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Published: Monday, 10/19/2009

Buckeyes refocus on Big Ten race

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS - This was to be a morning when the Buckeyes and Ohio State fans rushed for the morning paper to see just where they stood in the first Bowl Championship Series standings of the season.

They were going to start talking about early January trips to balmy climes, and just maybe playing for the big glass football with everyone watching.

That discussion won't happen, and the Buckeyes will likely cringe and wince when they see those BCS rankings. You will pass over Boise State and Texas Christian and Houston on your way down the list before you find Ohio State shelved at No. 19. Saturday's loss to a then 1-5 Purdue team was particularly offensive to the BCS computer, which ranked the Buckeyes 32nd, leaving OSU in the 19th spot when the other polls were factored in.

Losing 26-18 to a team that had lost five straight games cost the Buckeyes a lot, but before boarding a charter flight for the short trip back Saturday, Ohio State quickly reprioritized its list of goals, and found that the Big Ten championship is still on the table.

Four conference games remain, and with unbeaten Iowa and a one-loss Penn State team on the November schedule, the Buckeyes wanted to forget about the disaster at Purdue and look ahead.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said the five-turnover performance against the Boilermakers has left the Buckeyes with few options but to win out.

"It makes a situation where you have no more margin for error, if you want to be the champion," Tressel said. "But we go day by day. Hopefully, we don't think out as far as what this means for the whole season. There is a lot of season to go. We're going to go to work."

If that work includes a review of the Purdue game film, Tressel will find it hard to recall a worse stretch for the Buckeyes than the third quarter. Ohio State went the whole period without a first down, took two penalties and two losses on the first play of its four possessions, allowed two sacks, and had quarterback Terrelle Pryor throw interceptions on consecutive possessions.

"We were disappointed. We felt we could play better than we did," Tressel said. "The true test of a team is how you handle difficult situations. That's what we're getting ready to do. You'd like to win every game, but when you don't it's a step back."

Ohio State senior safety Kurt Coleman said however painful, the Purdue game is history and all that matters now are the five games left on the schedule.

"It's one loss," Coleman said. "We still have a chance to win the Big Ten title. We have a lot to still play for."

Pryor, who looked rattled and out of sorts for most of the game, had a pair of lost fumbles along with the two interceptions. He was seen gesturing and jawing at teammates on the sideline, slamming his helmet to the ground, and seemed wrought with frustration throughout the game.

"We didn't play well and I didn't play well," Pryor said. "It just didn't happen. I felt real confident we were going to come back. We had it and we let some things slip through. We'll see what kind of team we are now, to come back and fight."

Sophomore wide receiver DeVier Posey, who caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Pryor late in the game to get the Buckeyes within eight points, defended Pryor and said yanking the struggling quarterback was not an option.

"That's our quarterback and that's our guy," Posey said. "We love him. He's a sophomore and he's going to get better. We're going to get it together, and when we win, he's going to be our quarterback."

Ohio State (5-2, 3-1 Big Ten) hosts Minnesota (4-3, 2-2) on Saturday and then has New Mexico State at home the following week before facing Iowa, Penn State, and Michigan.

Contact Matt Markey at

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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