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Buckeyes Take To The Road

October 15, 1996

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Only once in the last 100 years has Ohio State had to play as many as four road games in five weeks.

But the current Buckeyes can take heart that Ohio State last traveled this much in 1984 _ the last time they traveled to the Rose Bowl.

``From a coach’s standpoint, you’d rather have games home, away, home, away,″ coach John Cooper said Tuesday. ``It’s worked to our advantage so far. We played four of the first five at home, we play four out of the next five on the road.″

It’s not like the Buckeyes need a hostile environment to get their attention this week when they travel to Purdue. Wisconsin did that last week, even in front of an Ohio Stadium crowd of more than 94,000.

The Badgers led 14-10 in the fourth quarter and had three possessions after the Buckeyes took a 17-14 lead on Dimitrious Stanley’s clutch catch and sprint for a 48-yard score with 8:51 remaining.

``I think there’s been some teams that I’ve coached around here the past few years that probably would have _ the way we played and the way Wisconsin played _ probably would have found a way to lose that game,″ Cooper said.

Even though the second-ranked Buckeyes remained unbeaten at 5-0 and moved to 2-0 in the Big Ten, Cooper spoke almost as if his team had lost.

He blasted his kickers. Josh Jackson had a field goal attempt blocked and Mike Malfatt’s kickoff after the last Ohio State touchdown floated to the Wisconsin 19 and was returned 17 yards. Kickoffs have been an ongoing problem in recent years, seldom getting inside the 15 _ let alone to the end zone.

Furthermore, Ohio State has not kicked a field goal longer than 39 yards in three years. The Buckeyes haven’t even attempted one that far in their last 18 games.

``I’m not disappointed a little bit, I’m disappointed a lot,″ Cooper said of his kicking game. ``Those guys on scholarship, all they do is kick. And they’re expected to perform. They’ve got a job to do and they’re consistently not doing it.″

He criticized flanker Buster Tillman, who dropped one pass and fumbled another that Wisconsin free safety Kevin Huntley scooped up and returned 36 yards for the go-ahead TD early in the fourth quarter.

``Dimitrious Stanley has been Big Ten player of the week the last two ball games. But the other side is not holding up their end of the deal right now,″ said Cooper, who questioned Tillman’s practice habits after Saturday’s game.

Cooper said he would evaluate the position based on this week’s practices and said he hoped to get more playing time for freshmen David Boston and Michael Wiley.

``Obviously, if we get those guys on the field, then somebody else is going to be off the field,″ he said.

Cooper also said he was disappointed his defense never seems to turn a turnover into points like Wisconsin did on Huntley’s fumble return.

The bottom line, he said, was it was almost immaterial what other teams did if his team played well. Over the next five weeks, the Buckeyes travel to Purdue, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana with a home game against Minnesota sandwiched in the middle.

``I don’t worry about Purdue, I don’t worry about Iowa, I don’t worry about the other teams,″ Cooper said. ``I worry about our team. Hopefully we learned a lesson last week, that whether it’s Wisconsin or whether it’s Purdue or somebody else we play down the road, you’d better be ready to play.″

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