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Dominant line play key in OSU's easy victory

by Chris Errington


(September 7) MORGANTOWN -- This one was supposed to be special.

It was supposed to be an aerial circus with two of the nation's best receiving corps going head-to-head.

It was supposed to be Amos Zereoue running left and right in an attempt to avoid Ohio State's stalking linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer.

It even was supposed to be a battle of two of the best special teams in the country, providing that extra advantage that could determine the outcome.

But when all was said and done, No. 1 Ohio State left Mountaineer Field Saturday night with a 34-17 victory over West Virginia, and the reason was a simple, back-to-the-basics method.

It dominated the line of scrimmage -- on both sides.

· Ohio State rolled up 549 yards total offense, 248 on the ground.

· West Virginia's lack of pressure allowed Buckeyes' quarterback Joe Germaine to complete 18-of-32 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns.

· West Virginia was held to 310 yards, 111 in the second half when the game was still within reach.

· Zereoue never got going, rushing for a very un-Heisman-like 77 yards, including seven carries for negative three yards in the second half.

"I can't say enough about the way we played, especially our offensive and defensive linemen," Ohio State coach John Cooper said.

"We played a lot of young kids up front defensively, and to hold a great running back like Amos Zereoue the way they did was outstanding."

On an offense loaded with talent at the skill positions, it's been Ohio State's line, consisting of tackles Tyson Walter and Brooks Burris, guards Rob Murphy and Ben Gilbert and center Kurt Murphy, that was perceived as the team's weak spot. The word even reached Morgantown, where some West Virginia players like nose tackle John Thornton openly stated that this was where the Mountaineers would win the game.

"West Virginia has a great defense with (outside linebacker Gary) Stills, but some of the things they said added fuel to the fire," Germaine said. "The had a lot of talking, a lot of disrespect to our team, and we took it personally."

"So we came in and executed and took care of business."

Following the game, Stills gave the Buckeye linemen credit, saying "their offensive line was better than I expected. Sometimes the line can't make all the blocks, but they did most of the night."

Ohio State's defensive line took care of West Virginia's heralded front five in similar fashion.

Defensive ends Brent Johnson and Rodney Bailey and tackles Joe Brown and Clinton Wayne bottled up Zereoue, harassed Bulger and finally shut the Mountaineers' offense down completely.

"A lot of the time, there were the five of us and the tight end and Ohio State had eight or nine guys in the box," West Virginia center Eric de Groh said of his fellow linemen. "Our offensive line couldn't handle all of them."