Oct. 18, 1999

Two Deep Chart
Top 25 Polls

The Ohio State Buckeyes are on the road for a second-consecutive week Saturday as they travel to Minneapolis, Minn., to take on the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in a game that will kick off at 11:10 a.m. Central Standard Time (12:10 EST). ESPN will televise the game to a national audience with Rich Waltz, Don McPherson and Gino Torretta describing the action from what will be a noisy and nearly sold-out Metrodome. The Buckeyes, in John Cooper’s 12th season, are coming off a 23-10 loss at No. 2 Penn State and are 4-3 overall with a 1-2 record in the Big Ten Conference that leaves them in eighth place. Minnesota, under the direction of third-year coach Glen Mason, a former Buckeye player and coach, are off to their best start since 1985 with a 5-1 record and a 2-1 mark in the Big Ten which has it tied with Michigan for fourth place.

Defensively, the Buckeyes feature junior All-America candidate Na’il Diggs (59 tackles and 11 tackles-for-loss with four sacks) at outside linebacker and a three-year veteran in the secondary who could join Diggs with national post season honors: cornerback, co-captain, preseason All-American and National Football Foundation Scholarship nominee Ahmed Plummer (three interceptions in 1999 and 12 for his career). Sophomore Nate Clements is becoming a rising star in his first year as a starter at cornerback while senior end James Cotton has played extremely well as a starter along the line. The Buckeyes will be challenged by a Minnesota offense that features runningback Thomas Hamner (728 yards and seven touchdowns) and multi-faceted quarterback Billy Cockerham (980 passing yards with seven touchdowns and 384 rushing yards with five touchdowns. The Gophers rely on the sure-tackling of strong safety and post-season honors candidate Tyrone Carter (61 tackles) with help in front of him from end Karon Riley (10 sacks) and linebacker Ben Mezera (seven sacks). For the Buckeyes, who had the fewest offensive yards in the John Cooper era last week against Penn State (143 total yards), sophomore quarterback Steve Bellisari has thrown for 1,058 yards and rushed for 281. He throws to a pair of talented junior receivers in Ken-Yon Rambo (26 receptions, 20.7 yards per catch, five touchdowns) and Reggie Germany (29 receptions, 16.8 yards per catch). Ohio State utilizes a trio of talented tailbacks, headed by Michael Wiley, who is in Ohio State’s all-time Top 10 with 2,504 career rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. Wiley, Jonathan Wells and Derek Combs have combined for 707 yards and 10 touchdowns this season but have managed just 145 combined yards and three touchdowns in the three Big Ten games.

Ohio State is No. 22 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll and also in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Minnesota is ranked 24th by the AP and 25th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. Since 1992, John Cooper’s teams are 22-10-1 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 69-consecutive weeks, dating to the 1994 season.

The game this week has the makings of an intense battle with both teams supercharged by emotion. A Minnesota win would not only snap a 15-game losing streak to Ohio State, dating to the days when current Buckeyes and Gophers were toddlers, but it would also give Minnesota its first 6-1 start since its Rose Bowl winning team of 1961 coached by Murray Warmath (UM opened 6-1-1 in 1962). The Buckeyes haven’t started 1-3 in the Big Ten Conference in 12 years – John Cooper’s first year – and with seven wins needed by Ohio State to go to a bowl, it needs at least three wins with only two home games remaining.

Both Ohio State and Minnesota have tough schedules to deal with in the coming weeks. OSU’s schedule features road wars at the “Ms”: Minnesota, Michigan State and Michigan with home games against Iowa and Illlinois. Minnesota hosts Purdue and then travels to Penn State for its next two games before closing out at home with Indiana and with its border war at Iowa.

The game will be broadcast around Ohio on the 71-station Ohio State Radio Network with Sports Radio 1460 (AM) The Fan the flagship station. Calling the action and in his second year as play-by-play announcer is Paul Keels. He is assisted in the broadcast booth by third-year analyst Jim Lachey. Jim Karsatos, in his 11th season on the team, provides sideline commentary.

SO FAR IN 1999
Ohio State and Minnesota have two common opponents: Ohio and Wisconsin. Both teams handled Ohio. The Buckeyes played one of their best halves of football Oct. 2 vs. Wisconsin followed by their worst half with UW outscoring OSU, 36-0, after intermission before leaving Ohio Stadium with a 42-17 victory. Minnesota easily could be 6-0 and 3-0 in the Big Ten, but it allowed a late game-tieing field goal to the Badgers and then lost in overtime, 20-17. Ohio State, a relatively young team with first-year starters at four defensive positions and at six offensive spots, has played four nationally-ranked opponents and has trailed in all seven of its games this season, but has come back to win four 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. 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. Minnesota, which has outscored its opponents 210-55, has five easy wins – 33-7 over Ohio, 35-0 over Northeast Louisiana, 55-7 over Illinois State, 33-14 over Northwestern, 37-7 over Illinois – in addition to its overtime loss to Wisconsin.

Ohio State has won 15-consecutive games over Minnesota and 27 of the last 28 games dating back to the 1966 season. The current winning streak dates back to the 1981 season when Minnesota came back from a 21-3 halftime deficit and defeated Ohio State 35-31 in Minneapolis. The loss spoiled a fine afternoon by current running backs coach Tim Spencer, who rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns as a junior tailback. Ohio State leads the all-time series, which started in 1921, 34 wins to six.

Buckeyes/Golden Gophers Notebook. . .
* Ohio State is 16-4 vs. Minnesota in Minneapolis (with seven-consecutive victories) and 18-2 in Columbus.
* Ohio State has never lost in the Metrodome, which opened in 1982, winning all seven games.
* Ohio State won the first four games played at the Metrodome (in 1984, ’85, ’88 and ’89) by an average margin of 4.5 points and it has won the last three games at the Metrodome (in 1991, ’95 and ’97) by an average margin of 28.6 points.
* John Cooper’s Buckeyes are 9-0 vs. Minnesota with an average margin of victory of 23.0 points per win.
* The two teams play Oct. 14 next year in Ohio Stadium.

Third-year Minnesota head coach Glen Mason is an Ohio State graduate, a football letter winner and a former assistant coach. He lettered as a junior at Ohio State in 1970 as a 6-2, 218-pound linebacker/middle guard. He was listed in the media guide that year as wearing jersey numbers 36 and 69 (he wore 69 in the team photo). He was part of Ohio State’s 1970 National Football Foundation national championship team that finished 9-1 with the only setback a 27-17 loss to Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Mason was an assistant coach at Ohio State for seven years, from 1978 to 1985. He was part of Woody Hayes’ last Ohio State team in 1978 and then helped Earle Bruce’s first six Buckeye teams win three Big Ten championships. He coached outside linebackers in 1978 and guards and centers in 1979 before being named offensive coordinator from 1980-85.

Ohio State established a new series record against Minnesota with 586 yards of total offense in last year’s 45-15 win at Ohio Stadium. Quarterback Joe Germaine completed 27-of-39 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Wiley rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown in support of Germaine’s air show. Na’il Diggs and Ahmed Plummer led the defensive charge against the pass-happy Golden Gophers – 43 pass attempts – with three quarterback sacks for Diggs and a career-high four pass break-ups for Plummer.

All-America candidate Na’il Diggs has recorded six quarterback sacks for losses totalling 26 yards in two games vs. Minnesota. As a red-shirt freshman defensive end in 1997, Diggs came off the bench and had three sacks for minus-12 yards and last year, as a starting linebacker, he had an additional three sacks for minus-14 yards.

Ohio State’s 1999 starting receiving tandem of juniors Reggie Germany and Ken-Yon Rambo got their first career starts in last year’s Minnesota game. The Buckeyes went to a four-receiver set to open the game and Germany and Rambo joined David Boston and Dee Miller in the starting lineup. Germany finished with two receptions for 19 yards and Rambo had two for 16 yards.

The first and last games of Archie Griffin’s still-standing NCAA record 31-consecutive regular season games with 100 or more yards rushing came against Minnesota. Griffin’s streak started Sept. 15, 1973 with 129 rushing yards in a 56-7 OSU win over Minnesota. He stretched the streak to 31-consecutive 100-yard games when he rushed for 124 yards against Minnesota in a 38-6 win Nov. 15, 1975. The following week the streak ended in a 21-14 Rose Bowl-clinching win over Michigan as the Wolverines held him to 46 yards. Griffin had 33 total 100-yard rushing games, which also is still an NCAA record that has been tied by Texas’ Ricky Williams.

There have been some close wins in this series dominated by Ohio State, but for absolute drama, it would be hard to top OSU’s 11-10 win in 1965 and OSU’s 14-12 win in 1971. Four lead changes added to the intensity of the 1965 game. The difference in the score: a two-point conversion run by OSU’s Leonard Fontes. Another of the game’s key plays: Golden Gopher kicker Deryl Ramey’s 15-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left with 14 seconds to play. In the 1971 game, Minnesota led 6-0 at halftime, with the extra point attempt following the touchdown wide left. Ohio State came back to take a 14-6 lead with two second-half touchdowns, the last coming midway through the fourth quarter. Minnesota quarterback Craig Curry then engineered an 80-yard touchdown drive, with his 2-yard run with 39 seconds left in the game closing the gap to 14-12. Curry was stopped by a host of Buckeyes, led by Tom Marendt, however, just inches from the goal on the game-tieing two-point conversion try.

The Minnesota Vikings host San Francisco Sunday so that means three former Buckeyes who wear Purple and Gold could be in attendance at the OSU vs. Minnesota game: Cris Carter, Korey Stringer and Robert Smith.

1 – Number of years OSU quarterbacks coach Tim Salem lettered at quarterback for Minnesota before transferring to Arizona State.

65 – Number of Ohio players on Ohio State’s roster.

44 – Number of Minnesota players on Minnesota’s roster.

78 & 93 – Length’s, respectively, of Neal Colzie’s touchdown punt return and Archie Griffin’s touchdown kickoff return in the 1973 game against Minnesota.

$75 & $187.7 – Cost in millions for the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (completed in 1982) and for the renovation of Ohio Stadium (to be completed prior to start of 2001 football season), respectively.

The Carter brothers from Solon, Ohio – Ohio State true freshman Drew and Minnesota red-shirt sophomore Grant – will have a chance to say “hello” in person this weekend. Drew, a split end, travels but is expected to be red-shirted this year by OSU coaches. He has shown fine receiving skills and has excellent size (6-4, 190). Grant, a back-up receiver, has played in three games so far.

Ohio State does not have a player from Minnsota on its roster. Minnesota has eight from the Buckeye state: Eli Ward (Akron), Mike Galloway, Paul Dixon and Curtese Poole (Columbus), Thomas Hamner and Fred Rodgers (Hamilton), Dave Belock (Hinckley) and Grant Carter (Solon). Hamner and Rodgers were a year ahead and were teammates of Ohio State backup left guard Mike Gurr at Hamilton H.S.

Ohio State’s defense came up with a school record 19 tackles-for-loss against Penn State but that, and two blocked kicks, was the extent of anything positive coming out of a 23-10 loss to No. 2 Penn State last week in State College. Penn State only scored two touchdowns – on the first drive of the game and the first of the second half – but dominated the statistics with 422 total yards of offense to 143 for Ohio State. The OSU yardage total was by far the fewest yards in a game since Ohio State had just 138 in a 10-7 loss at Michigan in 1971. The Buckeye offense, going up against an aggressive Penn State defense that had 14 tackles-for-loss including eight sacks of quarterback Steve Bellisari, did not penetrate deeper than Penn State’s 29 yard line. The Nittany Lions, behind 211 yards from sophomore tailback Eric McCoo, drove for 246 rushing yards and 176 passing yards.

All-American Candidate
LB Ni’al Diggs

Two of the finest linebackers in college football – OSU junior Na’il Diggs and PSU junior LaVar Arrington – waged an intriguing battle of great effort last week. Diggs finished with six tackles, two tackles-for-loss (8 yards), a sack, a pass break-up and a fumble forcing hit on Kevin Thompson that led to OSU’s only touchdown. Arrington had seven tackles, three tackles-for-loss (19 yards) and 2.5 sacks. The two smacked helmets numerous times on special teams. ABC’s Brent Musberger described their all-out play and big plays as one of the best matchups he’s seen between two great linebackers in a long time.

Blocked field goal attempts – OSU has blocked three of the last six attempted – are keeping OSU in games. One week after clinching the 25-22 win over Purdue with a blocked field goal attempt by Brent Johnson, the Buckeyes came up with two more blocks on field goal attempts against Penn State. The first – by Jason Ott – kept the score at 7-0 early in the first quarter, and the second, by Nate Clements, kept Penn State from building on a 20-10 lead early in the third quarter. The three blocks the past two games are the first by Ohio State this year.

Ohio State’s only touchdown against Penn State came when Na’il Diggs sacked Kevin Thompson, who fumbled at the one. Gary Berry alertly scooped up the football and dove into the end zone for the score. It was the third touchdown of Berry’s 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 one-yard return of a blocked punt.

Sophomore tackle Mike Collins just missed tieing the school record when he finished with four tackles-for-loss against Penn State. The record of five in one game is held by three players, including Andy Katzenmoyer (vs. Arizona State in the 1997 Rose Bowl). Collins’ TFLs totalled nine yards and included one sack.

Junior tackle Joe Brown, who has been playing through the pain of an injured shoulder this season, caught three Nittany Lions behind the line for losses totalling 13 yards. Other Buckeyes with multi-TFLs on the record-setting day: Courtland Bullard (2-12), Na’il Diggs (2-8), James Cotton (2-6) and Gary Berry (2-6). The old record was 16 vs. Iowa in 1998. The Buckeyes have 74 tackles-for-loss on the year (10.5 per game) and the season record is 113 (by the 1998 team).

Ahmed Plummer grabbed his team-leading third interception of the year against Penn State. It was a terrific, over-the-shoulder pick in the end zone that stopped a potential scoring drive. Plummer is tied for second in the Big Ten with three interceptions. He has 12 for his career. Neal Colzie has 15 to rank fifth at Ohio State.

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.

Ken-Yon Rambo ranks third in the Big Ten Conference and 23rd nationally with 137.3 all-purpose yards per game. He has 961 all-purpose yards, second to Ron Dayne’s 1,020.

That was 6-4, 245-pound defensive end James Cotton running down Penn State’s second-fastest runner, Eric McCoo, for a touchdown-saving tackle.

Quarterback Steve Bellisari is 3-2 as a starting quarterback. He 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 1,058 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions, including 243 yards vs. Ohio U., and he has been hurting teams with his running ability as well. He is second on the squad with 281 rushing yards and he averages 4.1 yards per carry. He has led the team in rushing three-consecutive games. He rushed for 96 yards, including a 68-yard rush on the second-to-last play of the game, vs. Purdue. The last OSU quarterback to rush for 100 yards: Rod Gerald at Iowa Oct. 15, 1977 (100 yards).

Michael Wiley needs 37 rushing yards to pass Jim Otis (2,542 yards between 1967-69) and 73 to pass Calvin Murray (2,676 yards between 1977-80) to move into eighth-place on Ohio State’s prestigious Top 10 list for career yards gained. Wiley is ninth at Ohio State with 3,613 all-purpose yards.

Nate Clements, in addition to becoming a fine cornerback, has averaged 10.1 yards off 13 punt returns. . .Sophomore tackles Mike Collins and Ryan Pickett have combined for 13 tackles-for-loss. . .Kevin Houser’s career-long 20-yard reception vs. Penn State came on a third-down play. . .Dan Stultz is doing an excellent job place-kicking and punting. He has hit on 9-of-12 field goals this season and he has made seven of his last eight. Included was the second-longest of his career, a 47-yarder vs. Penn State. In his first year as a punter, he is averaging 39.5 yards per punt. He had his best day against Penn State, with a 44.3 yard average off seven punts. . .Michael Wiley threw his second career touchdown pass in the Purdue game, a seven-yarder to Darnell Sanders. He also has thrown a touchdown pass to Steve Wisniewski (in 1997 vs. Indiana). Wiley the passer is now 8-of-9 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. . .Ken-Yon Rambo has five catches this season for over 40 yards, including a school-record three 50-plus-yard catches in the Cincinnati game.

Ohio State has committed 20 turnovers and is maintaining control of the ball about 27 minutes per game this season. OSU’s opponents have committed just 14 turnovers and are holding onto the ball for about 33 minutes per game. OSU has trailed in time of possession by about 10 minutes in each of the last five games. OSU has committed three or more turnovers in five of its seven games. Opponents have scored 50 points Ohio State turnovers. The Buckeyes have scored 36 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 388-146-24 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 (40-10-1) and the most conference championships (3) since Penn State joined the conference in 1993. Ohio State has won 79.4 percent of its Big Ten games since 1993. Penn State (39-12 with one Big Ten title) has won 77 percent of its games and Michigan (38-13 with two championships) has won 76.0 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 63-24-4 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 on the initial “watch list” 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.