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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Urban Meyer flipped on the TV last Friday night to watch his alma mater in action.
What he saw when Cincinnati hosted Toledo, however, blew him away.
"I was kind of like probably most of the country, like, 'Whoa!'" Meyer, said of the aerial attack produced by quarterback Gunner Kiel and the Bearcats in what would turn out to be a 58-34 win over Toledo. "I thought it was going to be a 60-0 (game) and the kid was going to throw for 500 yards. They're really good."
No wonder the 23rd-ranked Buckeyes aren't exactly lounging around despite a bye this week. They're in full preparation mode for what they'll face when they entertain Cincinnati on Sept. 27 at Ohio Stadium.
This game is why Meyer tore apart his pass defense.
In the wake of two losses to end last season in which opponents threw at will while scoring more than 35 points each, Meyer hired new co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash and had him rebuild the way the Buckeyes defend against the pass.
There's been no opportunity to see it so far in the Buckeyes' two wins. And everybody on the roster played so poorly in the 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech in Week Two that it was hard to pin the blame on just one unit.
But now the Buckeyes will truly be unveiling their new defense against the pass.
"Oh, it's going to be a test," linebacker Darron Lee said. "What people will see is that our pass defense has come full circle. I wouldn't say (it's) a final exam because you've still got the rest of the season to go. But I'd say it's the first big test."
Ash saw the cushion the cornerbacks gave to the wide-outs for Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. For the past nine months the Buckeyes have worked on press coverage — the corners going man-to-man with the wide-outs.
Now that new philosophy runs face first into a pass-happy Cincinnati attack. Kiel completed 25 of 37 passes for 418 yards and six TDs in the win over Toledo. The Bearcats don't have this week off; they are heavy favorites at home against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
"We know that they're going to try and sling the rock on us," safety Tyvis Powell said. "That's why all week we've been focusing on pass defense, putting in new coverages and stuff like that."
Meyer, a Cincinnati grad in the class of1986, knows his team's newly configured defense must be on high alert. He concedes that the Bearcats' strength has been a weakness for the Buckeyes.
"Pass defense is going to be the call to arms," he said. "This is much different (than a typical) bye week. It's not like Week 8 where you've got fatigue issues and all of that. We have to be smart how we handle our business, but this is all about preparing for UC."
The Buckeyes say they're excited to see how their new approach matches up.
"For the secondary, this is big. Because this is the best quarterback with the best wide-receiver group we're going to see all season," Powell said. "This is the best time to show the fans that the pass defense has improved."
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