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Brees looks forward to playing at OSU

The Associated Press

On the other hand, what quarterback wouldn’t want to play there, the way things are going for Ohio State’s defense?<!—->.

Friday, October 08, 1999

On the other hand, what quarterback wouldn’t want to play there, the way things are going for Ohio State’s defense?

”We haven’t played Ohio State for three years,” Brees said. ”It’s a big game, playing in the Horseshoe. I’m really looking forward to it. I think this team is definitely going to be ready to play. Everyone is going to be real excited, especially myself.”

Brees is leading the Big Ten in passing yardage (322 yards per game) and his top batterymate, Chris Daniels, tops the league in receiving (9.2 catches and 97.2 yards per game).

”We’re going to have our hands full this week, definitely,” linebacker Na’il Diggs said. ”They do what Cincinnati did, only 10 times better.”

In Ohio State’s 34-20 win over Cincinnati two weeks ago, Bearcats’ quarterback Deontey Kenner – making only his ninth career start – passed for 343 yards and his team piled up 525 against the backpedaling Buckeyes. He wasn’t sacked, either.

And that’s not the worst of it.

A week ago, Ohio State led 17-0, the Badgers’ redshirt freshman quarterback was looking confused and it appeared as if bruising back Ron Dayne was running into an OSU team picture on almost every play.

But that was the first four series. The Badgers scored the next eight times they touched the ball and swamped the Buckeyes 42-17.

Brooks Bollinger got untracked and completed 13 of his last 20 passes for all but 20 of his 167 passing yards. Dayne, pounding toward Ricky Williams’ NCAA career rushing record, gained 19 yards on seven carries on the first four possessions. Then he averaged 5.7 yards on his last 25 attempts while piling up a total of 161 yards.

”That’s what happens when it starts going downhill,” Ohio State coach John Cooper said.

Also going downhill is Cooper’s patience.

He’s disciplining starter Michael Wiley and backup Jonathan Wells because each missed a class this week. So third-string tailback Derek Combs starts on Saturday.

Over the past three weeks, the Buckeyes have prepared for an option attack, a run-and-shoot offense and then the inside running of Wisconsin. And they haven’t come close to shutting down any of them for more than a couple of quarters.

Now the 21st-ranked Buckeyes are presented with a cool Brees who is considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country.

”He exudes confidence. I’m not using the word cocky, but he’s a confident football player,” said Cooper, who met Brees at a photo shoot for a preseason All-America team. ”He does a good job running their offense. He’s the kind of guy you love to have on your team.”

Brees completes 58 percent of his passes for an average of 13 yards per completion and has 11 touchdown passes against four interceptions. He’s been sacked only three times all season.

”He’s up for the Heisman and with that hype, I’m sure he’s good,” defensive end James Cotton said.

Ohio State’s defense is averaging only two sacks, even though opponents are calling around 35 pass plays a game.

”A lot of the time, they’re going to the shotgun or a three-step drop,” Cotton said. ”It’s real hard to get to a guy when he’s letting the ball go in under 2 seconds.”

That would pretty much describe Brees. But he is also as accurate as he is quick to get rid of the ball.

”I think probably the best thing he does is he distributes the ball to the open guy,” Cooper said. ”He doesn’t look like he’s got a John Elway arm and he’s not 6-3 or 6-4, but he gets the ball to the open man. You leave somebody uncovered and he’ll find him right fast.”

An unexpected ally of the Buckeyes might be Brees’ receivers. By Purdue coach Joe Tiller’s reckoning, they dropped 13 passes last week in a 38-12 loss at No. 3 Michigan.

Ohio State can’t count on that happening again. It’s trying to sort out its problems.

”We need more enthusiasm,” defensive end Rodney Bailey said. ”We need to trust one another, to just have more fun.”