Ohio State dashes W.Va. party Top-ranked Buckeyes wear down Mountaineers, cruise to 34-17 victory

September 06, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- They came from all over the state, hoping to see something no West Virginia football fan has ever witnessed: an upset of the nation's top-ranked team. They came early in the morning and stayed late into the night, filling Mountaineer Field with the largest opening-game crowd in school history.

You could say this about the majority of the 68,409 souls who came to see the 11th-ranked Mountaineers beat No. 1 Ohio State.

They had a terrific tailgate party.

But the Buckeyes didn't allow the celebration to last very long. After falling behind by a field goal on West Virginia's opening possession, Ohio State started what it hoped to be its first championship season in 30 years with a methodical, yet impressive 34-17 victory over the Mountaineers.

"I'm a happy football coach," Ohio State coach John Cooper said. "We walked into a great and hostile crowd and won the game."

Behind the accurate passing of senior quarterback Joe Germaine, the flashy running of junior Michael Wiley and a defense that kept West Virginia tailback Amos Zereoue from becoming any more famous than he already is, the Buckeyes took control midway through the first quarter with 20 straight points and never looked back.

Germaine completed 18 passes in 32 attempts for 301 yards and two touchdowns, while Wiley made the most of his first career start. The 6-foot, 195-pound junior ran for 66 of his 140 yards and one touchdown in the first half. Zereoue's 77 yards, on 20 carries, helped him break the school's career rushing record, but not the Buckeyes' backs.

It marked the seventh straight time West Virginia has lost to the nation's No. 1-ranked team, and gave the Mountaineers plenty of time to build up their frustration before playing Maryland here in two weeks.

"Amos will be ready for Maryland," said Eric deGroh, West Virginia's center. "I hope we don't see defenses like that again."

The win also removed a huge obstacle for the Buckeyes, who will likely not play a tougher opponent until a Nov. 14 trip to Iowa.

"I hope that team is No. 1," said West Virginia coach Don Nehlen. "They are pretty darn good. I was disappointed with our offense, but their defense kept wearing us down. I can't be disappointed with our players. They played very hard. [The Buckeyes will] be a handful for anybody."

The night was filled with promise for the Mountaineers. The pre-game party that began at 10 a.m. yesterday morning continued in the early moments of the game as Zereoue took West Virginia's first play from scrimmage for 11 yards and its third for 12, leading to an early 3-0 lead on Jay Taylor's 47-yard field goal.

That is where the the highlight reel stopped for the home team and its Heisman Trophy candidate until late in the first half.

Answering with a 35-yard field goal by Dan Stultz, the Buckeyes scored 20 straight points in their next four possessions.

After West Virginia unsuccessfully used Zereoue as a decoy on its second series, Ohio State found itself with good field possession. A 20-yard punt return by David Boston gave the Buckeyes the ball at their own 45. Wiley covered the rest of the distance, breaking right for 37 yards and left for 18 and the touchdown.

Despite All-America linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer being limited to only one first-half tackle while being double-teamed on most plays, the Ohio State defense stuffed Zereoue and kept constant pressure on junior quarterback Marc Bulger.

"Zereoue is a great football player," said Cooper, after his team held him to minus-3 yards on seven carries in the second half. "We did a great job of stopping him in the second half. We took away his cutback runs."

Germaine showed on Ohio State's next possession why he finished third in Division I-A in pass efficiency last season.

After Wiley rushed for five yards to the the Buckeyes' 25, Germaine found Dee Miller down the sideline for 42 yards. Three plays later, Germaine hit Miller for a 14-yard scoring pass. West Virginia fumbled the ensuing kickoff at its own 29, and Ohio State increased its lead to 20-3 on a 36-yard field goal by Stultz.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.