Dear Coach Meyer: I realize you are quite busy preparing your team for its very first road game of the season, heading up to East Lansing, Michigan to take on the Michigan State Spartans. And I also realize that you have never faced the Michigan State Spartans as a head coach, through all of your years at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida, and now Ohio State.
Complicating this trip for you is the fact that your last trip to East Lansing, albeit as an assistant for Notre Dame, did not end well. And many Ohio State fans with an understanding of history would have to admit that there have been some dubious endings to games versus the Spartans in their home stadium.
While it is easy to focus upon the negatives, I believe it is also important to focus upon Ohio State’s most recent visits to East Lansing against the Spartans. Here are a few pieces of advice or reminders you may wish to follow as you prepare the Buckeyes for this important Big Ten opener against Michigan State:
●Focus Upon The Return Game – I actually feel foolish for mentioning this to you, as I realize that, like your predecessor, you place a tremendous amount of importance upon special teams. But do you know what happened recently when Ohio State played at Michigan State in terms of returns?
In 2004, Ohio State was facing a transition year, losing starting quarterback Craig Krenzel to graduation. Coach Tressel tabbed Justin Zwick as the starter for the beginning of the season, but Zwick suffered a shoulder separation injury in a gruesome October loss at Iowa, opening the door for Troy Smith to become the starter.
Oh yeah, I’m sorry. You’re right, I am starting to stray from the point.
Well, with Smith maturing into the starting quarterback position, Ohio State needed someone else on the team to serve as a spark to get Ohio State back on a winning track.
Enter Ted Ginn, Jr. Ginn had begun making plays as a true freshman, but the game at Michigan State truly seemed to show off his abilities. Check out this punt return that played a big part in Ohio State’s 2004 victory over Michigan State, 32-19.
Just to show that this was not a one-time thing, Ohio State returned to Michigan State in 2006. By this time, Troy Smith had developed into the leader of a potent Ohio State offense, featuring not only Ginn, but also Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Robiskie, Antonio Pittman, and Chris Wells. Click on this link to see how Ginn scored on an even more impressive punt return in this game than his 2004 return was, as well as how dominant Ohio State was over Michigan State in the 38-7 victory.
●Rely Upon Your Defensive Front For A Big Play – Again, I understand that one cannot expect a punt return for a touchdown in every contest. I do believe a strong defensive unit can come up with a big play or plays to make a difference.
The very last time Ohio State visited East Lansing to play the Spartans was during the 2008 season. Coach Tressel had decided to bench Todd Boeckman, so true freshman Terrelle Pryor was extremely raw in his understanding of Ohio State’s offense.
Fortunately for Ohio State, Pryor’s athleticism running the ball, a touchdown pass to Brian Robiskie, and the running of Chris Wells helped to stake Ohio State to a big lead. The exclamation points of this victory were the fumble recoveries for touchdowns by Thaddeus Gibson and Jermale Hines, as Ohio State routed Michigan State in East Lansing, 45-7. Click on this link to see for yourself.
Safe travels to you and the team up to East Lansing. I look forward to seeing if this year’s team will use any of the means and methods that helped Ohio State win against Michigan State in recent contests staged in East Lansing.