Saturday, September 20, 2003

Buckeyes vulnerable to an upset


QB Harris, TB Pope key offense for undefeated Bowling Green

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - A few months ago, suggesting that Ohio State might lose today to Bowling Green sounded silly. The defending national champion, returning its team nearly intact, would be playing at home against a Mid-American Conference team. It hasn't lost to a school currently in the MAC since falling to Akron 12-6 . . . in 1894.

Yet that was before the Buckeyes suspended star tailback Maurice Clarett for the season. Before their running game dried up. Before quarterback Craig Krenzel hurt his elbow.

And before the Falcons won on the road at Purdue, their first victory over a ranked opponent since 1972.

"We're trying to not let ourselves overlook this situation," Buckeyes tight end Ben Hartsock said.

Don't look now, but BGSU (3-0) has beaten its last six opponents from Bowl Championship Series conferences. It leads the nation in scoring and total offense, averaging 50.7 points and 573 yards. It's led by do-everything quarterback Josh Harris, a Columbus native eager to show up the big school that hardly noticed him in recruiting.

OSU (3-0) and its 17-game winning streak have never seemed so susceptible.

The Buckeyes' offensive average of 286 yards a game ranks 100th out of 117 Division I-A teams. Krenzel is considered doubtful and almost certainly won't start; he'll test his arm for the first time in warmups today. OSU is coming off a 32-carry, 44-yard rushing effort against North Carolina State, its worst since 1999.

The Buckeyes seem to have lost their aura of invincibility, as opponents arrive each week in Ohio Stadium ready to shock the world.

"Every week the bull's-eye gets bigger," cornerback Dustin Fox said. "We've got to bring our 'A' game every week."

Clearly, the setting is different from 1992, when BGSU's visit marked the first time since 1934 the Buckeyes had played an in-state opponent.

Then, OSU had its familiar stacked deck at tailback. The depth chart read, in order: Robert Smith, Butler By'not'e, Raymont Harris and Eddie George. All went on to have 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the NFL except By'not'e, who played defensive back in the pros. Kirk Herbstreit was the quarterback on that Buckeye team.

Today, OSU will run the suspect duo of Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross, and Scott McMullen probably will make just his second career start at quarterback.

The Buckeyes are averaging 102 yards rushing - last in the Big Ten - after averaging 191.3 last season.

BGSU's Harris, son of former Bengals receiver M.L. Harris, set a MAC record last season by accounting for 39 touchdowns. He threw for 2,425 yards and 19 TDs while running for 737 yards and 20 TDs. He is 48-of-76 passing for 750 yards and six TDs this season. Against Purdue, Harris threw for 357 yards and three scores, including the winning 32-yard pass on fourth-and-14 with 2:08 left.

The Falcons' starting tailback is sophomore P.J. Pope, a Wyoming High grad. He has rushed for 261 yards (6.4 avg.) and four TDs.

No. 5 Ohio State vs. Bowling Green

Kickoff: 12:10 p.m. today, Ohio Stadium (101,568), Columbus.

Records: OSU 3-0, BG 3-0.

TV: Ch. 12, 7.

Radio: WBOB-AM (1160), WPFB-AM (910).

Series: OSU leads 2-0.

Line: OSU by 14.

OSUTeam statsBG
286Offense avg.575.3
102Avg. by rush213
184Avg. by pass362.3
271.3Defense avg.302.7
18.7Avg. by rush97
252.7Avg. by pass205.7
29.3Avg. points for50.7
20Avg. pts. against14

---

E-mail nschmidt@enquirer.com




BENGALS / NFL
Steelers' rushing attack missing
Transcript of Friday's chat with Mark Curnutte
Isolation Booth: Hardy vs. Zereoue
Keys to victory: Special teams
Notes: James good to go vs. Steelers
Expectoration confrontation: Dolphins vs. Bills
NFL notebook

OHIO PREP FOOTBALL
Elder 42, La Salle 7
Moeller 10, St. Xavier 9
Princeton 62, Sycamore 28
McNicholas 44, Purcell Marian 36
Your audible game: Kings 40, Little Miami 0
Wyoming 54, Finneytown 8
Mariemont 47, Reading 14
Colerain 55, Fairfield 7
Alter 35, Roger Bacon 14
Friday's other Ohio games

KENTUCKY PREP FOOTBALL
Conner 24, Boone Co. 9
Dixie Heights 15, Ryle 13
Ludlow 28, Bellevue 12
Friday's other Kentucky games

MORE PREP SPORTS HEADLINES
Girls soccer paves way to life goals
Quarterback leads win after father/coach dies
Cross country polls, honor rolls
Friday's other prep sports results
Today's schedule

COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Ohio State 24, Bowling Green 17
Fast start has UC in unfamiliar spot
Buckeyes vulnerable to an upset
Indiana will run; UK likely to throw
QB battle highlights MU's date with Rams
Friday: UNLV 33, Hawaii 22
Today's Top 25 games

REDS / BASEBALL
Take our poll on Great American Ball Park
Phillies 7, Reds 3
Larkin doubtful for rest of season
Notes: Stinnett enjoying playoff race
Major-league notebook
NL: Braves' Ortiz notches 20th win of season
AL: Yanks' Soriano ties leadoff HR record

XAVIER HOOPS
A-10 poised for expansion

WORLD CUP SOCCER
As World Cup play opens, Americans antsy to begin

ON THE AIR
Sports on TV, radio