Another Trojan horse?

Published 11:24 am Tuesday, September 16, 2008

COLUMBUS — Just what reeling Ohio State needed — another bunch of confident Trojans.

After getting lashed by top-ranked Southern California 35-3, Ohio State has a huge task ahead just rebuilding its battered confidence.

Troy, the 13th-ranked Buckeyes’ opponent on Saturday, doesn’t have that problem.

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‘‘I’ve seen the highlights of it,’’ Troy linebacker Bear Woods said Monday, referring to USC’s nationally televised landslide victory over the Buckeyes on Saturday night. ‘‘USC held them to one and a half yards per carry.’’

The Trojans — the 2-0 ones from Troy, Ala., not the ones ranked No. 1 from Los Angeles — believe they’ve got a shot at the wounded Buckeyes.

‘‘It makes us real confident,’’ cornerback Jorrick Calvin said. ‘‘We had a big game this week and the offense put up some pretty good numbers. Going up there and them just losing a big game like that, I think they’ll be hurting and they could get beat again.’’

Asked if he was predicting a Troy victory, Calvin backed off, saying, ‘‘I won’t predict anything. I’ll just predict a good game.’’

The Buckeyes (2-1) returned to the practice field on Monday, most likely trying hard to push aside all the negativity surrounding the program. Practice, as usual, was closed to the media, and players were not available to speak — also normal for a Monday.

The Buckeyes had a streak of 141 consecutive games scoring at least one touchdown snapped, dating to Nov. 23, 1996, a 13-9 loss to Michigan. It was also their worst loss since a 63-14 defeat at Penn State in 1994 — which was also No. 1 at the time.

‘‘If we play like that the rest of the season, we won’t be anything,’’ offensive tackle Alex Boone said after the game.

Ohio State scored first — just as it had in the Bowl Championship Series title games the last two years before losing to Florida 41-14 and LSU 38-24 — and fell behind 21-3 at the half. Then things got really ugly, with USC outgaining the Buckeyes 135-2 in the third quarter. Ohio State had minus-2 net rushing yards in the second half.

At almost the same time, Troy walloped Alcorn State 65-0, setting numerous school records along the way.

Alcorn State was able to pick up just 120 yards of total offense with nine first downs against Troy’s defense. On the other side of the ball, sophomore quarterback Jamie Hampton only played a half but completed 26 of 37 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns. Troy led 52-0 after two quarters.

No wonder Troy, which is an early three-touchdown underdog, feels pretty good about its chances — both because of the way it has played in two wins and how the Buckeyes played at the L.A. Coliseum.

‘‘USC is a great football team,’’ Woods said. ‘‘You can’t really hold that against Ohio State. It was a beatdown but USC really has a great team this year. Ohio State is a great team, and great teams bounce back.’’

Alcorn State will never be mistaken for the Buckeyes. And running up a big win before 22,105 at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium isn’t nearly the same as making a point before more than 105,000 partisan fans at Ohio Stadium.

‘‘What’s important to us is we roll up our sleeves and go back to work and see if we can become a better football team,’’ Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said after the USC loss.

A capacity home crowd and a bunch of Trojans from Alabama are anxious to find out if they can.