Urban Meyer, Mark Helfrich ready for prize fight

DALLAS -- Mark Helfrich feels like he has made 15 opening statements over the course of all his news conferences for this postseason. It’s almost time to make the final one.

In their final news conference Sunday morning before Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T, Oregon’s Helfrich and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer offered parting thoughts on a matchup that’s going to demand their best.

“We talk quite often about when you have that opportunity to step into the batter’s box, you get one swing,” Meyer said. “You step into a prize fight, you get one swing, and the great champions don’t miss. That’s the mentality we’ve preached for many, many -- really, forever.”

When a reporter asked Meyer how Ohio State has changed its practices and preparation to adjust for the Ducks’ tempo, Helfrich quipped: “Be specific, please.”

“Next question,” Meyer responded before offering praise for the culture Oregon has built as a program and the Ducks’ propensity for doing everything fast.

“We have a lot of emphasis about defeating the demon, the demon that takes place when fatigue takes over, and that’s real, and that’s something we’ve addressed really hard,” Meyer said. “But ultimately, it comes down to those young guys out there playing tomorrow night.”

Meyer is more focused at the moment on what he calls the Buckeyes’ No. 1 concern for the title game: Marcus Mariota.

“I think he’s one of the finest that’s ever played the game, and that’s our biggest issue,” Meyer said.

Helfrich is looking forward to the Ducks’ time inside AT&T Stadium on Sunday. His veterans have played there before -- a season-opening loss to LSU in 2011 -- but he’d like the rest of his players to “get the oohs and ahhs out of the way so that doesn’t take place tomorrow night.”

On this, they can agree: Both teams had to overcome a potentially overwhelming number of setbacks this season -- beyond their lone losses -- to get to this final game. Meyer says that perseverance is the essence of the coaches’ jobs. You’re going to hit a few storms and find a way to survive.

“You already think you know your team pretty well, but when something bad happens, what’s next?” Helfrich said. “I think in both these situations, the players and certainly Coach Meyer and his staff have done a tremendous job.”

But the job isn’t over just yet. One day left, one game to go.