Thursday, September 18, 2003

OSU ready for another Civil War


Bowling Green next for team that bends vs. in-state rivals

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - The idea seemed quaint at the time. Ohio State would invite in-state schools to come play in Ohio Stadium, where they'd thank the Buckeyes for a big paycheck and politely take a 40-point pounding.

But it hasn't worked out that way. The little guys keep throwing scares into Big Brother.

"A lot of kids grow up in Ohio wanting to play a game in the Horseshoe," OSU athletic director Andy Geiger said. "... The motivation to try to upset the Buckeyes is pretty great."

Saturday, perhaps the boldest threat yet arrives in a Bowling Green team (3-0) that leads the nation in total offense and has won at then-No. 16 Purdue.

"We're not going to tippy-toe into Columbus," Falcons coach Gregg Brandon said. "Our guys expect to win, and they're going to play like it."

Buckeye Nation has held its breath before for such games, but it's really amping up the dread this week over the potential of losing to an in-state sibling. The Columbus Dispatch suggested that a loss Saturday would be the program's darkest day since Woody Hayes slugged a Clemson player in the 1979 Gator Bowl.

Geiger dismisses the everything-to-lose, nothing-to-gain argument and welcomes tough opposition like BGSU could provide.

"Some year, we'll lose one" to an in-state school, he said. "We hope it's not this week. But there's no point if you don't have a contest. If we're afraid to play anyone, maybe we ought to take a look at our program."

OSU last lost to an Ohio team in 1921, 7-6 to Oberlin. After 1934, it didn't play another in-state foe until 1992.

It met Bowling Green that season, and the Falcons led 6-0 after 24 minutes and would fall just 17-6. Geiger arrived in 1994 and started scheduling Ohio schools regularly, beginning with the '97 season.

In '99, 43-point underdog Ohio led 10-3 after 28 minutes before falling 40-16. A week later, 32-point underdog Cincinnati stormed to a 17-3 lead and would total 525 yards in an eventual 34-20 loss.

In 2000, Miami trailed 20-16 late in the third quarter when it had an apparent touchdown waved off, and MU eventually fell 27-16. In 2001, Akron lost just 28-14.

Then, last year, came the biggest scare, when OSU visited Paul Brown Stadium and survived four throws into the end zone in the final minute for a 23-19 victory over UC.

Why are the Buckeyes playing in-state teams? After arranging home-and-home series with certain opponents, it looks for a few "buy" games - a one-time meeting in Ohio Stadium, in which it pays the visitor a guarantee of roughly $400,000 - to fill its schedule.

"I said to myself when I came here, if we're going to spend the money on guarantees, let's keep it in the state," Geiger said. "Most folks seem to appreciate the fact that we have some focus on the state of Ohio."

CLARETT TRIAL: Municipal Judge Steven B. Hayes, the son of Woody Hayes, has been assigned the case of suspended tailback Maurice Clarett. A pretrial hearing has been set for Oct. 3.

Cases are assigned to judges at random.

Clarett is charged with a misdemeanor count of falsification for allegedly overstating the value of items he listed on a theft report. Clarett's attorneys entered an innocent plea for him Monday.

Clarett's cousin and confidant, Vince Marrow, told reporters this week that Clarett will be at OSU when classes start next Wednesday and that "he wants to graduate."

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




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