Arizona familiar territory for Ohio State

Dec 31, 2016, 10:50 AM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The success of both Urban Meyer and Ohio State in Arizona is unparalleled.

Saturday marks Ohio State’s eighth visit to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, the most all time. The Buckeyes are 6-2 and haven’t lost in the game in 25 years.

This is Urban Meyer’s fifth visit to the desert since becoming a head coach in 2001. He has one regular season victory, two Fiesta Bowl wins and a BCS Championship victory.

He’s hoping to go five-for-five. He doesn’t want to hear about it, though.

“You’re the guy who says in the seventh inning, ‘Hey dude, you’ve got a no-hitter going,’” Meyer said with a laugh when asked about his perfect record in Arizona.

His history in the Grand Canyon state goes back to 2004, when he led Utah into Tucson for a regular season contest against Arizona. Both schools are now members of the Pac-12, but back then the Utes were part of the Mountain West Conference, and the Pac-12 was still known as the Pac-10.
Looking back on it at Fiesta Bowl Media Day Thursday, Meyer singled it out as a “tough game.” Score wise, though, Utah dominated. It jumped to a 17-3 first quarter lead before shutting out the Wildcats in the second half and winning 23-6.

The Utes would return to the state one more time that season. No. 5 Utah rang in the New Year with a 35-7 Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh. It was Meyer’s final game with Utah, turning down an extension in the offseason to sign with Florida.

Exactly two years and one week after his first bowl appearance in Arizona, Meyer returned to the Valley with the Gators to coach in the first-ever BCS National Championship Game. He laughed when reminded that this game was against his current school, Ohio State. Meyer dominated the then-undefeated Buckeyes as Florida ran away with a 41-14 championship victory.

Last season, the Buckeyes and Meyer were back in Arizona, but this time, they were together. Meyer led 12-1 Ohio State to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame.

The Buckeyes are re confident they can do it again this year. Defensive end Sam Hubbard pointed out that they’re in the same hotel and the same city as last year; the main difference is the practice field. After preparing for last year’s game at Pinnacle High School, this year they’re at Notre Dame Prep, just outside McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

“Guys in our pre-practice, in our stretch lines, were like, ‘Man look at that mountain over there,’” linebacker Chris Worley said. “We weren’t this close to the mountains at the last place.”

Winning breeds a fan base, and it’s not just the players who are excited for the Fiesta Bowl.

Past success in the Valley has helped the Phoenix branch of the Ohio State Fan Club blossom vice president Courtney Angelo said at a club meet-and-greet event on Thursday.

“There’s always been a big draw for the Midwest to Phoenix and to Scottsdale,” she said, “and then having so many Fiesta Bowl games here has certainly helped the matter.”

Club president Kevin Fox said that there are between 2,000 and 2,500 local members, and that approximately 6,000 people who had either graduated or attended Ohio State for some period of time lived in the area.

They’ll be watching and hoping the team – and Urban Meyer – can bring home its sixth Fiesta Bowl trophy. Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck, who coached at Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School in the 1990s, laughed when asked about Meyer’s record in the state, but called it “no lucky t-shirt.”

“(Meyer) prepares the coaches and the teams really well for games,” Beck said. “You get more time to work. Usually he does a great job with that.”

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