OSU beating doesn't prove much

The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - Overkill is overrated.

Ohio State has obliterated its first two foes of the college football season and succeeded mainly in satisfying Buckeye blood lust.

John Cooper learned less about his team during Saturday's 72-0 mauling of Pittsburgh than he would glean from a ordinary Wednesday afternoon practice. Same goes for that 70-7 nail-biter against Rice. Nice as these numbers might sound along the Olentangy, they are of little practical use.

The seventh-ranked Buckeyes will move up in the national rankings this week because Tennessee and Texas were toppled. Saturday's performance, however, did not clarify their true strength. It proved that this is a team capable of crushing mediocre opposition. It said that the Buckeyes go to Notre Dame next week undefeated, untied and untested.

''Are we that good?'' Cooper wondered when it was over. ''Are they that bad? When a game gets out of hand like that, you don't get a true indication.''

Cooper wasn't complaining. Not exactly. The football coach has yet to be born who quibbles with the quality of an overwhelming victory.

Yet, there are better ways to spend an autumn afternoon than pounding patsies. Once he has experienced the confidence surge of beating the stuffings out of a couple of tackling dummies, a football coach wants to know what his players have inside of them.

He wants to know how they respond to adversity, to pressure, to fumbles, to fatigue. He wants some reassurance that they are for real.

Though it might be viewed as a sign of OSU's profound superiority, there have been no gut checks for the Buckeyes so far this fall. Not even so much as a stomach growl. The insatiable appetite has met the boundless buffet. Or at least that's what the scores suggest.

''I'd like to congratulate what I think is an outstanding football team,'' said Pitt coach Johnny Majors. ''But certainly there is no way to measure by our team and our performance . . . they made an effort to keep it under 70 points, and we wouldn't let them do it. I'm not being sarcastic, that's a fact.''

True enough, the Buckeyes threw no passes in the second half, pulled their starters after the first scrimmage play of the third period, and purportedly fielded only eight players for one fourth-quarter punt return. Undaunted, David Boston returned the kick 66 yards for a touchdown. Henceforth, OSU's opponents ought to ask for a handicap.

The Buckeyes were 35 1/2-point favorites in Las Vegas and had covered the point spread with 5:21 remaining in the second quarter. They scored on each of their first 10 offensive possessions, settling for a field goal only once. Boston scored three touchdowns and so did running back Pepe Pearson. Matt Keller, the redshirt freshman from Moeller High School, made his first collegiate TD on a 22-yard run in the third quarter.

Joe Germaine, ostensibly the Buckeyes' backup quarterback, completed all eight of his passes and threw for two scores. Nine different backs carried the ball from scrimmage for OSU, and 11 separate receivers snagged passes. Because of the abundant kickoffs, 25 different Buckeyes were credited with unassisted tackles. There hasn't been such a show of depth since 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.

''These kind of games, you get in there, play a half, and then you're sitting out the rest of the (game),'' left tackle Orlando Pace said. ''It gets kinda boring. It was sort of like a practice-type atmosphere.''

Accordingly, Cooper plans to step up the pace of this week's workouts. He wants to provide his players some exposure to the level of competition they will see next Saturday in South Bend. Under different circumstances, a coach might want to back off on contact work for fear of injury. The greater concern in Columbus right now is complacency.

Published Sept. 22, 1996.