Ohio State's game against San Diego State on Saturday will match a pair of old Mountain West Conference coaching rivals. In fact, Aztecs coach Rocky Long handed Urban Meyer his last loss at Utah — Long's New Mexico Lobos thumping the then-No. 23 Utes 47-35 in 2003.
"He's a very tough guy, and I've got a lot of respect for him," Meyer said of the 63-year-old Long, who led the Lobos from 1998-2008. "They got after us pretty good. Our defense took a beating that day that I'm not sure I can remember us taking before."
So can Long tap the same well a decade later? The coach laughed.
"That's a fallacy that we out-schemed Meyer once before," Long said. "I have yet to see a coach win a football game. I've never seen a coach win a football game? Have you seen a coach win a football game? I've seen players win football games. Sometimes you give them a better scheme than others for them to have success. ... I've seen some unbelievable schemes that made teams look really terrible on gameday. It's about the players."
In that case, Long knows his Aztecs will be in for a long day if they don't take an outsized step forward from their season-opening 40-19 loss to Eastern Illinois of Division I's second tier.
"[Ohio State] might be the best team in the country," Long said. "They're as good as anyone else I've seen on film the last three years."
Here's more from Long:
On slowing quarterback Braxton Miller:
"I've watched all their film from last year and their one game this year, and there's a whole bunch of good players on that team. There's so many that the only one everyone knows the name of is the quarterback. They put two freshmen in there (running backs Dontre Wilson and Ezekiel Elliot) that were as fast or faster than anybody I've seen on a football team. They have a whole bunch of good players. So we don't design our defense around [one player]. We do at times. We try to take away a receiver if he's the guy who catches all the passes. Or we try to take away a running back at times if he's going to carry it 50 times. But Ohio State has too many good players for us to do anything but just try to scheme and try to put our players in the best position. It has nothing to do with who the players are because everyone of them is good."
On OSU's offense against Buffalo:
"I think they made some executional mistakes that prevented them from scoring 60 or 70 points. I don't think it was anything strategic that Buffalo was doing. Now, I think Buffalo played hard and they played well. They competed, and whenever you compete and stay in the game, you have a chance to win."
"I think he's one of the top five coaches in the country. I think there's a lot of good coaches in the country, and a lot of us try hard to do our jobs the very best. But there are a few coaches that have what I call 'magic.' They have a special feel or touch that makes their team a little better than other teams that have similar talent. And now he's at a place where he has really good talent. So he's a great coach, and he's got talent with a little bit of special magic."