to have a zero up there,” Fickell said. “But as I collected my thoughts last night, I said that I hope we have some adversity because I want to see what kind of guys we’ve got.”

Against Buffalo, the young defense was without suspended cornerback Bradley Roby, injured safety C.J. Barnett, and, for a large chunk of the game because of cramps, junior linebacker Ryan Shazier.

All three will play against San Diego State. Roby has the coverage ability to give the rest of defense more flexibility with its schemes.

“Bradley will definitely make a difference, not just with his play but with his confidence, that little bit of a swagger he has,” Fickell said.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes want to build on their fast start against Buffalo.

Coaches hope that center Corey Linsley can play more than the 17 snaps he did last week before being pulled as a precautionary measure because of a lingering foot issue. The Buckeyes also want to see sophomore Taylor Decker rebound from a shaky starting debut at right tackle.


brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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