Ohio State doesn#039;t mind #039;Luckeyes#039; tag

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 20, 2003

COLUMBUS - Ohio State safety Will Allen says the Buckeyes have won so many close games because they've gotten help from above - and he doesn't mean the coaches in the press box.

''We work hard each game. We play tough. When we do that, it's hard to beat us,'' Allen said during preparations this week for the No. 4 Buckeyes' showdown Saturday against No. 5 Michigan. ''A lot of games, I'll say God has been on our side. I wouldn't say it's luck or fortune. I wouldn't say it's by mishap or even coincidence - I think it's planned that way.''

Allen then laughed, adding that he thinks God is a Buckeye.

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If so, that would go a long way toward explaining Ohio State's incredible run in close games the past two seasons.

The Buckeyes won their final three games last season in overtime, on the last play and in double-overtime to capture the national championship. Seven of their 14 wins were by seven or fewer points. They survived two dropped touchdown passes in the final minute at Cincinnati (a 23-19 win), edged Penn State 13-7 without scoring an offensive touchdown and beat Purdue 10-6 on a fourth-and-1 37-yard touchdown pass from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins with 1:36 left.

This year, they have beaten North Carolina State in three overtimes, Purdue in one extra period on Saturday and four other games by a touchdown or less. The Buckeyes (10-1) have won three games this season when they didn't score an offensive touchdown.

Scarlet-and-gray clad fans see those games decided by the team's toughness, diligence and refusal to lose. Others see it differently.

Ohio State is No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series rankings, which determine the two teams that play in the national championship game - this year at the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4.

Margin of victory used to be factored into the BCS rankings. Then coaches complained that the system rewarded teams who ran up the score on overmatched opponents. So two years ago, the system was retooled and as a result Oklahoma's 77-0 trouncing of Texas A&M has equal weight with Ohio State's 16-13 squeaker over 32-point underdog San Diego State.

Some commentators have taken to calling Ohio State the ''Luckeyes.''

''You know, I think we are lucky,'' said coach Jim Tressel, who always wears a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelet. ''We've shown at times that we do things well, but I think we've had good fortune. That doesn't concern me that someone would say that.''

Although the players bristle at the inference that their championship last season and their lofty ranking this year are based on good fortune, they're not afraid to acknowledge that they have had their share of good fortune.

Offensive lineman Rob Sims said he'd thank anyone who said the Buckeyes were lucky.

''I mean, if you win the national championship, you've got to have a little bit of luck I guess,'' he said. ''We put ourselves in the right position to win these games, no matter what people say about how lucky we are or whatever. We always have great strategies here and we've got players who go out there and execute. It can be lucky, but a win is a win to me.''

Tight end Ben Hartsock said he'd just as soon not rely on another close call on Saturday at Michigan. He also said he wouldn't be surprised if another cardiac finish awaits.

''It just seems to be a calling card,'' Hartsock said. ''I guess you kind of expect it. We'd love to come out and put a million points on the board and have them put up zero. But you can't anticipate something like that. All you can do is expect it's going to be a tight game.''