OSU won#039;t overlook Bearcats

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 20, 2002

CINCINNATI-- Three years ago, Ohio State was ranked 12th in the nation when it played Cincinnati at Ohio Stadium.

The heavily favored Buckeyes were stunned to find themselves tied 17-17 at the half.

Linebacker Cie Grant still hasn't forgotten the mood in the locker room.

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''They were right there with us. We were a little shocked,'' he said. ''I think we sort of overlooked this team.''

With the No. 6-ranked Buckeyes traveling to Cincinnati on Saturday, Grant has had flashbacks this week.

''If we're overlooking these guys, then stupid on us,'' he said.

The game is a rarity in that Ohio State seldom ventures from hulking old Ohio Stadium to play an in-state opponent.

The Buckeyes haven't played a ''road'' game against an Ohio school within the state's borders since going to Western Reserve in 1934. They have not lost to another Ohio school since falling 7-6 to Oberlin in 1921. Ninety-one years have passed since the last time Ohio State played in Cincinnati.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he'd rather be headed to the Queen City than play ''someone from a thousand miles away.'' He said it was important to play in a stadium named after a legendary coach with so many ties to Ohio State, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns.

''It'll be a thrill for all of us to be in Paul Brown Stadium,'' Tressel said. ''It's an NFL stadium, it's a brand new stadium. Paul Brown is part of our history. There's a lot of neat things about it.''

The Buckeyes will be without the services of its leading rusher, Maurice Clarett. The freshman sustained a slight tear of a knee ligament in last week's 25-7 victory over No. 10 Washington State. Most of his 230 yards rushing and both of his touchdowns came after the injury.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday morning and did not practice with the Buckeyes the rest of the week.

In Clarett's stead, Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall and JaJa Riley will share the load at tailback.

The Buckeyes (3-0) are expecting to get the full attention of the Bearcats (1-1).

''I'm sure they've had this game marked on their schedule for a long time,'' Ohio State linebacker Matt Wilhelm said. ''I'm sure they're going to come out 100 percent roaring to try for an upset.''

Cincinnati coach Rick Minter isn't worried that his team will give Ohio State too much respect.

''We're not going to sit around and be in awe of Ohio State coming to our place,'' Minter said. ''We have a lot to gain if we can be successful.''

Likewise, Minter said there are few negatives.

''It'll be a one-game swing, either way we look at it,'' he said. ''We're not going to make anything more out of it than it is. It's a big-game opportunity.''

Cincinnati has surrendered a lot of points (64) but is nearly unbeaten thanks to two second-half comebacks led by sophomore quarterback Gino Guidugli. He has passed for more yards in the fourth quarter of the Bearcats' two games than in the other six quarters combined.

''At quarterback is a guy that makes plays,'' Tressel said. ''The biggest concern about the Cincinnati is they have excellent team speed. They're extremely tough, a very physical group. They're not fancy. Now they will spread out and all that stuff but it's their base things that they do and they do it very well.''

No one questions the Bearcats' offense, but the defense is another matter.

''Our defense has to play better,'' Guidugli said. ''I hope they will and I think they will.''

Minter knows his team must do a better job of stopping the run than it did in last week's 35-32 loss to West Virginia, which rushed for 334 yards. If the Bearcats win, they will likely have to outscore the Buckeyes.

''Things will have to fall right for us,'' he said. ''We have to play better run defense. We'll have to play 'bend, don't break.'

''We're not going to get a lot of chances. We'll have to be explosive.'' The Associated Press