One gets the feeling that when they dine out, Buckeye fans are quick to send their filet mignon back to the kitchen.
During the question-and-answer period at the Sept. 29 meeting of the Ohio State Quarterback Club, a few of the older boosters brought a matter of grave concern to the attention of coach John Cooper. Sure, they said, it was great that the team was undefeated and that wide receiver Joey Galloway was scoring all those touchdowns, but did Galloway have to get so happy afterward—remove his helmet, strut around, that sort of thing?
Replied Cooper: Lighten up.
We're paraphrasing, slightly. "You oughta be happy if you make a great play," said Cooper in Galloway's defense. He reminded his audience that former Buckeye coach Woody Hayes had tolerated the touchdown shimmies of quarterback Cornelius Greene and the celebratory backflips of safety Tim Fox. And on the subjects of long hair and earrings, Cooper said, "I have a feeling Coach Hayes would have adapted to the times."
He dares speak for Woody! Now in his sixth year in Columbus, Cooper has reason to be emboldened. His team's 51-3 dismantling of Northwestern last Saturday improved the Buckeyes' 1993 record to 4-0 and solidified their No. 6 ranking. Those weren't boos cascading on Cooper as he strode off the held after the game. The fans at Ohio Stadium were yelling, "Coooop!"—bless their fickle hearts.
That's right, the guy who came within a play of losing his job last year now answers to Coop. Nice game, Coop. Keep it up. Coop. The 55-year-old Cooper was coaching Arizona State when Ohio State hired him in 1988 to replace Earle Bruce, who was canned after nine seasons for winning a mere 75% of his games. By the beginning of this year Cooper had made many in the Buckeye State nostalgic for Bruce: Cooper's winning percentage was .600, and he was 0-4 in bowl games and 0-4-1 against Michigan.
That tie came at an opportune time. Before last year's Michigan game The Columbus Dispatch reported that another loss to the Wolverines would cost Cooper his job. Facing fourth-and-goal on the Michigan five with 4:24 remaining and the Wolverines leading 13-6, Ohio State's Kirk Herbstreit threw a scoring pass to Greg Beatty, and the Buckeyes hung on for a 13-13 tie. University president Gordon Gee's jubilant assessment of the stalemate—"This tie is one of our greatest wins ever"—was interpreted as naked relief that he wouldn't have to lire a decent man.
And a better-than-decent coach. The Buckeyes' 21-12 win over Washington last month thrust them, for the first time in Cooper's tenure, into the AP's Top 10. Ol' Coop is the toast of the town...for now. Ohio State's sternest tests—Penn State at home, Michigan in Ann Arbor—lie ahead, and Cooper has not exactly established himself as a big-game coach. Before this season his Ohio State teams were 3-13-2 against ranked opponents.
Two things, however, separate this Buckeye squad from Cooper's previous teams: an abundance of speed and an absence of controversy. The ascension of Florida teams has finally convinced Big Ten coaches that the days of pounding the ball behind stegosauruslike offensive linemen are over. "We've begun to realize," says Cooper, "that if we're going to compete with the big boys, we're going to have to recruit speed."
A roll call of Ohio State's fleet: