Minutes after Ohio State’s easy victory at Pittsburgh last
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Minutes after Ohio State’s easy victory at Pittsburgh last week, coach John Cooper talked to his team about Saturday’s game with Notre Dame.
``Coach Cooper told us we’ll remember this game the rest of our lives,″ Buckeyes quarterback Bob Hoying said.
Whether the Buckeyes will want to remains to be seen. Asked if what Cooper said about the game is true, Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz joked, ``Depends on the memory.″
Judging from the teams’ previous meetings, the memories will undoubtedly last. The 1935 game, in which Notre Dame scored twice in the last two minutes to win 18-13, has been called the ``Game of the Century.″ The Fighting Irish and Buckeyes played a year later, Notre Dame winning 7-2.
Factions of fans and the occasional coach or administrator have called for a revival of the series in the ensuing 59 years. They finally get it Saturday.
Holtz, who grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, will be making his first appearance at Ohio Stadium since he was an assistant under Woody Hayes in 1968, when the Buckeyes won the national championship.
Holtz underwent neck surgery Sept. 12 and is expected to coach from the press box, just as he did when he was an assistant coach 27 years ago.
An Ohio Stadium record crowd of more than 95,000 is expected. Fans are anteing up hundreds of dollars for tickets with a face value of $25. Local radio shows are jammed with callers. Seven different companies were licensed to produce T-shirts about the game.
Despite the hoopla, Ohio State doesn’t know what, exactly, to expect.
``I’m fond of making the comment, `Don’t make that other team better than they are,‴ Cooper said. ``Hey, Notre Dame’s good, but Northwestern beat them. They’re not invincible.″
The loss to Northwestern, 17-15 a month ago, has left Ohio State coaches, players and fans confused. The Buckeyes have beaten Northwestern by an average of 34 points while winning the last 19 meetings.
``The impression I got against Northwestern is they felt like they were going to maybe win ugly,″ Cooper said. ``They were going to flip a switch and score late and win the game. It didn’t happen that way.″
Since then, the Irish muddled through a 35-28 victory over another Big Ten also-ran, Purdue, walloped Vanderbilt 41-0 and came on late to handle Texas 55-27.
Ohio State has been untouchable so far, beating three opponents _ including two ranked teams _ by an average score of 41-13.
Holtz, never meek about piling praise on an opponent, said, ``They are bigger than us. They are stronger than us. And in all probability, more physical. I think we are a good football team. We are not a great football team. Ohio State may be a great football team.″
There are many similarities between the teams. Both offenses have star running backs (OSU’s Eddie George is averaging 148 yards, the Irish’s Randy Kinder is good for 112), accurate quarterbacks (Hoying is completing 66 percent of his passes for the Buckeyes, Ron Powlus is at 65 percent) and fleet receivers (Ohio State’s Terry Glenn has 19 catches for 449 yards, Derrick Mayes 24 for 381).
Still, there are questions regarding both teams’ defenses: Ohio State is permitting 322 yards a game and the Irish 331.
No questions remain about the emotions involved, despite statements by players and coaches from both teams that it’s just another big game.
``The Michigan game is always something special,″ Ohio State defensive lineman Luke Fickell said. ``But a game like this _ where you’re playing for the first time in almost 60 years _ the town gets really fired up. They’re used to waiting until the last game of the year to get this type of emotion. They’ve got it early this season and they’re going to run with it.″