Fitting the blueprint

Meyer wins another league opener with physical defense, just enough offense

Updated: September 30, 2012, 4:28 PM ET
By Austin Ward | BuckeyeNation

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The conferences have changed a few times, but the basic philosophies have remained.

Urban Meyer wants a physical, aggressive defense no matter which league he's coaching in. There wasn't much doubt the Ohio State coach had one with him at Michigan State.

He stresses special teams and flipping field position, and the Buckeyes delivered on that as well on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer, Braxton Miller
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer celebrates after his first Big Ten victory as Ohio State coach.
And while Meyer might like to put up a few more points with his spread offense than he saw in a 17-16 slugfest with the Spartans, there's obviously one other important detail that he won't be compromising as he gets comfortable in the Big Ten. As long as his team has at least one more point than the opponent, there won't be any complaining.

"Oh no," Meyer said. "Our plan to win is to play great defense. We've got to score more points on offense, but that was a good defense.

"I do like a 70 [on the scoreboard] every once in a while."

The Buckeyes weren't even close to that against a stingy Spartans defense, but that didn't change the outcome. Just as Ohio State has done seemingly every week, it made enough plays on offense, defense and special teams to stay unbeaten -- and Meyer is not really worried about style points as the team nears the midway point of his first season.

A defensive unit that has had its share of tackling issues buckled down and bottled up the most productive rusher in the league, pressured the quarterback and gave up just one offensive touchdown. The special-teams groups that were so inconsistent a week ago finally broke through for the blocked punt Meyer has been longing for all season.

And while there wasn't an abundance of highlight-reel material for the Buckeyes on offense and Meyer could have done without quarterback Braxton Miller's three turnovers, he still had the right formula overall to keep his career record perfect when making his first appearance in a new league. Although the Buckeyes would certainly like to tweak the offensive part as the equation as they move forward and start preparing for another stiff test this week at home against Nebraska.

"We may not necessarily be at the peak of the roller coaster every minute of every game, but when we have to win a game, we go win it," center Corey Linsley said. "Obviously his offenses are known to put up more points and we absolutely should have. Everybody always says it, but we've just got to be more consistent.

"I feel like we tried to beat ourselves in this game some of the time, and we still came out a winner. Where we could be, it's awesome -- it's a great feeling to know you could be so much better than this."

The offense isn't the only unit that can still make some improvements moving forward, either.

The only touchdown allowed was a carryover from an earlier issue as OSU tacklers went for big hits or strips instead of bringing a guy to the ground, and the specialists were hit with a couple more notable penalties.

But for starters, there was nothing wrong with the result for the Buckeyes.

"This was a war -- two sledgehammers going at each other," Meyer said. "I know the Big Ten has taken some heat, but that was a great game, great atmosphere, a bunch of great players on the field who are going to be playing at the next level.

"That was good for college football and good for the Big Ten."

Meyer is no stranger to the former. Now he has successfully introduced his approach to the latter.

Austin Ward | email

Ohio State/Big Ten reporter