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Published: Thursday, 9/11/2008

West Coast trip tests OSU players' mettle

BLADE STAFF
Sanzenbacher Sanzenbacher
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LOS ANGELES - After a morning practice in Columbus, the Ohio State Buckeyes plan to travel here early this afternoon - their longest road trip since just about a year ago when they met Washington in Seattle. No. 5 Ohio State plays top-ranked Southern California on Saturday.

The palm trees, the spider web of freeways, the Hollywood sign and that big, blue ocean will let the Buckeyes know this is not Ohio. Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State's sophomore wide receiver from Central Catholic, vividly recalls the jet lag and jet jitters of his first high altitude venture with the Buckeyes.

"That Washington game was my first time out West, and it was such a long plane ride - a lot to take in as a freshman," Sanzenbacher said. "It's part of the experience of college football but it's definitely something you have to adjust to and be prepared for, because so much is different when you go on the road like that."

Sanzenbacher caught a couple of passes in Ohio State's 33-14 win over the Huskies and said the on-field part of that long trip probably required the least amount of adjustment. Washington had a larger than normal crowd of 75,000 on hand for the game and had hyped the Buckeyes' visit as being one of the biggest nonconference games it had hosted in a long time.

"Their crowd was into it and excited about playing us, and since it was my first game away from Ohio Stadium, that part was different, but once you get out there and lock in on the game and start hitting, the crowd wasn't really that big a factor," Sanzenbacher said. "And as we went on the road in the Big Ten, the real loud, crazy atmospheres are kind of normal. The thing about the Washington game was just how far away it was and adjusting to the time change and all the travel."

Sanzenbacher expects that won't be an issue for him today, or Saturday when the Buckeyes walk into the Los Angeles Coliseum to face Southern California.

"It's very strange to think that was a year ago - this has been the fastest year of my life - but after going through the road trips and the championship game and playing in the Big Ten stadiums, and all the other experiences, I think it definitely puts a different perspective on it for me this year.

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"I feel completely different. You try to stay poised as a freshman, but it's really hard. There is so much tradition, so many things that can distract you. I think it's a lot easier this year to just go out and concentrate on the things that are important and not be affected by the travel or the surroundings."

Sanzenbacher said he expects the current group of Ohio State freshmen, which includes quarterback Terrelle Pryor and receiver DeVier Posey, to experience some of the same adjustments as he did a year ago. This will be Sanzenbacher's first trip to California, but that is not uncommon on this team.

"I've never been to California and I didn't want to pass on this opportunity to play this game," senior defensive back Malcolm Jenkins said. "Every game is big, but I know a lot of people have been waiting for this game to come, and we are looking forward to it."

Wide receiver Brian Hartline said the experience of playing in the Coliseum has been on his mind for quite a while.

"I think it was a couple of years ago when I saw our future schedules online somewhere, and when I saw the game at USC, thinking about the history there and the great games played there and all, it's been an exciting thing to think about," Hartline said.

Quarterback Todd Boeckman has been having the same thoughts.

"It's one of those games - it's huge. It's one of those games you don't get every year, one of those games at 8 o'clock on primetime on a national stage. It's one of those games you really look forward to."

Count Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, a veteran of 33 seasons on the college football sidelines, as one of those anxious to experience this mega match-up. When Tressel and the Buckeyes enter the Los Angeles Coliseum where they will face the Trojans, it will be Tressel's first time inside that historic facility.

"Games like Ohio State-USC, Ohio State-Texas, those are part of what makes this such a great opportunity for us and a great experience," Tressel said.

"Both schools have such a rich history and tradition, and we get the opportunity to add to that - it's an exciting thing to be a part of."

BATON ROUGE, La. - LSU has scheduled its return to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night to host North Texas, one week after postponing its game with Troy because of Hurricane Gustav.

LSU officials say they are confident Tiger Stadium will ready by the weekend but wanted to make sure the area would not be threatened by Hurricane Ike.

Yesterday, Ike appeared to be headed for the Texas coast.

Hurricane Gustav had caused damage to the campus in Baton Rouge, forcing the postponement against Troy.



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