Now showing: Nightmare in New Orleans
Despite preseason hype, Ohio St. offensive line has something to prove
Posted: Thursday September 03, 1998 01:45 AM
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- It's the scariest horror film in town, featuring lots of mangled bodies, violence and brutality.
It is also a haunting memory for the Ohio State football team.
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 in the nation heading into Saturday's showdown at 11th-ranked West Virginia. But they remain traumatized by the flickering images from their last game, an embarrassing 31-14 beating by Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
"We burned that film," offensive coordinator Mike Jacobs said.
Strong safety Damon Moore: "We didn't deserve to be on the field with Florida State."
"Florida State really pounded us," quarterback Joe Germaine said.
Offensive lineman Rob Murphy said, "I can't even watch that film."
What the video shows is Florida State's defense -- led by chief perpetrator Andre Wadsworth -- swarming into the Ohio State backfield on almost every play. Six times Buckeye quarterbacks were sacked -- and twice that many times they were hit as they released passes and smacked to the turf.
In the face of such pressure, Germaine and starter Stanley Jackson managed to complete just 16-of-36 attempts with three interceptions. The Buckeyes' second-leading rusher was linebacker Jerry Rudzinski -- who went 24 yards with a fake punt.
An inexperienced offensive line received much of the blame. Eight months later and now a year older, members of the unit say they're better, that things have changed.
But opposing teams must still salivate when they see the Nightmare in New Orleans.
"It's sickening to see -- Wadsworth and his buddies, every play, throwing Joe and Stan," Murphy said. "Everyone's going to be watching that film, regardless of who we play. They will be watching that film thinking they can do the same thing."
Ohio State coach John Cooper said one of the most important objectives this fall was to make the line an aggressive and confident group.
"Our quarterback never had a chance to execute the offense against Florida State," Cooper said. "We've got to be more physical."
The faces haven't changed dramatically. Eric Gohlstin graduated and was replaced by Brooks Burris at right tackle. Left tackle Tyson Walter, left guard Rob Murphy, center Kurt Murphy and right guard Ben Gilbert are all back.
Some national publications say this year's Buckeyes are loaded -- but still could plummet because of a line that has yet to prove itself in a big game.
"From what we showed last year, it's semi-warranted," Walter said. "But we're a different team this year. We're a year older, a year better. And we're up to showing some people."
They swear that they have overcome the ghosts of New Year's Day.
"We're so confident in ourselves. It's a kind of a confidence that you're real quiet about, you're real sure of yourself," Rob Murphy said. "Everything's clicking. We're not making nearly as many mental mistakes as a year ago."
A year ago, Ohio State was seventh in the Big Ten in rushing. This year, they'll be clearing holes for young tailbacks replacing the graduated Pepe Pearson.
"Everybody knows they didn't have a good game, they know it, we know it," new starting tailback Michael Wiley said. "They came in here to show some improvement. They started working hard as soon as the season ended. They know they have something to prove and they're ready to prove it."
Germaine spent a lot of the Sugar Bowl looking up at the roof of the Superdome. Now he believes his line will have a great year.
"I think all of the experience they got is going to pay off for them this year. One of our goals this year was to come in and be physical and I think throughout this camp they've really shown that," he said.
Rob Murphy said he's been checking off the days to the West Virginia game.
"I can't wait for September 5 to get on that field and get the bad taste out of my mouth," he said.
Rob Murphy (right) and the rest of the Buckeyes' offensive line will have to keep Joe Germaine's jersey clean if they want to win a national title Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport|
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