Although Ohio State’s game against USC is not until next week, that has not stopped the topic of the Trojans from coming up throughout the week prior to the Ohio game. Questions about not looking ahead to the Trojans far outnumbered what the Buckeyes expect from the Bobcats on Saturday at Ohio Stadium (noon, ESPN).
The topic will assuredly be covered ad nauseam next week, but senior linebacker Marcus Freeman pointed to one advantage the Buckeyes might have against the Trojans: the quarter system.
While USC’s players will be juggling coursework on top of preparing for the nation’s most-anticipated non-conference game of the year, the Buckeyes will have just the game to focus on. School does not begin at OSU until Sept. 24, meaning each Buckeye will have an entire week to do nothing but prepare for the game.
Chalk that up as an advantage for the Scarlet and Gray.
“Coaches often talk about it’s like being in the NFL,” Freeman said. “We get there early, watch film all day, work out, practice, watch film and then go home. I think we have an advantage over teams that are in school because we can watch a lot more film and learn a lot more things. We’ve got to use it for the best.”
USC head coach Pete Carroll is well-known for bringing celebrities to meet with the team and generating as much media exposure as possible. While the allure of always being in the spotlight might help him land many talented players, OSU senior tight end Rory Nicol would not be one of them.
“It’s different,” Nicol said. “I don’t know if I’d love it. I don’t know if I’d like all the media being around. I was talking to Bobby Carpenter. They did ‘Hard Knocks’ with the Cowboys and he hated it. There were cameras in every meeting room. It’s just like you don’t feel like you can ever say anything to anyone because there’s a camera.
“It’s just like being on the ‘Real World.’ I’d hate that.”
The New Anderson:
As safety Anderson Russell dropped potential interception after potential interception last season, cornerback Malcolm Jenkins coined a new term for the mistake.
He called it an Anderson, a tongue-in-cheek poke at his friend and teammate.
This year, then the first Anderson goes to senior cornerback Shaun Lane, who had a sure-looking pick-six hit him in the hands and fall harmlessly to the ground.
“I felt like I dropped it three times,” he said. “It hit my hands, it hit my chest, then it hit my hands again.”
The fact that Lane – who saw the most extensive playing time of his OSU career against YSU – was in the right place at the right time was only a small consolation.
“I try to find some good out of it, but it was still a drop,” he said. “I’d rather catch it deep and have to make some moves, but I knew the end zone was right there. That might be why.”
The New Ray Small:
A few plays before Chris Wells fell the to ground clutching his right foot in pain, another Buckeye found himself headed to the sideline with an injury.
Facing a second-and-8 situation from the YSU 33-yard line, quarterback Todd Boeckman lofted a pass to sophomore wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. The Toledo, Ohio, native corralled the pass just before being leveled by YSU’s Lenny Wicks, putting Sanzenbacher flat on his back.
He held onto the ball and picked up four yards on the play, but the play bore a slight resemblance to a vicious hit fellow wideout Ray Small absorbed two seasons ago as the Buckeyes played Minnesota.
Sanzenbacher would return to action a few plays later but did not record another catch. Speaking with reporters later that week, he said the hit looked much worse than it actually was.
“It didn’t feel great, but it just knocked the wind out of me for a little bit,” he said. “Luckily it wasn’t a head injury or anything. I think I got called up to the media after the game just to talk about that, actually.”
Most importantly, he made the catch.
“I had to take the hit anyways, so I might as well hold onto it,” he said.
Even when he was at Youngstown State, OSU head coach Jim Tressel had some Buckeye in him.
After visiting with the OSU coaches in the mid-90s, Tressel observed quarterback Bobby Hoying and wide receiver David Boston hooking up on some pass routes. When he returned to the Penguins, he did so with at least one new play – and he gave credit where it was due.
“We came and took a route out of here that forever at Youngstown State we called ‘Boston’ because it was a route that (Hoying) and Boston did so well,” he said.
Smith Not To Blame:
Throughout the week, every player who was subjected to speaking with the media was asked about the health of Wells in one way or another. Some were asked how Wells was doing, some were asked whether or not he would be back and others were asked about their reaction to the situation.
For senior fullback Brandon Smith, who was the lead blocker on the play when Wells went down, his first thought at seeing Wells fumble the football away was one of self-preservation.
“As a fullback, I was like, ‘Oh snap, is that my fault?’ ” he said. “Then the second thought is, ‘Is he OK?’ He was hollering a little bit. For him to not even grab the football, which is the running back’s first and main priority, it makes you panic initially.”
Freeman said he was eating at a local Chipotle restaurant when the cashier recognized him and inquired about Wells’ status. Nicol said he has not been recognized in public but added that he, too, had been subjected to people close to him seeking to get the latest injury report.
“A lot of people I talk to on the phone are (asking), ‘How’s Beanie? How’s Beanie?’ ” Nicol said. “I said, ‘What about me, dude? I thought we were friends.’ I haven’t seen anybody out that has asked me, but it absolutely has been the talk of the town.”
For the record, Beanie won’t play against OU.
Keeping His Options Open:
When the Buckeyes head west to face Southern Cal, they will be facing a well-rested Trojan team. After a week one road victory against Virginia, the Trojans have an open week this weekend before taking on OSU.
This year, for the first time since 2005, the Buckeyes will also have an open week sandwiched between the Penn State and Northwestern games. Given the choice, Tressel said he has no overall preference between having a week off early or late in the season.
“If I was banged up, I’d like it late,” he said. “I remember in ’04, we were 3-0 and had an open date and I wasn’t real comfortable with it because I wasn’t sure that we were playing 3-0. I guess it depends on the circumstances.”
Following open weeks, OSU is 1-3 during Tressel’s tenure. In 2004, the Buckeyes lost three straight following their open week.