Buckeyes vow they won’t look past Herd

Call it ”The Marshall Plan” for Thursday’s season-opening game

at No. 2 Ohio State.

In his head-coaching debut, Doc Holliday wants his Thundering

Herd to play error-free on offense, force turnovers on defense, to

not get rattled by the crowd – and for Ohio State to be thinking

ahead to its showdown nine days later against No. 13 Miami.

Much as he hopes the Buckeyes are looking past his team,

Holliday realizes the Ohio State coaching staff will take measures

to make sure that doesn’t happen in their season opener.

”I don’t know if there’s a perfect time to play them,”

Holliday said. ”Everywhere I’ve been, at the University of Florida

and all those stops we’ve made, (in the) first game the kids were

excited about going and playing. And I’m sure Ohio State will be

excited about playing us. I’m sure they’re not looking ahead.

They’re looking to play us Thursday night.”

Ohio State counterpart Jim Tressel acknowledged that, tempting

though it may be for many 20-year-olds, the Buckeyes cannot afford

to let their thoughts wander to the Hurricanes on Sept. 11 in the


”It’s human nature when you think, ‘OK, I’ve got this situation

under control, I’m going to think about the next situation,”’ said

Tressel, who carries a 94-21 record into his 10th Ohio State

opener. ”This group, we’re a little older. There’s 25 seniors. But

it still comes down to each and every day you have to try to stay

focused on that task and no matter what’s going on, good or bad,

that’s the great challenge.”

It’s a perennial problem for a team that’s been ballyhooed the

way the Buckeyes have been this preseason. Many coaches say there

are only so many games that players can get excited about. Catch

them with their thoughts on the next big game instead of the

current one against a mediocre opponent and surprising things


How else to explain what happened just last season?

The Buckeyes had won five of their first six games, the lone

loss to then-No. 3 Southern California, which scored eight points

in the fourth quarter to win 18-15. Ohio State steamrolled the next

four opponents to climb back into the national championship

landscape at No. 7. Big games against Penn State, Iowa and Michigan

were coming up.

Purdue had lost five of its first six and was 0-2 in the Big

Ten. Yet the Boilermakers outplayed the Buckeyes, leading 23-7

heading into the final quarter and winning 26-18.

Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan concedes there have been times

when the Buckeyes may have overlooked a team.

”A time like that could have been last year against Purdue,”

he said. ”We always look back anytime there’s a game we lose, to

see if we learned a lesson. We learned the lesson that we’re not

doing that this year. We’re all on Marshall. It’s one game at a


Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward proposed that it might be

better if the schedule came out one game at a time.

”Marshall is coming in with the mindset that they’re going to

beat us. And if we don’t take care of business, they might beat

us,” he said. ”We haven’t even thought about the next week. We

just need to keep a schedule where we only have the first


It’ll be quite a setting for that first game.

More than 105,000 are expected at Ohio Stadium for Ohio State’s

121st season-opening game. The Buckeyes, who have won at least a

share of the last five Big Ten titles, are stocked with plenty of

experience and talent. The Thundering Herd want to get off on the

right foot in the debut of Holliday, who was the associate head

coach at rival West Virginia the past two seasons.

On the kickoff, the sound in the massive gray hulk on the banks

of the Olentangy will be similar to a Stealth bomber flying a few

feet over the players’ heads.

”It will be a great stage for us and get us a lot of

exposure,” Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson said. ”The

Horseshoe, it’s a place that everybody knows if they know anything

about college football. It has a lot of history.”

Just as teams have been known to look past an opponent, visiting

teams have a propensity for wilting before a raucous, partisan

crowd in Columbus. Might that be a problem for the Herd?

Defensive lineman Michael Janac will be more pumped up than


”I think of 105,000 people, very loud, very intense,” he said.

”It makes me more excited.”

The Buckeyes say there’s plenty of time to stew over what lies

ahead in a season of promise and possibility.

”That (Miami) week’s going to bring it’s own worries,” Ohio

State linebacker Brian Rolle said. ”We’re going to worry about

Marshall because if we for one second look to the Miami game, then

we’ll end up in the situation last year with Purdue – you know,

overlooking those guys and come away with a loss.”

Holliday won’t have to do a whole lot of inspirational


”I was asked a couple of days ago if I was going to give a big

speech prior to the game,” he said. ”If their tails aren’t ready

to play by the time I walk in that locker room, we have some major