Return to Sports
by Chris Errington
(September 6) MORGANTOWN - West Virginia waited eight months to take its shot at No. 1 Ohio State. The Buckeyes needed just 9:53 to end the game.
Ohio State rolled up its first 27 points on five blazing-fast drives in a 34-17 victory in front of 68,409 fans at Mountaineer Field, the largest opening day and third largest crowd in the field's history.
"We walked into a great, hostile crowd and won the game, but the important thing was, we walked away without any injuries," Cooper said.
"We got lucky on fumbles, and a lot of things worked for us tonight, and I was really pleased with the performance of our young kids."
Ohio State quarterback Joe Germaine completed 18-of-32 passes for 301 yards and two touchdowns in his second career start.
When not picking apart the Mountaineers' suspect secondary through the air, the Buckeyes' offense was pounding it on the ground.
Running back Michael Wiley rushed for 140 yards and an 18-yard touchdown as Ohio State rung up 248 yards on the ground.
In a matchup that was supposed to go in the Mountaineers' favor, Ohio State's young offensive line simply overpowered WVU's front four the entire game. The Mountaineers could neither get pressure on Germaine nor stop the Buckeyes' running until the game had already been decided.
WVU's defense had talked a lot before the game, Germaine said.
The Buckeyes used the trash talk as incentive, he said.
West Virginia started well, getting a 47-yard field goal from Jay Taylor on its opening possession to take a 3-0 lead. But the lead was short-lived.
Ohio State reeled off drives of 3:53, 33 seconds, 1:15, and 1:21 to take a commanding 20-3 lead with 9:14 remaining in the first half, and despite a brief WVU spurt near the end of the half, essentially put the game away.
"I was disappointed with our offense because we lined up in wrong formations and we haven't done that all practice," WVU coach Don Nehlen said.
"When you play a defense as good as those guys, you'd better change up a lot," he said. "We just didn't get it done."
Nehlen also called Ohio State a "handful."
"And, they'll be a handful for anyone, not just us."
Meanwhile, the Ohio State defense completely shackled WVU's offense.
Heisman Trophy candidate running back Amos Zereoue was held to a quiet 77 yards rushing and never scored, and quarterback Marc Bulger was harassed into 23-of-37 passing for 232 yards, two TDs and an interception.
"A lot of the plays we ran, they were in a scheme where we had to pass the ball," Zereoue said.
"Our offense runs what we want by what we see from the defense, and I just wasn't in the flow," Zereoue said.
"A lot of the screens and passes we tried to do, there defensive backs were ready for," Bulger said.
"We got away from our game plan a little," he said.
"They did a good job of disguising blitzes, and when you're No. 1, you can do things like that," Zereoue said.
Still, with its offense going nowhere and its defense unable to stop much the Buckeyes threw at it, West Virginia had a chance to stay in the game.
Bulger hit Shawn Foreman with an acrobatic six-yard scoring pass with 20 seconds remaining in the half to pull West Virginia within 20-10.
The Mountaineers had an even better opportunity to pull closer when Ohio State's Reggie Germany fumbled the second-half kickoff.
But when no less than five West Virginia players failed to corral the bouncing ball, including Charles Fisher, who could have picked it up for a score, the Mountaineers had blown their chance. It would be their last.
Two possessions later, Germaine drove the Buckeyes 96 yards in just 2:51, putting the game away with a 39-yard scoring pass to David Boston to make the score 27-10.
Jonathan Wells scored Ohio State's last touchdown on a 7-yard run with 3:14 remaining, before Bulger connected again with Foreman on a 3-yard scoring strike with 13 seconds remaining.
WVU center Eric de Groh isn't ready to quit.
"We're committed to winning the Big East and we're still working toward that goal," he said.
Zereoue became West Virginia's all-time leading rusher when he slashed five yards around left end on the Mountaineers' second possession. He passed Artie Owens, who finished his college career with 2.648 yards.