Buckeyes itching to end layoff; Tressel in cornrows?Posted: Sunday December 29, 2002 6:34 PM
Updated: Monday December 30, 2002 10:39 AM
PHOENIX (AP) -- Ohio State's players are getting tired of hitting each other in practice all the time.
The Buckeyes can't wait to finally get to play an opponent again.
"I'm ready to play right now," all-purpose star Chris Gamble said Sunday. "It's been a long layoff for me."
By the time the second-ranked Buckeyes take the field Friday night for the Fiesta Bowl against No. 1 Miami, they will have been off for 40 days.
"It obviously helped to let some of our players get healthy and it helped us get our legs back," defensive lineman Kenny Peterson said.
The biggest beneficiary of the break might be running back Maurice Clarrett, recovering from a nerve injury to his left shoulder.
Miami has played two games since Ohio State's victory over Michigan on Nov. 23. But even the Hurricanes are getting a bit stir crazy.
"The waiting period is difficult for everybody," center Brett Romberg said. "You get tired of hitting the same color jerseys every day."
But Romberg is not sure whether it's an advantage for either team.
"You can look at it either way," he said. "They had a lot of time to heal up some injuries and will have fresh legs. But they might not be as sharp."
SNOWBIRDS: Canadians have been coming to Florida for years to escape the snow and harsh winters.
Now they're coming to play football, too.
Miami has three Canadian offensive linemen: starters Brett Romberg and Sherko Haji-Rasouli, and backup Joe McGrath.
"It is rare to see Canadian football players, especially as far south as Miami," Romberg said. "But Canadian kids are hard working."
Romberg hopes others will follow him to Miami.
"I believe there are a lot of Canadians who could play," he said.
COACH CORNROWS: Ohio State coach Jim Tressel promised his players that he would have his hair braided in cornrows if the Buckeyes finish the season undefeated.
That's just another factor motivating Ohio State this week.
"We're out here for business but it would be nice to win to keep him to his word," linebacker Cie Grant said. "He'll have to do it."
But the players don't expect the new 'do to be a long-term thing for the straight-laced Tressel.
"He might do it for a day, but you guys won't see it," Buckeyes free safety Donnie Nickey said. "I think he'll do it for maybe a day, an hour or 20 minutes at a team meeting, then they'll be gone. Someone has to take a picture."
Tressel said it will take him some time to pay up on the bet.
"I'll do it as soon as my hair is long enough," Tressel said. "I've got to start growing it out."
NO RESPECT: Ohio State comes into the Fiesta Bowl as the unknown team against defending champion Miami.
Bowl officials even had trouble spelling the name of one of the Buckeyes' players. The placard for free safety Donnie Nickey was spelled "Donny."
"I haven't spelled it like that since I was 5," Nickey said.
He wrote in the correct spelling with a pen.
FLORIDA UNFRIENDLY: The Fiesta Bowl will match the top two teams in the country for the fourth time.
A bad omen for Miami: A team from Florida has lost in the other three national title games.
The Hurricanes are 0-3 in the Fiesta Bowl, losing the title matchup in 1987 to Penn State 14-10, and losing to UCLA in 1985 and Arizona in 1994.
In the other No. 1 vs. No. 2 games, Nebraska wrapped up its second consecutive national title by overpowering Florida 62-24 in 1996. And four years ago, Tennessee won the first BCS title game, beating Florida State 23-16.
Ohio State split its first two trips to the Fiesta Bowl, losing 31-19 to Penn State in 1980 and beating Pittsburgh 28-23 in 1984.
HOME BOY: Miami offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski isn't expecting his friends back home to be cheering for him this week.
The native of Toledo, Ohio, knows where the allegiances of most of the city's fans lie.
"I had a lot more ticket requests than I could accommodate," he said. "I know probably other than my immediate family, most are rooting for Ohio State. It's a great thrill."