Saturday, September 18, 2004

Budding rivalry not only on field

No.9 Ohio State at N.C. State

By Jon Spencer
Mansfield News Journal

COLUMBUS - Last year's triple-overtime epic between the Buckeyes and Wolfpack became an ESPN "Instant Classic."

But that doesn't make this two-game miniseries between the schools an instant rivalry.

Or does it?

Today's rematch in Raleigh features two teams that went at it for 4 hours, 17 minutes last season - with OSU prevailing 44-38 in triple-overtime - and two coaches who have clashed on the recruiting trail.

N.C. State coach Chuck Amato admits he lost out to OSU counterpart Jim Tressel for wide receiver Santonio Holmes. But the Wolfpack have four players on their roster who at one time had designs on playing for Ohio State.

Sophomore offensive tackle Derek Morris, who might miss the game with a sprained ankle, originally signed with OSU but failed to clear all academic hurdles before being released from his letter of intent.

Junior halfback Tramain Hall, who made nine catches against the Buckeyes last season, played a year of high school ball in Dayton (following his prep coach north from Florida) and considered OSU after junior college when the Atlantic Coast Conference ordered him to sit out a year before he could play for the Pack. Hall could have played right away for Ohio State.

"I had feelings for Ohio State, but I had to leave them go," Hall said. "I'm hyped up for this game. You want to show the school you almost went to what they missed out on."

That probably goes double for freshman wide receiver DuJuan Morgan. A high school state sprint champ, he committed to Ohio State but his scholarship offer was mysteriously withdrawn.

Another wideout, sophomore Richard Washington, verbally committed to OSU but changed his mind and signed with N.C. State. Washington caught five passes in last year's game.

"Yeah, I think it does feel like a rivalry," OSU linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "They're going to play hard against us after what happened last year."

The Pack will put more veterans on the field today, but that doesn't necessarily tilt things in their favor. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who guided last year's fourth-quarter comeback against OSU from a 24-7 disadvantage, has moved on to the NFL's San Diego Chargers.

The Series

Last year's 44-38 triple-OT Ohio State victory was the first meeting between the schools. Ohio State is 8-6 against teams now playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. N.C. State is 12-24 against the Big Ten.

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