Buckeyes: Cooper has a message

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 12, 1999

The Associated Press

The 18th-ranked Buckeyes play Saturday at No.

Tuesday, October 12, 1999

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The 18th-ranked Buckeyes play Saturday at No. 2 Penn State. During his weekly Monday meeting with reporters, Cooper said the Buckeyes’ best wouldn’t be good enough unless the Nittany Lions helped with turnovers and penalties.

”I think it’s pretty obvious that if we play our best game and they play their best game and neither team makes any mistakes, they’ll probably win the game,” Cooper said.

Some of his players later said they were upset by his comments.

”I don’t think it’s a fair assessment because if that’s the case, then we don’t need to play the game,” wide receiver Reggie Germany said.

The Buckeyes (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big Ten Conference) aren’t accustomed to being told they need a lot of help from an opponent. After all, Ohio State has finished second in the nation in two of the last three years.

Cooper was asked whether he was sending a negative message to his players, and responded, ”Our players are realistic enough to know we’re going to have to play a fanatical game to go beat this football team.”

The Buckeyes, who are 11 1/2-point underdogs in Beaver Stadium, were almost fanatical in their disagreement with their coach.

”I definitely would not say that,” linebacker Na’il Diggs said. ”I won’t be thinking this whole week that Penn State will win.”

Safety Donnie Nickey said, ”I don’t want to shortchange the coach, but I don’t believe that personally.”

When a reporter asked cornerback Ahmed Plummer about Cooper’s words, Plummer’s eyes narrowed and he said, ”I don’t really have a comment on that. That’s his position.”

”You’ve got to go over there with a winning attitude. If you don’t expect to win, you might as well not go at all,” defensive tackle Mike Collins said. ”Wow, that fires me up. That gets me upset to hear that.”

Tight end Kevin Houser said Cooper’s words didn’t mean much.

”Neither team’s going to play a perfect game,” he said. ”So I’m going to kind of disclaim coach Cooper’s comments because football is a game where there are going to be mistakes made. We’re going to try to make fewer mistakes than Penn State.”

Defensive end James Cotton said he wasn’t upset by Cooper’s words, but added, ”Whenever your coach tells you that the other team will win, that means we have to work harder in practice to prove to him and then prove to the nation on TV this Saturday that we can win.”

Diggs said Cooper’s strategy for the game might involve using the media to inspire his team.

”If it is, it’s a weird way of doing it,” he said. ”If it is, it sounds like it should work. It’s going to tick a few guys off.”

Nickey said he thought Cooper was challenging the Buckeyes.

”That’s the way I take it,” he said. ”He’s going to say this to the media and you guys are going to ask us about it. It just got me fired up. Imagine what it’ll do to the rest of the team.”