No. 2 Ohio State next faces 4 straight underdogs
After September losses each of the last two seasons, the overriding emotion for the Ohio State Buckeyes following their big win over Miami was relief.
''It felt great to be able to finally win one of those big early season matchups,'' offensive lineman J.B. Shugarts said after an exhausting 36-24 victory over the Hurricanes. ''But we can't get too comfortable over one game. There's still a long way to go.''
Having lost an early season game to Southern California in both 2008 and '09, at least the Buckeyes don't have move to the back of the line in the national championship chase again.
In fact, they have plenty of time to work on glaring special-teams mistakes and other problem areas before they next face a team expected to be within two touchdowns of them.
They host Mid-American Conference teams Ohio and Eastern Michigan the next two Saturdays, before opening with Big Ten games at Illinois and at home against Indiana.
Then again, the Buckeyes were favored by 13 points when they played at Purdue a year ago, yet ended up coming home on the wrong side of an upset.
''What pushes us is what happened at Purdue,'' said Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who offset a so-so passing day against the 'Canes with 113 yards rushing and a touchdown. ''We never want that to happen again.''
The Buckeyes play their next currently ranked opponent Oct. 16 at Wisconsin.
Coach Jim Tressel cautioned his players not to have a feeling of accomplishment.
''As long as we continue to grow, this is huge,'' he said after the Miami win. ''In my mind, going into the game I was interested to see if we were a top 10-team.''
There were times when the second-ranked Buckeyes didn't play like one. They surrendered touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns in the same game for the first time in the program's 121 years of football.
You think Tressel - the man who believes special teams are as important as offense and defense and who calls the punt the most important play in football - will grind his players on that stat for the next few weeks?
''We played one of the top teams on our schedule,'' linebacker Brian Rolle said. ''Now we have to work on not hurting ourselves, like we did today.''
Even though the outcome was never really in jeopardy after Pryor reversed field on his TD run early in the third quarter, it was not as if the Buckeyes dominated. Miami did pile up 353 total yards (to Ohio State's 414) and had 20 first downs (to the Buckeyes' 23).
But quarterback Jacory Harris threw four interceptions - two of which were the result of a blown route and a bobbled catch by receiver Travis Benjamin - and that all but ended the suspense.
The Hurricanes drove into Ohio State territory four times without scoring, including drives that included first downs at the Buckeyes 6 and 17.
So it's not as if the Buckeyes played a perfect game.
Tressel said there are pitfalls ahead if his team puts much stock in the Miami win, or listens to what the oddsmakers will undoubtedly say about Ohio State's next four opponents.
''If we keep growing from that (Miami game), we've got a chance,'' he said. ''But if we think we've arrived, we're done.''