“I know no way of judging the future but by the past.”
– Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
It is more than slightly amusing to watch and listen to the nattering nabobs prattle on about how Ohio State has almost no chance to slow down the juggernaut that has become Penn State.
My rebuttal to them is simple: Scoreboard.
Since Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten for the 1993 season, they have a big, fat oh-fer when playing at Ohio Stadium. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Winless.
Not only that, the games haven’t even been close. There was one six-point game that came during Ohio State’s national championship run in 2002 – wasn’t every game close that season? – while every other one of the other six games has been an OSU victory by double digits. The average margin of victory in the seven games: 20.9.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
1993 – On a cold, snowy late October afternoon, the Buckeyes welcomed JoePa to the Big Ten by rolling to a 24-6 win. OSU piled up 380 yards of total offense, led by running back Raymont Harris, who exploded for 151 yards. It was a virtuoso performance by Ohio State on defense as well. The Buckeyes snagged four interceptions and held the Lions without a touchdown for the first time that season.
1996 – Penn State came to Columbus with a perfect 5-0 record and the No. 4 ranking in the country and limped home on the business end of a 38-7 verdict. QBs Stan Jackson and Joe Germaine each threw for two touchdowns as the Buckeyes had 565 yards of total offense. Tailback Pepe Pearson ran for 141 yards on 28 carries while backups Joe Montgomery and Jermon Jackson combined for 138 more. The Nits, who managed only 68 yards rushing as a team, scored on their final possession to avoid their first shutout in nine years.
1998 – The seventh-ranked Lions brought cold and rainy weather with them to the Horseshoe and actually had a 3-0 lead before the Buckeyes stormed away with a 28-9 win. OSU scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half – the first when linebacker Jerry Rudzinski recovered a fumble in the end zone and the second when Germaine connected with tailback Michael Wiley for a 20-yard tally. Again, the Ohio State defense was able to hold Penn State in check. The Lions had only nine first downs and 181 yards of total offense, and were held to no gain or thrown for a loss on 34 of their 59 plays.
2000 – Thunder and lightning delayed kickoff for about 20 minutes and Penn State would probably have been better off had official postponed the game indefinitely. Ohio State rolled to a 45-6 blowout, the largest defeat for the Lions since Paterno had been head coach. The Buckeyes had 397 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Steve Bellisari, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown. Penn State committed three turnovers, including a fourth-quarter fumble that OSU defensive end Mike Collins scooped up and returned 11 yards for a touchdown.
2002 – As most games were during the title run, this was a nail-biter as Penn State held a 7-3 halftime lead. OSU’s fortunes turned on a third-quarter interception by Chris Gamble that he returned 40 yards for a touchdown. Mike Nugent later added a 37-yard field goal to account for the final 13-7 score. The Ohio State defense clamped down on the Lions once again, holding them to just 179 total yards. Tailback Larry Johnson, who was coming off a 257-yard performance the week before against Northwestern, was held to a season-low 66 yards against the Buckeyes.
2004 – First-quarter touchdowns on special teams and defense staked Ohio State to an early lead in what would eventually become a 21-10 win. Ted Ginn Jr. brought back a punt 67 yards to get things started and Tyler Everett returned an interception 24 yards to give the Buckeyes a quick 14-0 lead. OSU head coach Jim Tressel kept things pretty simple for his relatively new starting quarterback Troy Smith (sound familiar?) while the defense forced three Penn State fumbles and grabbed two interceptions.
2006 – The Nittany Lions held a 3-0 lead at halftime before the Buckeyes got things in gear in the second half for a 28-6 victory. Antonio Pittman’s 12-yard touchdown run finally got OSU on the board in the third quarter before a trio of fourth-quarter TDs – including interception returns by Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith – turned a close game into a rout.
Not only has the Horseshoe has been Penn State’s personal House of Horrors, it was also where defensive back Adam Taliaferro was injured in 2000 (not permanently, thank goodness) and JoePa had his infamous potty break in ’06.
Why all the history? Because it’s worth noting that Penn State has come to Ohio Stadium seven times since joining the Big Ten – many of those trips armed with an undefeated record, lofty national ranking or both – and gone home a loser every time. For whatever reason, the Nits play tight in the Horseshoe, allowing the OSU defense to create turnovers and providing plenty of scoring opportunities for the Buckeyes.
I see a similar scenario playing out on Saturday night. After all, a very good way to forecast the future is by examining the past.
HISTORY LESSION – PART DEUX
The year after he and his brother George led Brown to an 8-1 season, Joe Paterno followed his old coach Rip Engle to Penn State. The year was 1950.
What else was happening the year Paterno got to Happy Valley?
Harry Truman was President of the United States. He escaped an assassination attempt in Washington, D.C., in November and concentrated most of the rest of the year on unrest in Asia. On June 25, major hostilities broke out between North and South Korea, beginning the Korean War which would last until July 1953.
South Africa passed the Group Areas Act, segregating races and sewing the roots of apartheid. Author L. Ron Hubbard published “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” a book on the philosophy of Scientology. A nun known as Sister Mary Teresa began her charity work in Calcutta, India. She would later become Mother Teresa.
Darlington Raceway was the site of the Southern 500, the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history. The “Beetle Bailey” and “Peanuts” comic strips were introduced, the game show “Truth or Consequences” debuted on television, and actress Shirley Temple announced her retirement from show business at the age of 22.
Born that year were actors William H. Macy, William Hurt, Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Ed Harris and Don Johnson; actresses Morgan Fairchild and Julie Kavner (the voice of Marge on “The Simpsons”); singer/musicians Billy Ocean, Natalie Cole, Peter Gabriel. Karen Carpenter, Peter Frampton, Stevie Wonder, Huey Lewis, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry and Tom Petty; comedians Martin Short, Jay Leno and John Candy; sports figures Mark Spitz, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Ken Griffey Sr. and North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams; newsmakers such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, “Meet The Press” moderator Tim Russert, political activist Alan Keyes and Princess Anne of Great Britain; and such other notables as television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, romance novelist Nora Roberts and American film critic Leonard Maltin.
Among those passing away in 1950 were such notable authors as George Orwell and Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as playwright George Bernard Shaw.
Also in 1950, the United Nations building was finished in New York City; the first portable pager and TV remote control were introduced; and President Truman sent the first U.S. military advisers to Vietnam.
The total world population was just over 2.5 billion. Today, it is estimated to be about 6.7 billion.
OHIO STATE-PENN STATE MINUTIAE
** This will be the 24th meeting between Ohio State and Penn State. The Buckeyes hold a 12-11 advantage in the overall series including five wins in the last six meetings. OSU is also 8-5 at home against the Nittany Lions, including a perfect 7-0 in Ohio Stadium since Penn State joined the Big Ten. The Lions haven’t beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since a 19-0 victory in 1978.
** Since Penn State joined the Big Ten for the 1993 season, the home team has won 12 of the 15 games in the OSU-PSU series.
** In the 19 meetings since 1975, at least one of the teams has been ranked 17 times. The higher ranked team has posted a 16-1 record in those games. Penn State enters the contest ranked No. 3 in both major polls while Ohio State is No. 10.
** Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel is 5-2 against the Nittany Lions, including last year’s 37-17 victory in Happy Valley. The Buckeyes have enjoyed an average margin of victory of 12.0 points in those five wins.
** Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is the winningest major-college coach in NCAA history with a 380 career victories but his record is only 7-12 all-time against the Buckeyes. That includes losses in eight of nine games his teams have played at Ohio Stadium.
** Under Tressel, the Buckeyes are 32-10 against ranked opponents, including 21-5 at home. Against top 10 competition, Tressel is 8-5 overall.
** If Ohio State beats Penn State, it will mark a pair of milestones for Tressel. It would be his 81st victory with the Buckeyes, tying him with Earle Bruce for third place on the school’s all-time wins list. It would also be Tressel’s 50th conference win, a total only 19 men before him have accomplished.
** Last week, Tressel ran his overall record at OSU to 80-17 and became only the fourth coach in Big Ten history to reach 80 victories in less than 100 games. Fielding Yost of Michigan hit the 80-win plateau in 91 games while Bo Schembechler of Michigan needed 94 games and Henry Williams of Minnesota needed 96.
** The Buckeyes are 6-1 in home night games since 1959, including 2-1 under Tressel. All-time, OSU is 32-13 under the lights. Meanwhile, Penn State is 34-20 in night games, including 16-7 on the road during the regular season.
** It will be the 87th annual homecoming game for Ohio State, and the Buckeyes are 63-18-5 in previous homecoming affairs.
** Penn State is the midst of a stretch during which they play four out of five games on the road. The Lions began the stretch with wins at Purdue and Wisconsin, giving them their first back-to-back Big Ten road victories since winning three in a row in 1999.
** With the exception of Ohio State, Penn State has had its way with Ohio teams over the years. The Nittany Lions are 17-2 against other Ohio schools with the lone blemishes a 14-3 loss to Cincinnati in 1983 and a 24-6 loss to Toledo in 2000.
** Be alert during all punts. The game features two of the Big Ten’s top five punt returners in Ray Small of Ohio State and Derrick Williams of Penn State. Small leads the conference with a 14.0 return average while Williams is fifth at 10.3. Both have taken punts back for touchdowns this season.
** Williams also excels at returning kickoffs. He leads the Big Ten and is No. 5 nationally in that department, having returned two for touchdowns this season while averaging 32.2 yards per runback.
** Penn State senior kicker Kevin Kelly kicked three field goals and five PATs last week during his team’s 46-17 win over Michigan and became the all-time kick scorer in Big Ten history. Kelly, who now has 376 career points, passed Dan Nystrom of Minnesota (1999-2002) and Nate Kaeding of Iowa (2000-03), each of whom scored 367 points.
** Kelly now has 384 total points – he ran for a touchdown against Michigan State last season and scored a two-point conversion against Michigan in 2005 – and now sits third all-time in Big Ten scoring. He trails only Ron Dayne of Wisconsin (426, 1996-99) and Anthony Thompson of Indiana (412, 1986-89).
** Ohio State senior linebacker James Laurinaitis has been selected one of 12 finalists for the Lombardi Award. The others are linebackers Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga of USC, defensive end Auston English of Oklahoma, offensive lineman Alex Mack of California, offensive tackle Michael Oher of Mississippi, defensive end Brian Orakpo of Texas, offensive lineman Duke Robinson of Oklahoma, defensive end George Selvie of South Florida, offensive lineman Andre Smith of Alabama, linebacker Brandon Spikes of Florida and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri.
** In his long career, Paterno has squared off against five other schools at least 25 times, and in those contests against Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Temple and West Virginia, JoePa has padded his victory total. He is a combined 118-13-2 against those schools.
** Tressel and Paterno will each wear special green and white armbands during the game, symbolizing the American Football Coaches Association’s newest charitable project. The armbands are in support of “Coach to Cure MD,” the effort to fight muscular diseases. In particular, the coaches are fighting against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most common fatal genetic disorder diagnosed during childhood.
** Official festivities for the game get under way Friday evening when the Big Ten Network’s Friday Night Tailgate show originates from the OSU campus. Early Saturday morning, ESPN will broadcast its popular College GameDay show from outside St. John Arena beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern. Also, former Ohio State quarterbacks Craig Krenzel and Bobby Hoying will be signing autographs at the FanFest location near St. John beginning at 2:30 p.m.
** The Ohio State men’s basketball team will hold an open scrimmage at Value City Arena from 4 to 5 p.m. The event is free and doors will open at 3:30 p.m. And the Ohio State Marching Band will hold its traditional Skull Session inside St. John Arena beginning at 6 p.m.
** Those attending the game are encouraged to wear something red for a “Scarlet Fever” theme, and the first 80,000 fans entering the stadium will receive free scarlet rally towels.
** Kickoff for Saturday’s game will be shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern. ABC will broadcast the game on a national basis with our ol’ buddy Brent Musberger handling the play-by-play, Ohio State alum Kirk Herbstreit with the color analysis and Penn State grad Lisa Salters patrolling the sidelines.
** Ohio State will take its 2008 schedule breather next week and return to action Nov. 8 at Northwestern.
Here is a list of some of the luminaries celebrating birthdays this 24th day of October: NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle is 82; former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman is 72; Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham is 69 (he portrayed Salieri in “Amadeus”); Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Kline is 61; former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume (born Frizzell Gerald Gray) is 60; former Cincinnati Reds relieve Rawly Eastwick is 58; Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is 51; television golf analyst and 1991 British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch is 48; former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek is 46; convicted murderer Scott Peterson is 36; former NFL running back Corey Dillon is 34; famous-for-being-famous raunch queen Tila Tequila is 27; and NASCAR driver Brian Vickers is 25.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
** It will be a busy weekend for former Ohio State head coach John Cooper. He will be honored at halftime of Saturday night’s OSU-Penn State game for his election to the College Football Hall of Fame. Then on Sunday, Coop will get the featured treatment from Tulsa during at halftime of the Golden Hurricane’s contest against Central Florida. During his career, Cooper won 111 games at Ohio State, 57 at Tulsa and 25 at Arizona State, which already honored the coach earlier this season.
** Speaking of Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane is 6-0 for the first time since 1942. The team won all 10 of its regular-season games that season and rose to No. 4 in the Associated Press poll before losing a 14-7 decision to Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. Tulsa hasn’t posted an undefeated season since going 9-0 in 1922.
** Our weekly update of the undefeated teams at Division I-A finds the number dwindling to just nine: Alabama, Ball State, Boise State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Texas, Texas Tech, Tulsa and Utah. That number has to be pared by at least one on Saturday when Oklahoma State visits Texas.
** Nine undefeated teams marked the largest number ever in the initial week of the BCS standings. The previous high was eight in 2002. This time last year, there were only six undefeated teams remaining at the I-A level.
** My frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy right now is Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. His numbers are simply stunning – 160 completions in 197 attempts (81.2 percent) for 1,894 yards and 19 touchdowns against only three interceptions. All that, plus he leads the nation’s No. 1 team. Even last year’s winner, Tim Tebow of Florida, said that he is thinking about casting his Heisman vote for McCoy.
** Thanks to McCoy and several of his cohorts, the Big 12 has gotten a lot of ink this season for its pass-happy offenses. Meanwhile, the Big Ten continues to be home to some of the top running backs in the country. The conference features five of the nation’s top 30 rated rushers, including two of the top three in Javon Ringer of Michigan State and Shonn Greene of Iowa. Ringer is second nationally with an average of 147.4 yards per game while Greene is third at 144.3. The Big Ten would have another back in the top 10 since Chris “Beanie” Wells of Ohio State averages 123.8 yards per game, but he hasn’t played at least 75 percent of his team’s games and does not qualify for the national stats.
** The loss at Oregon State seemed to get the attention of USC. Since that defeat, the Trojans have outscored three opponents 141-10 and pitched back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1971.
** After absorbing a 69-0 loss to USC that could have been worse, Washington State has now allowed 63 or more points in four of eight games this season. And still, somehow, the Cougars are not the worst team in Division I-A in terms of scoring defense. That dubious distinction belongs to North Texas, which has allowed a staggering 50.7 points per game this season. Combined with an offense that averages just 16.9 points, you can perhaps see how the Mean Green are a lean 0-7.
** Incidentally, that shutout loss suffered by Washington State marked the first time the Cougars had been held scoreless in 280 games. That was the second-longest active streak behind Michigan, which hasn’t been shut out in 295 straight games.
** There is something about that Smurf Turf at Boise State. Since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 2001, the Broncos are a perfect 30-0 in conference games at home.
** Colgate freshman Nate Eachus had a game last weekend he can tell his grandchildren about someday. After beginning the contest at linebacker (and recording three tackles, including a sack), Eachus was pressed into service at running back when starter Jordan Scott went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Eachus responded by rushing for 241 yards and leading the Raiders to a 38-22 win over Cornell.
** Running back Bernard Scott of Division II Abilene (Texas) Christian also put in a pretty good afternoon last Saturday. Scott rushed for 259 yards and caught passes worth 141 yards – that’s 400 total, folks – as the No. 3 Wildcats took a 52-34 win over fourth-ranked West Texas A&M.
** Tom II, the tiger who served as the live mascot for the University of Memphis, died last week. Tom (which stands for Tigers Of Memphis) had served the university since 1992.
** While there are nine remaining undefeated Division I-A teams, there is only one left at the I-AA level. That would be San Diego, which travels to 4-3 Jacksonville this weekend. Chances are pretty good the Toreros will stay unbeaten – they have won the last three games in the series with Jacksonville by a 144-64 margin.
** Thirty-two years ago today, Pittsburgh running back Tony Dorsett pushed his season rushing total past the 1,000-yard mark during a 45-0 victory over Navy. Dorsett became the first running back in NCAA history to post four 1,000-yard seasons, and he also broke the NCAA career rushing record previously held by two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
** Also occurring during this week in college football history: On Oct. 21, 1989, Alabama QB Gary Hollingsworth set a school record for completions, going 32 for 46 for 379 yards and three touchdowns as the Tide rolled to a 47-30 win over Tennessee; on Oct. 22, 1904, Minnesota’s Bobby Marshall set an NCAA record by scoring 72 points during the Golden Gophers’ 146-0 victory over Grinnell (Iowa); and on Oct. 25, 1980, SMU freshman quarterback Lance McIlhenny celebrated his first start by engineering a 20-6 upset of No. 2 Texas in Austin. Halfback Craig James, now a college football analyst for ABC, ran 53 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to put the Mustangs ahead for good.
** This week in college football history has also seen a couple of other big-time upsets. On Oct. 20, 1956, Texas A&M scored a 7-6 upset over No. 4 TCU is what has been called “The Hurricane Game.” Played in 90-mph wins, the Horned Frogs got inside the A&M 5-yard-line three times in the first half but failed to score. On Oct. 26, 1985, seventh-ranked BYU saw its 25-game conference winning streak end when UTEP handed the Cougars a 23-16 loss in El Paso. Miners DB Danny Taylor returned a Robbie Bosco interception 100 yards for a touchdown to provide for the winning points.