Saturday, October 09, 1999

Buckeyes hope to cool Brees

A win over Purdue a must for bowl hopes

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To say this is a big game for Ohio State doesn't even come close. This is a monumental game if the Buckeyes have any hopes of even making the likes of the Alamo or Sun Bowls.

        The stakes are these: A loss to No. 17 Purdue today (3:30 p.m. kickoff at Ohio Stadium) would severely cripple — perhaps even kill — No. 21 OSU's bowl chances. A good showing by Purdue quarterback Drew Brees would also resuscitate his Heisman Trophy candidacy, somewhat damaged last week in a loss to Michigan.

  • Kickoff: 3:30p.m. today at Ohio Stadium (89,841), Columbus.
  • Records: OSU 3-2 (0-1 Big Ten); Purdue 4-1 (1-1).
  • TV: ABC (Ch.9, 2).
  • Radio: WBOB-AM 1160.
  • Series: OSU leads 31-10-2 (last: 1996, OSU 42-14).
  • Line: OSU by 21/2.
  • What to watch: How many yards and touchdowns will Purdue quarterback Drew Brees throw for against Ohio State's weak pass defense? The Buckeyes have been exploited this season by lesser quarterbacks than Brees.
        The Buckeyes (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) have already helped one Heisman candidate resurrect his Heisman hopes — Wisconsin's Ron Dayne, who ran for 159 yards in last week's 42-17 thumping of OSU in Columbus. Ohio State hasn't shown it can stop the run or the pass effectively, so there's reason to expect Brees, one of the best pure passers in the country, may have a big day as well.

        Brees leads the Big Ten with 321 passing yards per game, and Boilermakers receiver Chris Daniels is first in the conference in receptions per game (nine) and yards per game (97.2) as Purdue has gotten off to a 4-1 start overall, 1-1 in the league.

        “The time has come that we need to do a little bit more,” said OSU senior cornerback Ahmed Plummer. “We are used to just showing up and winning, because we had experienced individuals. But we're a young defense. Everybody is going to have to step it up and bring more to the table this weekend.”

        “We have the talent, but we're not making the big plays,” said junior linebacker Na'il Diggs. “Coach Cooper has come to us and challenged us.”

        That's the pride factor. Ohio State's players talked of being embarrassed after being physically manhandled by Wisconsin, yet still spoke in those arrogant tones of how “We're Ohio State, we're going to win.” The fact is, unless they find some way to stop the bleeding, they're not going to win.

        Coach John Cooper is worried about his defense, but also about special teams that haven't made big plays and an offense that has turned the ball over in crucial situations. Tailback Michael Wiley's two fumbles last week — one taking away a touchdown and one giving Wisconsin one.

        Wiley and his backup, freshman Jonathon Wells, will not play because they missed a class this week. Third-stringer Derek Combs will start.

        “What I'm concerned about most is that teams will see we're having trouble and will be trying to go after the ball even more,” Cooper said.

        Brees won't run the option. But he's the best pure thrower in the Big Ten, and Purdue's four-wideout, one-back offense will look to exploit the OSU secondary. If Ohio State has any chance to win, its line must pressure Brees — which it hasn't done much to any quarterback this season. Brees has been sacked only three times all year.

        Because the Buckeyes play 12 games this year, they have to win seven to qualify for a bowl game. That would mean winning their remaining home games — Purdue, Iowa and Illinois — and pulling off a road win at Penn State, Minnesota, Michigan State or Michigan — all of whom are so far undefeated.

        So today's game is critical. You can't lose two in a row at home and expect to be playing in the postseason.


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