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Akron faces Buckeyes with rookie QB

The Associated Press

AKRON – Redshirt freshman quarterback Charlie Frye will lead Akron into the game he has dreamed of: a showdown with powerhouse Ohio State in front of more than 100,000 fans.

Friday, September 07, 2001

AKRON – Redshirt freshman quarterback Charlie Frye will lead Akron into the game he has dreamed of: a showdown with powerhouse Ohio State in front of more than 100,000 fans.

Saturday’s game will be the first start for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Frye, who replaced injured sophomore Nick Sparks last week in Akron’s 31-29 win over Ohio.

”I grew up an hour and a half from Ohio State,” Frye told the Akron Beacon Journal. ”In all my games combined, I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of the number of fans they expect.”

A record crowd is predicted at the newly renovated Ohio Stadium. This is the first matchup of the schools since 1895.

Jim Tressel makes his debut as No. 24 Ohio State’s head coach. He said the showdown between the in-state rivals was exciting for both sides.

”It’s a good situation for a lot of people,” said Tressel, who had spent the last 15 years as the head coach at Youngstown State. ”It’s a great opportunity for a lot of young people to get a chance to play in Ohio Stadium.”

No one is more excited about that opportunity than Frye, who set 17 high school records playing for Willard High School and was a first-team All-Ohio Division III selection.

Nonetheless, some of his teammates didn’t know what to expect when Sparks went out with turf toe before the end of the first half and Frye entered the huddle.

”I’ll be honest, some of us were kind of skeptical,” senior center Scott Smith said. ”We looked at each other like, ‘Who is this young kid?”’

Frye went on to complete 13-of-16 passes for 145 yards. With 2:45 remaining, he led a 12-play, 55-yard game-winning drive, ending with Zac Derr’s 38-yard field goal as time expired.

”I always prepare as if I’m the starter,” he said.

Zips coach Lee Owens said the clutch performance impressed him.

”It was kind of a scary thing putting a redshirt freshman in that situation with two minutes left and us trailing,” he told the newspaper. ”If you had a chance to look at his eyes, he had a look that I hadn’t seen from a quarterback in that situation, ever.”

Frye has dreamed of starting against the Buckeyes ever since committing to Akron in December 1999, said his mother, Sally Frye.

”Nick (Sparks) spent a lot of time here at our house and we got a chance to know him and he’s wonderful,” she added. ”We hope he gets better.”

Dave Frye said OSU never gave his son a serious look when he participated in camps there his first three years in high school.

”I think deep down inside, he would like to go back there and really show them something,” he said.

Tressel said the Buckeyes realize that Frye and the rest of the Zips have something to prove.

”All you have to do is look at that game against Ohio U. and you see that they know how to win,” Tressel said. ”They have a lot of confidence. They know how to play the game.”