PHOENIX - People migrate to the desert Southwest this time of year to escape winter, vacation in a locale with abundant sunshine, or just get spiritually enriched by the raw beauty of a place where barren and desolate can seem so enchanting.
Former Central Catholic star Dane Sanzenbacher is in Arizona's largest city on business, and as he learned earlier this week, sometimes just getting here can be an ordeal.
The Ohio State wide receiver's trip to the site of Monday's
Fiesta Bowl matchup with No. 3 Texas sounded like it was part of a sequel to the film comedy Airplane, with bits of the Planes, Trains & Automobiles flick thrown in here and there.
"I think there's an easier way to get here," Sanzenbacher said yesterday after describing his sojourn that first took him more than 300 miles in the opposite direction, and ended up costing him and three of his Buckeyes teammates a day of preparation.
After their Christmas break, the Ohio State players were permitted to make their way to Phoenix on their own, and Sanzenbacher joined running back Brandon Saine, receiver Ben Kacsandi and defensive back Zach Domicone in Columbus on Monday to catch a US Airways flight destined for our nation's capital.
Once in D.C., the four Buckeyes would connect with a flight to Arizona and arrive here at about the same time as the coaching staff and the rest of the players.
Surely, that seemed simple enough. No, and as Leslie Nielsen reminded us repeatedly in Airplane, don't call anyone Shirley.
"There was a 'check engine' light on or something, so our flight out of Columbus was delayed, and by the time we got to D.C., we missed the connection," Sanzenbacher said. "The really bad news came when we learned that the next US Airways flight out to Phoenix would not be until 5 p.m. the next day."
The group took a cab to Baltimore with hopes of catching a flight to Arizona there, but after they got caught in a snarl of holiday traffic and further delayed, those options evaporated. They spent the night in a hotel and squeezed onto a west-bound flight the next morning, arriving here just in time to catch a portion of the Buckeyes' second practice in Arizona.
"It was a hassle, but we made it, and that's the important thing," the OSU sophomore said. "If the check engine light is on, I guess I'd rather be a little bit late. I don't travel that much, and when I do it is usually on team charters and everything goes pretty much according to plan. But this is one trip I'll remember. I think I'll fly direct the next time."
Once here, Sanzenbacher said he and the rest of the Ohio State team settled quickly into the pre-bowl routine of practice, meetings and film sessions, and satisfying their bowl obligations, including some semi-formal evening dinners.
"The trouble getting here hasn't really been a distraction or anything. You just deal with it and then get to work," Sanzenbacher said. "This is my second bowl trip, so I know a lot more about what to expect and what is expected of us. Always in the first year you are going to have little uncertainties, and you're just trying to take everything in and understand it all."
Despite missing the better part of two games due to injury, Sanzenbacher had 21 receptions for 272 yards and a touchdown for Ohio State this season, tying him with junior Brian Hartline for second-most on the team.
"Dane was an important part of this offense," Ohio State senior receiver Brian Robiskie said. "To make any passing attack work, you need a number of guys you can depend on to run good routes and catch the ball in traffic, and I think he's showed he has the ability to do both of those very well. We need everybody performing at a high level in a game against an opponent like Texas, and I'm sure Dane will be ready."
Sanzenbacher said he has seen enough film of Texas to know the Longhorns will make a formidable opponent.
"They are going to hit you, and they seem to be pretty disciplined in what they are doing," he said. "I am sure that is a big part of what got them where they are."
He said the prospect of facing Texas, a program with a history and tradition as rich and storied as that of the Buckeyes, is very appealing.
"I'm very excited about playing Texas because I was not here for the two times we've played them over the last three or four years, and I think it's one of those games that, even if you don't follow college football, you understand that this is a big game because it's Ohio State and Texas," he said.
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People migrate to the desert Southwest this time of year to escape winter, vacation in a locale with abundant sunshine, or just get spiritually enriched by the raw beauty of a place where barren and desolate can seem so enchanting. Former Central Catholic star Dane Sanzenbacher is in Arizona's largest city on business, and as he learned earlier this week, sometimes just getting here can be an ordeal.