COLUMBUS — Fifteen years ago, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer was in the same position as Bowling Green coach Mike Jinks, who will lead the Falcons into Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
In 2001, like Jinks, Meyer was in his first season as BGSU’s football coach. He’d never been a college head coach before. And for his first game, he had to play a school from one of college football’s elite conferences.
The 2001 Bowling Green team opened its season at Missouri and came away with a 20-13 win.
Playing against the school where he got his start as a head coach took Meyer down memory lane during his first weekly press conference of this season on Monday.
“We had, I think, 50 some players make the travel team. We were allowed to take 70. We didn’t have 70 players,” Meyer said about his opener at Bowling Green.
“We sat there on the plane in Columbia, Missouri, and I looked at (his wife) Shelley and said, ‘What if we lose every game we play?’ She said, ‘I bet you win tomorrow.’ I looked at her and I said, ‘We have no chance of winning this game tomorrow.’
‘But something happened in the middle of the night. I remember waking up and our staff and our players thought they’d win it, and they did,” Meyer said.
Meyer was 17-6 in two seasons at Bowling Green before being hired at Utah.
The Falcons have won 28 games over the last three seasons and were 10-4 last season, including wins at Maryland and at Purdue. They have 12 starters back from that team, not including quarterback James Knapke, who threw for 3,173 yards as the starter two years ago.
But Bowling Green’s program was not in such a good place when Meyer arrived. The Falcons were coming off a 2-9 season and had gone 5-6 and 5-6 the two years before that.
One of Meyer’s first moves was to institute stringent workouts that led to 20 or more players leaving the program.
He remembered how some of the players were dressed for the first of those workouts.
” So I walk in the first workout, they’re in Budweiser T-shirts, stuff like that. Obviously that’s not going to make it real well with us. So I started going berserk like I do. We didn’t have the money to have the workout gear. Everybody’s wearing different colored shoes,” he said.
Those who stayed went 8-3 in 2001 and 9-3 in 2002. And Meyer’s career was launched.
GIBSON SUSPENDED: Ohio State redshirt freshman wide receiver Torrance Gibson has been suspended from school for the fall semester for what was called a violation of the university’s code of conduct.
Meyer said the suspension was not an athletic department or football decision. “I disagree with it,” he said.
Offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said he hopes Gibson, who started his OSU career as a quarterback, can return.
“I hope the best for Torrance,” he said. “He is an awesome young man, we love him, he’s worked hard here and I hope everything works out where he can someday be a Buckeye again and play for us.”
NEW KICKER (AGAIN): Tyler Durbin, a senior walk-on who has never kicked in a college game, will be Ohio State’s kicker on Saturday because No. 1 kicker Sean Nuernberger has a groin injury.
Durbin played two years of soccer at James Madison University before walking on as OSU last year.
Meyer called Durbin “a tremendous talent” and said he kicked a 62-yard field goal during training camp.
He did not seem too familiar with Durbin, though, saying, “Tyler Durbin. That’s his name, right? Tyler Durbin?” to football sports information director Jerry Emig at one point during his discussion of the Buckeyes’ kicking game.
MORE ON INJURIES: Tight end Marcus Baugh and linebacker Jerome Baker have been “dinged up,” Meyer said, but were expected to return to practice on Monday.
URBAN OPTIMISTIC ON TEBOW: Meyer’s former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has a workout scheduled for major league scouts today in Los Angeles, which he hopes will lead to a chance to play professional baseball.
Scouts contacted by the Las Vegas Journal Review were not optimistic about his chances, but Meyer disagreed.
“No shot,” one scout said. Another’s assessment was, “If his swing was any longer it would take out the first row.”
Meyer called Tebow “an incredible baseball player.”
“I kind of knew a while back. We chatted. He visited here. This actually has been in the works. He’s been thinking about it for a while. This didn’t just happen overnight.
“I’m very biased and everyone knows that. But don’t count him out,” Meyer said.
The last time Tebow played baseball was as a junior in high school in 2005. He hit .494 and was an All-Florida selection.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.