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Ohio State

Deep-seated memories of The Game inspire Meyer

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    The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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    Slug: SPT osufb8p The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth Caption: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches the action against Nebraska Saturday, 10/06/12, in Columbus, Ohio.

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COLUMBUS — At the most fun­da­men­tal level, there are two types of sea­sons at Ohio State.

Depends on how the Buck­eyes do against Mich­i­gan.

“It’s ev­ery­thing,” right tackle Reid Fra­gel said on Mon­day. “We’ll be re­mem­bered by this week, and this week only, I feel like.”

Fra­gel was just ad­her­ing to the com­pany line.

The at­ti­tude starts from the top.

Think Ur­ban Meyer is en­er­gized for his first time lead­ing Ohio State against Mich­i­gan on Satur­day?

As fourth-ranked OSU places its per­fect sea­son on the line, the new Buck­eyes coach made it clear he’s been pre­par­ing his en­tire life for this op­por­tu­nity.

Born in Toledo and raised in Ash­t­ab­ula, Meyer, 48, grew up in the throes of The Ten Year War, when Woody and Bo were king and noth­ing seemed to mat­ter more ev­ery au­tumn than his Buck­eyes beat­ing Mich­i­gan.

“This is all I know,” Meyer said. “It’s all any­body knew. In the era when I grew up, there re­ally wasn’t much other than three chan­nels on your tele­vi­sion and this game. It was Bo Schem­bech­ler, Woody Hayes, Pete John­son, Ar­chie Grif­fin. I re­mem­ber the games. I re­mem­ber it com­ing down the pipe. I re­mem­ber ev­ery­body talk­ing about it. In­cred­i­ble mem­o­ries.”

Now he’s liv­ing it and, like Jim Tres­sel be­fore him, ex­alt­ing this game as The Game.

Meyer wants his play­ers to live the ri­valry. His staff con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion of hold­ing Mich­i­gan pe­ri­ods dur­ing train­ing camp, posted signs through­out the Woody Hayes Ath­letic Center in­struct­ing, “Beat That Team Up North,” pro­hib­ited blue at­tire at the fa­cil­ity (Meyer has asked guests at prac­tice to leave and change), and barred play­ers from pub­licly re­fer­ring to their ri­val by name.

There was even a poster board in the foot­ball fa­cil­ity ear­lier this year that tweaked Mich­i­gan’s ac­a­demic rep­u­ta­tion. Head­lined “Ma­jor Com­par­i­son: Ohio State vs. The Team Up North,” the sign noted OSU’s foot­ball pro­gram had an 8-0 edge in busi­ness ma­jors, an 8-2 lead in en­gi­neer­ing ma­jors, and a steep def­i­cit in “gen­eral stud­ies” ma­jors.

Meyer learned first-hand of the ri­valry’s de­fin­ing — and all-con­sum­ing — na­ture as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant un­der his men­tor, Earle Bruce.

In 1987, a sea­son that be­gan with the Buck­eyes ranked fifth na­tion­ally fell apart. They lost three straight be­fore Pres­i­dent Edward Jen­nings, de­fy­ing the wishes of ath­letic di­rec­tor Rick Bay, fired Bruce the Mon­day be­fore the Mich­i­gan game.

Meyer re­called en­ter­ing an un­usu­ally quiet fa­cil­ity as he re­ported for a coaches meet­ing that day.

“Rick Bay was leaned up against the wall, looked at me and said, ‘Close the door. Are you the last one?’” Meyer said. “I said, ‘Yes, yes sir.’ As I sat down, I saw a bunch of coaches with their arms on the ta­ble, with their faces in their arms, and tears and the whole deal. [Bay] said that coach Bruce will no lon­ger be the coach af­ter this game, and I have re­signed as ath­letic di­rec­tor.”

Bruce, who was 81-26-1 in 10 sea­sons at OSU, then met with his play­ers. He de­cided to stay aboard for one fi­nal chance to beat Mich­i­gan.

“Coach comes into the meet­ing room, and he just starts cry­ing,” said line­backer Derek Isa­man, a Fre­mont Ross grad­u­ate. “Ev­ery­one was stunned. He tells us he’s been let go and the most im­por­tant thing to him was to beat Mich­i­gan. That said a lot about his char­ac­ter and him as a coach. He was ob­vi­ously crushed. He didn’t have a place to go, yet his main goal that week was to beat the team up north.”

With the play­ers wear­ing “Earle” head­bands, the 5-4-1 Buck­eyes up­set Mich­i­gan 23-20 in Ann Ar­bor. Meyer watched from the press box as play­ers car­ried Bruce off the field.

“Just an in­cred­i­ble mo­ment in Ohio State his­tory,” Meyer said.

“Gets the goose­bumps go­ing just talk­ing about it,” said Isa­man, who now lives in Leb­a­non and works as a re­lay plan­ner for a truck­ing com­pany.

Isa­man said Bruce’s pas­sion for the ri­valry “def­i­nitely rubbed off on” Meyer, who a gen­er­a­tion later wants to push aside Mich­i­gan just as badly.

“It's elec­tric in here when you start talk­ing about this game,” Meyer said Mon­day, stand­ing at the front of the team meet­ing room. “Will we be de­fined by this one game? You usu­ally are. Regard­less of what hap­pens, this is the game. Our kids know that.”

MILLER HONORED: OSU’s Brax­ton Miller was named one of three fi­nal­ists for the Davey O’Brien Award given to the na­tion’s top quar­ter­back. The soph­o­more joins se­nior Collin Klein of Kan­sas State and fresh­man Johnny Man­ziel of Texas A&M. The win­ner will be an­nounced Dec. 6.

Con­tact David Briggs at:


419-724-6084, or on

Twit­ter @DBriggsBlade.


Slug: SPT osufb8p The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth Caption: Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches the action against Nebraska Saturday, 10/06/12, in Columbus, Ohio.

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