Oct. 26, 1999

Weekly Press Conference
Top 25 Polls

The Ohio State Buckeyes host the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in the 86th Homecoming game in OSU history Saturday at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12:10 p.m. with ESPN-Plus televising the game to a regional audience. Jim Barber, Al Harris and Chris Miller will describe the action from sold-out Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes are 5-3 overall and 2-2 (tied for fifth) in the Big Ten Conference following their come-from-behind 20-17 win at No. 24 Minnesota last week. Two field goals by Dan Stultz inside of 6:18 to play plus 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns from Michael Wiley sparked the two-comeback win. Iowa, under first-year coach Kirk Ferentz, is 1-6 overall and 0-4 in the Big Ten after losing, 38-31, to Indiana last week in Iowa City.

The Buckeyes feature junior All-America candidate and Butkus Award semifinalist Na’il Diggs (62 tackles and team-best totals of 11 tackles-for-loss and four sacks) at outside linebacker. Three-year veteran Ahmed Plummer could join Diggs with national post season honors. The senior cornerback, co-captain, preseason All-American and National Football Foundation Scholarship nominee has three interceptions in 1999 and 12 for his career. Offensively, quarterback Steve Bellisari has thrown for 1,098 yards and rushed for 279. He throws to a pair of talented junior receivers in Ken-Yon Rambo (30 receptions, 19.2 yards per catch, five touchdowns) and Reggie Germany (31 receptions, 16.4 yards per catch). Talented tailback Michael Wiley, who is in Ohio State’s all-time Top 10 with 2,622 career rushing yards and 30 touchdowns, sparks the rushing game with 623 yards and eight touchdowns. The Hawkeys are led offensively by sophomore running back Ladell Betts, who has four 100-yard rushing games for his career already, including 174 yards vs. Northern Illinois earlier this year. He leads Iowa’s ground game with 543 rushing yards on 123 carries. He also has 14 receptions for 142 yards. Scott Mullen, playing in place of injured senior quarterback Randy Reiners, completed 36-of-60 passes for 426 yards against Indiana in his first quarterback duty of the season. He also rushed for 47 yards and two touchdowns and had the Hawkeyes on the Indiana 10-yard line as time ran out. Defensively, senior defensive back Matt Bowen leads Iowa in tackles with 71. “THE BLAST OF THE CENTURY”
This year’s Homecoming theme is “The Blast of the Century.” The festivities this week will include Vice President David Williams’ Quiz Bowl Challenge 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ohio Union Conference Theater, The Buckeye Blast featuring Howie Mandel Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, the Diversity Festival will take place at Mirror Lake Friday between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the Homecoming Parade is set for 9 a.m. Saturday along High Street between 17th and 12th Avenues. For additional information contact the Office of Student activities at (614) 292-8763.

The 1999 Homecoming weekend will include honoring four great Ohio State teams at halftime of the game. The 1949 team will be honored in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Ohio State’s first Rose Bowl victory. The 1954 team is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its National Championship. The 1974 team will be recognized for the 25th anniversary of its Big Ten Co-Championship and the 1979 team celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Big Ten Championship.

First recognized in 1912, Homecoming began as “Ohio State Day” and was initiated by professor (and later OSU President) George W. Rightmire. Homecoming in the early days was held close to the final football game in November, which is why Ohio State has played Michigan 15 times as its Homecoming opponent. Iowa will be OSU’s Homecoming opponent for the fourth time. Ohio State has an all-time record of 60-20-5 in Homecoming games (there was no Homecoming game in 1913 or 1918) with a current streak of 10-consecutive Homecoming game wins dating to a 31-26 loss to Purdue in 1988. Ohio State is 2-1 all-time vs. Iowa in Homecoming games.

Ohio State is No. 21 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll and also in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Since 1992, John Cooper’s teams are 23-10-1 against Top 25 ranked opponents with a 7-7-1 record vs. Top 10 teams. Cooper’s Buckeyes have been nationally-ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for 70-consecutive weeks, dating to the 1994 season.

Ohio State and Iowa are meeting for the 56th time in a series that started in 1922. Ohio State has won the last five meetings, including 56-35 in 1995 and 23-7 in 1997 at Ohio Stadium, and leads the all-time series with 39 wins against 13 losses and three ties. Ohio State is 7-1-1 vs. Iowa under John Cooper and, dating back to 1963, has won 26 of the last 29 games against Iowa with one tie.

Buckeyes/Hawkeyes Notebook…

Ohio State is 25-8-1 vs. Iowa in Columbus (with all 34 gamesplayed at Ohio Stadium) and 14-5-2 in Iowa City.
Ohio State won 16-consecutive games over Iowa between 1963 and1980.
Iowa’s last win in the series came in 1991 at OhioStadium, 16-7.
The two teams meet Oct. 21, 2000 in Iowa City.

Jonathan Wells and Derek Combs take note: A tailback has come off the bench in each of the last three games against Iowa and rallied or sparked the team. In 1996 Joe Montgomery came off the bench and rushed for 160 yards. In 1997 Michael Wiley rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Last year, Montgomery did it again by churning for 144 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run one play from scrimmage after Iowa had taken a 7-0 lead.

0 – Tailback fumbles the last two games.

1 – Iowa’s national ranking coming into the 1985 game with Ohio State. The Buckeyes, led by Chris Spielman and Keith Byars, defeated the Chuck Long and Ronnie Harmon-led Hawkeyes, 22-13.

3 – Consecutive Iowa wins over Ohio State from 1922-24. Consecutive wins since: none.

246 – Then school-record rushing total that Archie Griffin gained vs. Iowa Nov. 11, 1973.

Last year, one week after losing its season–long No. 1 national ranking and its chance for a national championship, Ohio State went to Iowa City and handed the Hawkeyes a 45-14 defeat. The Buckeyes rolled to 627 offensive yards as Joe Germaine passed for 319 and Joe Montgomery sparked the team’s 269-yard rushing day. The OSU defense was dominant, racking up school game records for quarterback sacks (11), sack yards (83), tackles-for-loss (16) and yards lost (93). Na’il Diggs, Matt LaVrar and Rodney Bailey led the sack attack with two apiece. Mike Collins, Brent Johnson and David Mitchell also got into the sack act. Fullbacks Matt Keller (16-yard pass) and Jamar Martin (10-yard run for his first collegiate touchdown) each scored touchdowns.

On a day when the Buckeyes scored six touchdowns, including spectacular 80- and 54-yard touchdowns from Joe Montgomery and David Boston, freshman defensive tackle Mike Collins’ touchdown was the most surprising and entertaining. The 290-pounder intercepted a Scott Mullen pass at the line of scrimmage and rumbled 22-yards for the score. Collins is believed to be the heaviest Buckeye to score a touchdown.

Ohio State, a relatively young team with first-year starters at four defensive positions and at six offensive spots, has played five nationally-ranked opponents already this season, and it has trailed in all seven of its games. The team has come back to win five of them. OSU opened with a 23-12 loss to No. 13 Miami in the Kickoff Classic, but followed with wins over No. 13 UCLA (42-20), Ohio (40-16) and Cincinnati (34-20). Then came the jeckyl-and-hyde loss to Wisconsin where OSU led 17-6 at halftime only to lose 42-17. The Buckeyes rebounded, however, with another come-from-behind win over Purdue in a driving rain, but the good feelings of that win ended with a 23-10 loss at No. 2 Penn State. Good vibrations have returned once again after last weekend’s 20-17 win over Minnesota that featured second-half comebacks from 10-7 and 17-14 deficits.

K Dan Stultz kicked
the first game winning
FG as his career vs.
Minn. on Sat.

Ohio State defeated a solid and disciplined Minnesota Golden Gopherteam last week behind two long fourth-quarter field goals, arushing game that woke up in the second half and an all-aroundeffort from the defense. “I had confidence inmyself,” OSU kicker Dan Stultz said following only hissecond game as a Buckeye with two 40-plus-yard field goals.“That’s what it’s all about. If youhave that, you win games.” Stultz booted a 43-yard fieldgoal with 6:18 to play to tie the game at 17-all and he kicked thefirst game-winner of his career – from 40 yards – with 1:15 toplay. A second-half rushing surge – 137 yards after gaining just 18in the first half – sparked by Wiley’s 44-yard touchdownhelped OSU maintain possession of the ball during crucialfourth-quarter drives. And the defense allowed Minnesota just 94second-half yards and to three-and-outs on its final threepossessions to help the comeback.

Michael Wiley’s 118-yard rushing day against Minnesota represented the ninth 100-yard game of his career. It also snapped the speedster out of a Big Ten rushing slump. He had gained just 121 yards in three previous Big Ten games before his Minnesota outburst. With 2,622 career yards, Wiley needs 28 to pass Raymont Harris for seventh-place on the all-time OSU list. His two touchdowns scored against Minnesota were the 29th and 30th of his career.

Three Michael Wiley plays led to 17 OSU points vs. Minnesota. He scored two touchdowns and he completed a 28-yard pass to Steve Bellisari, setting OSU up with a first-and-10 at the UM 24. A game-tieing field goal soon followed. Wiley the quarterback has now completed 9-of-10 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.

The leading tackler on the team this season (64) is sophomore cornerback Nate Clements. He does more than just tackle, though. Against Minnesota he set OSU up with a first-and-goal from the 5 by intercepting a pass on the third play from scrimmage and returning it 36 yards. He blocked a field goal against Penn State. He averages 9.5 yards per punt return and he leads the team with six pass break-ups. He has recorded interceptions against Miami and Minnesota, and he has high tackle games of 14 (vs. Miami), 10 solos vs. Cincinnati and 10 total vs. Penn State.

Austin Moherman, the starter in Games 1 and 2 of the season but who had played just one snap in the last three games, entered the Minnesota game midway through the third quarter and led the Buckeyes to a go-ahead touchdown. He completed 5-of-10 passes for 49 yards. His key completions to Reggie Germany (15 yards) and Ken-Yon Rambo (12 yards) loosened the Golden Gopher defense enough that the offensive line was able to open holes for the running game. The sixth play of Moherman’s first drive was a Michael Wiley 44-yard touchdown. Moherman did fumble on his next series and Minnesota drove for a go-ahead score, but he came back and drove the Buckeyes to two more first downs to the 50, setting up a battle for field position that the Buckeys eventually won.

Junior Joe Cooper, a special teams warrior who has started to get some time at linebacker, showed terrific speed and played outstanding in the second half vs. Minnesota. Playing at middle linebacker, Cooper had three tackles including a huge sack of Billy Cockerham at the 8 yard line, for a loss of nine yards. Two series later he stopped Thomas Hamner for a loss of three yards. Minnesota punted two plays later and Ohio State started its game-tieing drive.

OSU’s offensive line, featuring three, three-year starters in RG Ben Gilbert, C Kurt Murphy and LT Tyson Walter, stepped up its play in the second half of the Minnesota game. As a result, OSU rushed for 137 yards in the half, managed eight rushing first downs and drove for tieing and winning field goals exclusively on the strength of the running game. Complimenting the vets: first-year starters LeCharles Bentley at left guard and Henry Fleming at right tackle.

Kevin Houser hasn’t missed a snap in his four seasons as OSU’s long snapper. He’s making an impact in other areas as well. He caught a 10-yard pass for a first down vs. Minnesota. He deliverd a key block on Michael Wiley’s first touchdown. And he made a solid special teams tackle on punt coverage. He’s busy away from football as well. A finance major, he has been working the past six months as a financial consultant for New York Life.

In addition to the terrific play of Joe Cooper against Minnesota, two other young Buckeyes stepped up. Freshman strong safety Michael Doss was in the mix during crucial stretches of the second half. Freshman linebacker Matt Wilhelm recovered the fourth quarter fumble on kickoff coverage that enabled OSU to maintain the ball and run out the clock.

Special, special teams plays are starting to add up for Ohio State. The Buckeyes have blocked three field goal attempts the last three games (Brent Johnson blocked a game-tieing Purdue attempt with 56 seconds to play and Jason Ott and Nate Clements each had blocks against Penn State). Two Buckeyes have forced fumbles on kickoffs. Percy King opened the Purdue game with a fumble-inducing hit on the opening kickoff. Jerry Westbrooks forced a fourth quarter fumble on a kickoff with the Buckeyes leading Minnesota by three.

The OSU defensive line is getting dynamite play from senior end James Cotton and sophomore tackles Mike Collins and Ryan Pickett. The three combined for 17 tackles vs. Minnesota. Thru eight games, all three have soared passed their 1998 12-game tackle totals. Collins and Cotton are tied for the team lead among linemen with 41 stops apiece. They rank second and third respectively, to Na’il Diggs with nine and eight tackles-for-loss. Pickett has 31 tackles and six TFLs.

Guitar player Dan Stultz is having a terrific season kicking and punting. The junior has now made 11-of-14 field goal attempts, including nine of his last 10, and he has made four-consecutive from beyond 40 yards (45, 47, 43 and 40). In his first year as a punter, he is averaging 40.5 yards per punt. He has averaged 43.8, 44.9 and 40.9 yards per punt the last three games vs. Purdue, Penn State and Minnesota, respectively.

Jonathan Wells, who started out the season so well with 44 rushing yards vs. Miami before injuring his ankle, returned to that form against Minnesota with 11 carries for 40 yards. He gained 15 yards on three carries during OSU’s fourth-quarter drive that resulted in the game-winning field goal. He added 14 yards off three carries during the Buckeyes’ game ending drive.

Na’il Diggs, all-Big Ten last year as a sophomore and a preseason All-American this year, has 36 tackles-for-loss to rank seventh at Ohio State and 16 quarterback sacks to rank sixth at Ohio State.

Reggie Germany and Ken-Yon Rambo continue to be the targets of choice for OSU quarterbacks Steve Bellisari and Austin Moherman. The two have combined for 61 catches, 1,086 yards and six touchdowns. The rest of the OSU receivers have combined for 36 receptions, 419 yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterback Steve Bellisari is 4-2 as a starting quarterback. The left-handed athlete opened the season as the back-up to Austin Moherman, but took over the starting position following an 11-for-16, 159-yard, two-touchdown performance in the comeback win over UCLA. He has thrown for 1,098 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions, but he has been hurting teams with his running ability of late. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the Wisconsin game, but he has led the team in rushing three times and he is currently second on the squad with 279 rushing yards with a long of 69.

Michael Wiley was named OSU’s offensive player of the week and Dan Stultz was named special team’s player of the week. Tyson Walter (fourth time this year) and Ben Gilbert (second) shared lineman of the week honors. The entire defense was cited by the defensive staff. Scout team players Marcus Perez and Julius Yeast were also honored. . .Senior Matt LaVrar had a huge hit on Minnesota’s Tyrone Carter in punt coverage. It was the second-consecutive week that LaVrar has made a big special teams hit. . .Sophomore tackle Mike Collins missed by one tieing the school record when he finished with four tackles-for-loss against Penn State. The Buckeyes, as a unit, set a school mark with 19 tackles-for-loss vs. the Nittany Lions. . .One of Ohio State’s defensive plays of the year was 6-4, 245-pound defensive end James Cotton running down Penn State’s second-fastest runner, Eric McCoo, for a touchdown-saving tackle. . .Gary Berry’s fumble recovery and subsequent dive into the end zone for a touchdown vs. Penn State was the third touchdown of his career. In 1997, he scored two in a span of 2:07 against Michigan State: the first on a 45-yard interception return and the second on a 1-yard return of a blocked punt. . .Michael Wiley threw his second career touchdown pass in the Purdue game, a 7-yarder to Darnell Sanders. He also has thrown a touchdown pass to Steve Wisniewski (in 1997 vs. Indiana). . .Ken-Yon Rambo has five catches this season of over 40 yards, including a school-record three 50-plus-yard catches in the Cincinnati game.

Ohio State has committed 21 turnovers (compared with 19 last year) and is maintaining control of the ball just over 27 minutes per game this season. OSU’s opponents have committed just 16 turnovers and are holding onto the ball just under 33 minutes per game. OSU trailed in time of possession by about 10 minutes in five-consecutive games before snapping that string vs. Minnesota. Opponents have scored 57 points off Ohio State turnovers. The Buckeyes have scored 43 points off their opponents’ turnovers.

Ohio Stadium is in the midst of a three-year, $187 million renovation that will improve aisle widths, seating for the disabled, escalator and elevator services, as well as increase seating capacity to about 97,000 fans. This project, which will be completed in time for the 2001 football season, is the first extensive renovation of Ohio Stadium since it was built in 1922. Last summer construction crews removed the track that surrounded the field for 77 years and completed one of the most crucial aspects of the project: the building of a slurry wall of impermeable concrete around the field, two-to-three feet wide and from ground level to bedrock (approximately 40 feet). East and west side foundations also were built, and demolition began inside of the west side. Following this season, new east-side C Deck stands will be built, the field will be lowered 14-feet-6-inches with new A Level seats to the field, construction will begin on the west side B Deck Suites, the south stands will be permanently built and a new 175-foot high scoreboard (the current scoreboard is 100 feet high) will be constructed behind the south stands.

Ohio State is playing its home games in grand Ohio Stadium, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, for the 78th season. The team has an all-time record of 325-96-20 at Ohio Stadium.

The 1999 season marks the 87th season of Big Ten Conference football for the Buckeyes, who joined the Western Conference in 1913. The Buckeyes have an all-time Big Ten record of 389-146-24 and have won or shared 28 Big Ten titles, second-most in conference history.

Ohio State has the Big Ten Conference’s best conference record (41-10-1) and the most conference championships (3) since Penn State joined the conference in 1993. Ohio State has won 80 percent of its Big Ten games since 1993. Penn State (40-12 with one Big Ten title) has won 78 percent of its games and Michigan (38-14 with two championships) has won 74.0 percent of its games.

John Cooper’s all-time Big Ten Conference winning percentage of 71.4 percent is the fifth-best winning percentage in Big Ten history. Cooper, who is 64-24-4 in Big Ten games, trails only the legendary likes of Bo Schembechler, Fielding Yost, Woody Hayes and Fritz Crisler.

Ohio State, which has had players win 23 major athletic awards and 17 win National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholarships – the most of any school – has at least three more players who will be in the running for such honors in 1999. Linebacker Na’il Diggs, a preseason All-American, is a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. Senior tailback Michael Wiley, coming off a 1,235-yard rushing year in his first year as a starter, is a Doak Walker Running Back Award nominee. And senior cornerback Ahmed Plummer, another preseason All-American and called the best cover cornerback in the country by OSU secondary coach Jon Tenuta, is on the initial Thorpe Award watch list. He also is Ohio State’s nominee for a National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholarship.

The 1999 Buckeyes will be chasing a fifth-consecutive 10-win-or-more season and the sixth in the last seven years. The Buckeyes are replacing 10 starters from last year, including seven who were selected in the 1999 NFL Draft. Included in the group are four All-Americans – CB Antoine Winfield, SS Damon Moore, SE David Boston and LG Rob Murphy – record-setting quarterback Joe Germaine, flanker Dee Miller, Butkus Award winner Andy Katzenmoyer and punter Brent Bartholomew.

For the first time in 20 seasons, the University of Iowa (1-6, 0-4) will invade Ohio Stadium without legendary head coach Hayden Fry roaming the sidelines. New Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz has taken the reigns from Fry and will face Ohio State for the first time in his four-year coaching career.

Iowa lost the game but found an offense last weekend, falling 38-31 to Indiana in Iowa City, Iowa. Junior quarterback Scott Mullen made his first start of the 1999 season filling in for the injured Randy Reiners and threw for 426 yards. Mullen tied an Iowa record with 60 pass attempts, completing 36 of them. He ran for 47 yards and two touchdowns, and, after leading Iowa to a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives, was stopped just short of the endzone and the potential game-tying touchdown as time expired. It marked the Hawkeyes’ fourth consecutive loss. Iowa’s 1999 schedule was ranked as the fourth toughest in the country last week according to the Sagarin Ratings. Only Clemson, Michigan, and North Carolina boasted tougher schedules.

The Hawkeyes have gained over twice as many yards through the air as they have on the ground. Prior to Mullen’s big day against the Hoosiers last weekend, Randy Reiners handled the quarterback duties. In four games, he completed 51-of-93 passes for 580 yards. He has been intercepted only once. Wideout Kevin Kasper has been both quarterbacks favorite target and leads the team with 26 catches for 262 yards. When the Hawkeyes do turn to the ground game, sophomore running back Ladell Betts carries the load. Betts, who earlier this year became the sixth fastest Hawkeye to reach the 1,000-yard rushing plateau, has carried 123 times for 543 yards this year (77.6 ypg).

Iowa lost five starters from last year’s defense, including a pair of NFL draft picks. Opponents are averaging 432 yards of total offense per game against the Hawkeyes, including 229 on the ground. Safety Matt Bowen leads the team with 71 tackles, while senior cornerback Tarig Holman leads Iowa with three interceptions, giving him eight for his career.