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Published: Saturday, 12/28/2002

Miami party irks OSU

ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHOENIX - Ohio State's players are angry at a Miami nightclub that's promoting a Jan. 4 party to celebrate the Hurricanes' second consecutive national championship - a week before they play for it in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Hurricanes said yesterday they didn't know anything about the controversy.

Thomas Matthews, a third-year backup strong safety for the Buckeyes from Fort Lauderdale, brought a photocopied flier back from a visit home for the holidays.

The handbill shows former Miami player Clinton Portis, now with the Denver Broncos, kissing the national championship trophy after the Hurricanes won it last year at the Rose Bowl. The ad says doors open at 10 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2003, to celebrate “back-to-back national championships.”

None of the Buckeyes knew the name of the club. Even though there was no obvious connection between any current Miami players and the flier, Ohio State's players called it just another sign that the Hurricanes show them no respect.

“I can't believe they're doing this,” senior free safety Donnie Nickey said. “It makes me excited to ruin their party. I mean, for them to put all that work into it and already have it all planned and then have them have to flush it down the toilet, that would make my day.”

Miami won last year's national title game, routing Nebraska 37-14. The No. 1-ranked Hurricanes, who have won 34 games in a row, are favored by 13 points over the Buckeyes. Ohio State has not played in a game for the national championship since the 1980 Rose Bowl, which they lost.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said he didn't know anything about the flier and downplayed any motivation gained from it.

“I'm sure that there are lots of fliers everywhere,” Tressel said after the Buckeyes' workout at Pinnacle High School. “What we've got to focus on is the fliers we're working on - as far as our game plan.”

Miami tailback Willis McGahee was asked about the ad after Miami completed its workout yesterday at Scottsdale Community College.

“That's the first time I'm hearing about it,” McGahee said. “We're not planning nothing. They can get upset all they want.”

Ohio State strong safety Michael Doss said he's not spending too much energy getting angry about the ad.

“We can't worry about outside interference,” Doss said. “We've just got to concentrate on what we have to do.”

Miami center Brett Rhomberg said the controversy would have no effect on the Hurricanes.

“If they want to be upset, that's their business,” he added.

Buckeyes tailback Maurice Clarett laughed as he talked about the whole thing.

“Everybody saw the flier,” he said. “It said something like, man, they already said they were going to win the national championship. That's crazy.”

Clarett said he enjoyed all the emotion generated by the flier.

“I kind of like it. It's funny. That's the entertainment around football,” Clarett said.

“They're just having a good time and we're going to have a good time too, trying to upset them.”

In the 1980s and 1990s, Miami rose to power in college football with a swaggering approach that sometimes included taunting and intimidation before and during games.

“I don't really get into all that bickering back and forth and talking trash,” Clarett said. “I like people to talk trash. I just smile about it, you know what I mean?”

PHOENIX - When No. 1 Miami came to the 1987 Fiesta Bowl, the players came off the plane wearing camouflage fatigues and a combative attitude.

This year's Hurricanes arrived at Sky Harbor International Airport yesterday in Miami green sweat suits - no arrogance, just the calm confidence of a program on a 34-game winning streak.

“We're really not a fatigues-type team,” coach Larry Coker said. “We are business as usual. We have a tremendous task ahead of us. I don't think fatigues are going to help us prepare and have a chance to beat Ohio State.”

If those long-ago 'Canes had a thuggish image, the modern version is far different.

“The big thing I can speak to on this team is I think we do have character,” Coker said at a brief airport news conference. “That's something that's very special.”

As was the case when No. 2 Ohio State arrived on Thursday, the No. 1 Hurricanes were greeted by a mariachi band and dozens of yellow-jacketed Fiesta Bowl officials as they climbed off the plane onto a red carpet.

Only 25 players were on board the chartered plane. After getting the Christmas holiday off, the rest were arriving on their own.

Coker has been asked why the Hurricanes don't seem more excited as they seek to become the first repeat national champions since Nebraska in 1994-95 and just the second since Alabama in 1978-79.

“Well, you know, the game is a week away, so we don't want to be too hyped up too soon.''

Coker is 24-0 as a head coach at Miami. The Hurricanes are 0-3 in Fiesta Bowls. Oddsmakers rate Miami a double-digit favorite.

PHOENIX - Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork practiced with No. 1 Miami for the first time since his second family tragedy of the season.

Wilfork's mother died Dec. 16, five weeks after suffering a stroke. Her death added to an already difficult year for the 6-2, 350-pound sophomore whose father died in June from kidney failure as a result of diabetes.

“I'm doing good,” Wilfork said. “There are things I dealt with, but I'm over that right now and I'm ready to play football. I know that's what she would want me to do. I'll be a lot better as the days go along.”

Wilfork, who leads the Hurricanes with 15 tackles for losses and 29 quarterback hurries, missed a week of practice to be with his family. Even though coach Larry Coker said Wilfork had fallen behind in conditioning, he expects the lineman to contribute against No. 2 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

“He's been away from it for a little longer than the other guys,” Coker said. “It's going to take him a little longer to get back in it.”



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