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Ohio State football: Urban Meyer Penn State press conference recap

Urban Meyer spoke to the media gathered at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Monday afternoon to talk about this past weekend's closer-than-expected Iowa game and the big rivalry game against Penn State looming.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes held their weekly press conference at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where head coach Urban Meyer, offensive line coach Ed Warinner, and defensive line coach Mike Vrabel spoke to the media about the tough homecoming game against Iowa, as well as the team's preparations for 14-point underdog Penn State.

Against the Hawkeyes, 18 players graded out as champions. Quarterback Braxton Miller, guards Marcus Hall and Andrew Norwell, tackle Jack Mewhort, tight end Jeff Heuerman, wide receivers Evan Spencer, Devin Smith, and Corey Brown, and running back Carlos Hyde were named offensive champions. Miller and Norwell were named the team's co-offensive players of the game.

Meanwhile on defense, cornerback Doran Grant was the only Buckeye to grade out a champion. Kicker Drew Basil, who contributed nine points in the victory, was named a special teams champion, along with Devan Bogard.

Meyer called the game one of the more physical games he's coached, likening the two Big Ten schools to sledgehammers colliding. Despite the team's inability to move the ball in the first half, Meyer praised his team by saying that the second half was some of best football the team has played in quite some time.

"Our guys are sore. It was a tough, physical game. Two sledgehammers going at each other." - Urban Meyer

Through seven games, the Buckeyes are ranked 20th in the nation in total offense and 15th in total defense, but that hasn't come without some bumps along the road. Two weeks ago, the Buckeyes lost emotional leader Christian Bryant to a broken ankle. This week, the team was without star cornerback Bradley Roby, when he was ejected from the game after being flagged for targeting.

"For two weeks in a row, we've had to deal with some adversity. Christian Bryant's injury to getting our best player ejected from the game." - Urban Meyer

Despite the fact that they've had to overcome adversity a number of times this season, Meyer said he was very concerned with the defensive unit's play against the Hawkeyes. Meyer added that one downside of having a struggling group of defensive backs is that it's very glaring. Meyer noted that the depth of the unit is not where he expects it to be, but that's on the coaches to coach better and players to play better.

"The adjustments need to be made quicker when they show us something we haven't seen. The first three drives were alarming." - Urban Meyer

Meyer said that the defense tends to sit back and then react when the opponent throws something new at them. Meyer said that he'd prefer to play more aggressively, but notes that sometimes the opponent's schemes do not allow that.

To the officials, Bradley Roby's hit on tight end CJ Fiedorowicz seemed like an aggressive play. However, Meyer feels the NCAA may want to take another look  at the targeting rule. Meyer says he agrees with the rule 100%, but disagreed with the referee's opinion of Roby's intent.

"Ohio State is very concerned about player safety. We've gone to the nth degree to adjust practice and any rules for player safety, we're supportive. However, that was a game changer. To take one of your better players away..." - Urban Meyer

Meyer said nothing but bad things happen when you play with your head down, giving just as much of the blame to the receiver as Roby. Meyer felt that Roby made the correct play, but the helmet-to-helmet contact was what drew the flag.

"That rule was not made for that play." - Urban Meyer

When the Buckeyes went into halftime trailing the Hawkeyes, 17-10, Meyer said Philly Brown approached him and wanted to speak to the team. Called the absolute, unquestioned leader of the team, Philly was said to have lit a spark under the team.

"Philly is the absolute, unquestioned leader of this team. I'd say he's one of the top two or three leaders." - Urban Meyer

This week, the Buckeyes take on Penn State, who beat the Buckeyes in their last visit to Ohio Stadium. The Nittany Lions are coming off a bye week, as the Buckeyes are in the midst of four straight opponents with a week off. Meyer called final night game of the season, save for the Big Ten Championship or bowl game, an opportunity to shine in front of the entire country.

Meyer hopes that Braxton Miller is able to continue to play at the level he did against Iowa, calling it the best game Miller has played this season. Meyer said that Miller was very efficient, but still needs to work on not putting the ball on the ground. Miller fumbled once against the Hawkeyes, but the offense was able to recover.

Overall, Meyer is happy with the progress and chemistry of his team thus far this season. In symmetry with the first BCS standings of the season being released, Meyer said that the team held it's first State of the Union address on Sunday. Meyer said that it's the first time the team talks about the polls, bowl prospects, and how they feel they stack up against the other teams in the nation.

Meyer said he feels as if his team is in the mix for the BCS, but he doesn't feel that should be the team's worry, as it is out of their hands.

"You just have to go out and be the best team on Saturday, not in the country." - Urban Meyer

Offensive line coach Ed Warinner says he's very happy with the play of his unit. However, the players are never satisfied and never pat themselves on the back after a win.

Warinner noted that Taylor Decker has exceeded the staff's expectations and Marcus Hall is a completely different player than he was last season. The improvement from the two have given the offense the ability to be very balanced, with equal running opportunities to the outside as opposed to runs up the middle.

Unlike Warinner, defensive line coach Mike Vrabel was not pleased with the way his unit played against Iowa.

"Call it what it is. They beat the shit out of us." - Mike Vrabel

Iowa's 13 play scoring drive to open the game took the air out of the team and the stadium, but Vrabel said he was pleased with the way his unit kept fighting after being kicked in the mouth. Vrabel called the defensive line a work in progress as they try to find a consistent rotation, but he likes his team's chances when they get an opponent in third and long.

Vrabel hopes that the coaches can dial up a little more pressure, but notes that it's also on the players to make things happen and impose their will. They'll need to get to the quarterback quickly this week, as they face likely-Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Penn State's Christian Hackenberg.

When asked why the Buckeyes seem to be getting every opponent's best effort, Vrabel said it's expected when you're Ohio State.

"When you're at Ohio State, no matter who you play, every game is big." - Mike Vrabel