Cooper has had no serious cause for regrets. Even before the game-turning contribution his middle linebacker made last Saturday, two Katzenmoyer plays stuck out in Cooper's mind. In the season's fifth game, against Wisconsin, 54 seconds were left in the scoreless first quarter, and the Badgers had the ball, fourth-and-goal, at the one-yard line. Lining up over a Wisconsin guard, Katzenmoyer sensed a rerun of a sweep that the Badgers had run twice in that drive. It was a perfect read. As the guard pulled, opening a gap, Katzenmoyer shot through and nailed tailback Carl McCullough for a seven-yard loss. The play prevented what would have been a decisive touchdown in the Buckeyes' 17-14 win. Three weeks later, with Ohio State leading Minnesota 17-0 in the third quarter, Katzenmoyer ignited a 45-0 blowout when he keyed on a receiver slanting into his zone. Katzenmoyer drifted left about five yards, stepped inside the receiver to pick off the pass and raced 42 yards to score his first collegiate touchdown. "He doesn't play like a freshman," Cooper says. "You'd think he was a junior. Or a senior."
It's as though he is caught in a time warp, where all that has happened the last three months feels as if it happened last week—the camp, the days of practice, the endless hours watching films, the games following one another week upon week. "I never thought the dream would come true so fast," he says, "You don't have time to sit back and reflect. How intense it was running out of the tunnel in front of 93,000 screaming fans the opening game. There were times in that game I couldn't think, it was so loud. The hype and the pressure. A sea of people. Just that, itself, was unbelievable.... It's indescribable how much I love this game."
The Rose Bowl looms five weeks away, and he will find no better place than Pasadena to end a storybook season.