The selection for the Jack Tatum Hit of the Week award was slightly different this week.
Normally given to the biggest hit delivered to a ballcarrier, the honor is given each week by popular vote: the coaching staff shows several nominees from the previous week’s game, and the one that garners the loudest applause takes home the prize.
Following the Akron game, Doug Worthington took home the top honor for his performance during the second play of the second half – but he was not the one who got all the initial acclaim.
Facing a second-and-five situation from his own 24-yard line, Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain dropped back to pass and was buried behind the line by junior linebacker James Laurinaitis. The resulting 10-yard loss brought up third-and-15, and another sack – this one by defensive end Vernon Gholston – forced yet another Akron punt.
But Laurinaitis got his sack because of the play of Worthington who, lined up at defensive tackle, floored the opposing guard and opened the hole for the reigning Nagurski Award winner to make the play.
“The linebackers come right behind me, and I kind of caught him off-guard a little bit and he fell back,” Worthington said. “It looked pretty nice on film. I kind of got under the guard and picked him up a little bit and tossed him on his back.”
Head coach Jim Tressel said Worthington was the “landslide victor” for the award. For that, he likely has the Buckeyes’ offensive line to thank.
The first players to greet him when he got off the field were the team’s offensive linemen, he said.
“We voted for him,” sophomore center Jim Cordle said. “He just bullrushed. The play, he just punched the guy, drove him back and ran right over him. Doug was providing the pressure. We voted for him because that’s what we’ve had to go through all of camp when he’s been bullrushing us.”
The play apparently even took Worthington by surprise.
“Real-time, I thought we just tripped over each other and he just fell down, but it looked a lot better on film,” he said.
The Buckeyes will be facing their first hostile crowd of the season with this weekend’s road contest against Washington. The game is one in a series of home-and-home match-ups Ohio State has scheduled during the coming seasons.
While the Buckeyes played in Austin, Texas, last season against the Longhorns and came away with a victory, junior offensive lineman Ben Person did not hesitate when asked which opposing environment is the most vicious.
“Penn State,” he immediately replied. “Ohio State’s more tamed because they have a tunnel you can walk out. We’re walking through their crowd, it’s like trying to walk off the field after the Michigan game, that’s getting from the locker room to the field at Penn State.
“You walk out of the locker room and there’s two little ropes holding these people back. Basically you walk by the concession stand out onto the field. People throw things like bottles and stuff at you.”
Keeping Him Around
They were roommates when both reported to campus as members of OSU’s class of 2005, and they have been close friends ever since.
That friendship between Worthington and tailback Maurice Wells apparently came in handy, then, following the 2006 season. Disappointed in seeing his role diminish as the season wore on, Wells began to consider transferring out of the program.
“As far as me wanting to transfer, that was mostly football-wise,” he said. “It was a football decision that I was thinking about.”
Worthington was aware of the toll it was taking on his teammate.
“It was weighing on him a lot,” Worthington said. “He has friends that want to see him do good. He’s a great player. He had a great high school career and he has great players around him here. It’s hard to be a great player and have great players and just have to compete so much.
“Me and him talked about it a lot, the best thing for him. I wanted him to be here. He’s one of my great friends, one of my best friends here. Me talking to him, I wouldn’t say it had a big impact but it helped a little.”
Partially due to the urging of Worthington, Wells opted to stick around at OSU. Through the first two games this season, Wells has gained 57 yards on 15 carries – an average of 3.8 yards per carry.
“I think I made the right decision by staying here,” he said.
Not A Good Beginning
Tressel’s ties to the Cleveland Browns have been well-documented. As a child growing up in northeast Ohio, Tressel shagged balls for NFL Hall of Fame kicker and former Brown Lou Groza.
As rumors swirled last season that current Browns head coach Romeo Crennel was to be fired, Tressel’s name was one floated as a possible replacement due to his allegiance to the franchise. Although he denied having any interest in the position, Tressel was asked on Tuesday for his thoughts on the Browns’ season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
On the team’s first possession, the Browns fumbled a punt and committed four penalties during the play. Tressel, himself a firm believer that the punt is the most important play in football, was less than impressed.
“I didn’t see that one, but that fits in with the column about the punt’s pretty important,” he said. “That’s a bad start. And so that could back up your feeling that the punt’s very important.”