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OSU hasn’t forgotten loss to MSU

The Associated Press

A year after a stunning 28-24 loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes are still smarting as they prepare for the rematch with the Spartans Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.

Tuesday, November 02, 1999

A year after a stunning 28-24 loss to Michigan State, the Buckeyes are still smarting as they prepare for the rematch with the Spartans Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.

”There’s definitely a big chip on my shoulder,” linebacker Na’il Diggs said. ”We had probably the best team in the country in my opinion and others, that lost to an OK team. That’s definitely hard to grasp.

”To know that you were going to have an undefeated season or you should have had an undefeated season, you had the talent, you had the momentum, you had the rankings and then … kaboom, it’s gone. That’s a pretty tough lot to swallow.”

No team had come within 17 points of the Buckeyes, who had owned the No. 1 spot in the rankings and the Bowl Championship Series throughout the season. They were favored by 17 1/2 points against Michigan State and built a 24-9 second-half lead at home before 93,595 friendly faces.

But then the underachieving Spartans – who would go 6-6 and wouldn’t make it to a bowl game – ran off 19 points in a row. They also withstood four Ohio State passes from the Spartan 15 in the waning seconds.

Quarterback Steve Bellisari called the upset ”hokey.” After consulting with members of Ohio State’s sports information office, he told reporters he didn’t mean to imply that the Spartans were lucky.

”It was a devastating defeat,” Cooper said. ”I’ve had some tough losses other places I’ve coached and certainly we’ve had some devastating losses since I’ve been here. That would rank up there near the top.”

The Buckeyes – led by stars and high draft picks David Boston, Andy Katzenmoyer, Joe Germaine and Antoine Winfield – won their last two regular-season games then pounded Texas A&M in the Sugar Bowl to finish an 11-1 season as the No. 2 team in the polls.

Cooper said he watched the national championship game between Tennessee and Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl and came to a haunting conclusion.

”I thought we could have beaten either one of them,” he said.

A lot has changed in the last year. Most of Ohio State’s stars have moved on to the NFL. The Buckeyes (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) foundered for most of the year but have won their last two games.

Meanwhile, Michigan State (6-2, 3-2) won its first six games and was ranked as high as fifth in the nation before losing its last two starts by lopsided scores.

So the teams arrive at Saturday’s game by divergent routes, just like 1998.

”It’s definitely fuel for the fire. They beat us last year in a situation where we needed to win,” Bellisari said. ”It’s almost kind of the same situation in my mind. We still need to win this ballgame regardless of whether we’re ranked 19th or No. 1 in the country.”

Fullback Matt Keller said both teams have a lot at stake.

”We know that they’re kind of on a slide right now and we really haven’t shown that we can go out and prove ourselves every week,” he said.