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Changing QBs fixes Buckeyes fortunes

The Associated Press

Cooper replaced Austin Moherman with Steve Bellisari and within minutes a two-point lead and great field position turned into a 15-9 deficit that would turn into a 23-12 loss to Miami.

Monday, August 30, 1999

Cooper replaced Austin Moherman with Steve Bellisari and within minutes a two-point lead and great field position turned into a 15-9 deficit that would turn into a 23-12 loss to Miami.

”We felt like we wanted to put Steve in the ballgame to see if he could make something happen,” Cooper said.

Cooper said earlier in the week he would rely on his ”gut feelings” to decide if or when Moherman would come out.

”We were going to ride with the guy, hopefully with a hot hand,” offensive coordinator Mike Jacobs said. ”And then make a switch if need be, or just to pull out and give a guy a series and make some adjustments and talk to him.”

Moherman, making his first career start, was the guy with the hot hand. After throwing incompletions on both of his attempts in Ohio State’s first two series, he came on to complete 5-of-7 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in the next three series. One of those incompletions when tight end Kevin Houser dropped a pass.

Yet Cooper, Jacobs and quarterbacks coach Tim Salem conferred and decided to insert Bellisari.

Taking over at the Miami 28 after a Nate Clements interception, the Buckeyes moved to the Miami 15 on three Jonathan Wells runs.

But then Wells pulled in Bellisari’s only pass attempt and was thrown for a 3-yard loss. After Wells regained that yardage on a run, Bellisari was pressured by a blitz and threw a screen pass for Michael Wiley behind the line of scrimmage. It was ruled a lateral, bouncing out of bounds for an 11-yard loss.

”We were hoping they would blitz, actually,” Jacobs said. ”We were throwing a screen pass and that’s either feast or famine. You like it sometimes when they are coming because they’re selling out. If you can get the ball dished out, you’re one on one out there. Unfortunately, it was famine instead of feast for us.”

Unable to set up their kicker with better field position, Ohio State didn’t get any points when Dan Stultz missed wide right on a 44-yard field goal.

The Buckeye defense forced a Miami punt and took over at the Hurricanes’ 40, but there was trouble brewing again.

On first down, Bellisari fumbled the exchange from center Kurt Murphy and Miami’s Dan Morgan recovered with 4:23 left in the half.

Miami’s Kenny Kelly completed a pair of passes for 50 yards and capped the drive with a 7-yard bootleg touchdown run to give the Hurricanes their first lead. His two-point conversion pass to James Jackson made it 15-9.

Moherman returned after the ensuing kickoff, but things weren’t the same. He sandwiched incompletions around a 7-yard sack before Ohio State punted.

With time running out in the first half, Miami applied the clincher when Kelly lofted a long pass Santana Moss came back to catch, turning it into a 67-yard touchdown and a 23-9 lead at the half.

Asked if Ohio State lost momentum after the switch, Moherman said, ”I don’t know. Somebody else would have to say. We were moving the ball pretty decent right there at the end of the first quarter and the start of the second.”

Moherman, who took every snap the rest of the game and finished 10-of-22 for 107 yards with two interceptions, said he wasn’t surprised to come out.

”That was the plan going in. Everybody knew that both Steve and me were going to play,” he said. ”That was just the time it happened.”

Cooper defended the decision and defended Bellisari to reporters after the game.

”I can tell you right now, I’m not down on Steve Bellisari. You guys can write what you want to about the fumbled snap, but we can correct that,” Cooper said. ”I like the guy and he will play in the next ballgame. You can put that down. I like him. We’ve got to make things happen and we didn’t make them happen.”