Ohio State coach Urban Meyer wary of Penn State defense

Posted: October 23, 2012

Ohio State's Urban Meyer sounded Monday like the unhappiest 8-0 coach in college football.

Sure, the Buckeyes have an impressive record. But they have won regulation games by seven, one, and three points. On Saturday, they forced overtime on a touchdown pass and two-point toss by backup quarterback Kenny Guiton with three seconds to play, and won in the extra period over Purdue.

So forgive Meyer, Ohio State's first-year head man, if he's not jumping for joy entering the Buckeyes' showdown against Penn State (5-2, 3-0 Big Ten) on Saturday evening at Beaver Stadium.

At his weekly news conference Monday in Columbus, Meyer said he had "several handfuls of guys that haven't contributed."

"I think the biggest thing is that some guys have got to step up," he said. "I'm just disappointed. My gosh, what are you waiting for? Let's go, man. You come to Ohio State to go play. You don't come here to watch your team win a game like [Saturday against Purdue] and sing the fight song afterward. You go to be a part of it. We still have far too much of that right now."

Still, the Buckeyes managed to get the big plays when needed. With Heisman Trophy hopeful Braxton Miller having been knocked out in the third quarter, Guiton came on and hit the clutch 2-yard TD pass to Chris Fields and a two-point pass to Jeff Heuerman for the tie, and led Ohio State to a touchdown on the first series of overtime for the win.

Miller, a sophomore who is second in the Big Ten in total offense, was checked out at a campus hospital for a concussion and possible neck and shoulder injuries, but Meyer said all tests came back negative. He said the quarterback has a sore neck but is expected at Tuesday's practice.

Saturday's game pits the final two unbeaten teams in the Leaders Division, neither of which is eligible for the Dec. 1 Big Ten championship game because of NCAA sanctions.

Meyer said he had watched video of the Nittany Lions defense and is impressed by what he has seen.

"I have great admiration for Penn State," he said. "They beat us at our home stadium last year. So make no mistakes. I know maybe when you have a new staff, you have a couple of things happen. But this is still Penn State.

"I know there's going to be some tough sanctions against them. I don't really understand all of them. But the minute you say 'woe to Penn State' . . . Penn State's got great football players playing very well right now. They're very well-coached. So I made that clear to our team that they're on point right now."

Meyer is particularly impressed with linebacker Michael Mauti, who was recruited by Meyer when he was coach at Florida.

"I recruited him really hard at Florida and loved him as a high school athlete," he said. "When I was at ESPN, I went up and talked to him. He's a tough guy, a leader. I love his family. He's playing his tail off after a knee injury. He's got that type of [leadership] personality."

Meyer also has coached against quarterback Matt McGloin, who played perhaps the most forgettable game of his career in the 2011 Outback Bowl with five interceptions in the Nittany Lions' loss to the Gators.

"He's much improved," Meyer said. "He's always been a very accurate passer, but the guys around him are playing much better."

Meyer said he will prepare his team this week for the expected waves of noise coming from the Beaver Stadium "whiteout." He said his coaches told him "it's the loudest place in the Big Ten to play."

"When you go on the road," he said, "you pack your defense and don't turn the ball over and be smart."

Butkus Award candidates. Mauti and fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges were named as semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given annually to the nation's top linebacker. Penn State was the only school to have more than one semifinalist on the list of 12. Finalists will be announced Nov. 20. The two players lead a defense that ranks second in the Big Ten in points allowed and rushing defense.

Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow @joejulesinq on Twitter.

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