Buckeyes Hope To Get Rid Of Road Woes

After posting a sterling road record the past few years, the No. 10 Ohio State football team probably didn't expect to struggle away from Columbus, but that's what has happened in 2010. Slow starts have dotted both games and at Wisconsin led to a loss. Find out what the Buckeyes are trying to do this week to make things different at Minnesota.

The Ohio State football team has put together a number of impressive stats through its 7-1 start, but the most amazing is probably this one: The Buckeyes have outscored the six opponents they have played in Ohio Stadium by a 206-38 total in the first half.

"I mean, it's the atmosphere, the fans, just the feeling that when you step in that stadium you have to much to hold up to," safety Orhian Johnson said. "You have legends that played in that stadium you have to go in there and represent."

On the flip side, the Buckeyes have played two road games this year, at Illinois and at Wisconsin. The first-half score of those two contests? The home teams are outscoring OSU by a 31-17 margin.

The Buckeyes have led every home game by at least a touchdown at the half, but the Fighting Illini were down only 14-10 in Memorial Stadium and Wisconsin boasted a huge 21-3 lead it held on to while dealing Ohio State its only loss.

Clearly, things need to improve in that realm, and Ohio State gets its chance Saturday at 1-7 Minnesota in its first-ever trip to TCF Bank Stadium.

"I haven't looked at our two trips and said, ‘Oh, gee, I don't think they were focused or I don't think they understood,' or, ‘They let the crowd get to them,' or nothing like that, but do we need to execute better? For sure," head coach Jim Tressel said. "Maybe it's a negative that we had all the home games – I doubt it – but do we need to play better on the road? Absolutely.

"It's hard to win on the road. And do we thoroughly understand that? You'd think we would at this point, but we'll find out when we take the road again."

Oddly, the Buckeyes have often been road warriors in recent years before this season. Last year's upset loss at Purdue snapped a 16-game road winning streak in conference games. Coming into this season, the Buckeyes had only three road losses over the past five years and in that span had 10 victories against top-25 teams on the road.

That's one of the reasons this year's struggles have been perplexing.

"You know, I think it sticks with a lot of us," senior co-captain Cameron Heyward said. "A lot of guys are not happy with the way we've played. It's just extra motivation."

The slow starts have been a major part of the problem. Illinois forced a punt out of Ohio State on its first drive and then marched down the field for a touchdown on its first drive. Wisconsin, of course, took back the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and consecutive John Clay touchdown runs made the score 21-0 in favor of the home side.

Heyward said the other team's spirited early play was "just the luck of the draw," but the team also knows that taking the first punch while on the road is rarely a recipe for success.

"I think it's huge," senior Brandon Saine said. "We saw it this week when we played Purdue when they kicked the ball out of bounds and lost momentum right away. We went down and scored and took the wind out of them.

"We know it can work the same for us when we go on the road. Just to be able to strike first and get the crowd out of the game and get the emotions out of the game will be big."

Such a strong start could be a knockout blow for a Minnesota team looking for any positives after a disastrous season that has included the firing of head coach Tim Brewster. His interim replacement, Jeff Horton, has talked of bringing energy to the program, and the chance to beat a top-10 team in Ohio State could fit that bill.

"The big thing is, when you play an Ohio State team, you have to be in attack mode," Horton said. "You got to go right at them right from the start. I think if you sit back and wait for something to happen, sit back, hope they make a mistake, you got no chance."

With the open week also on the horizon, the Buckeyes could be looking ahead to three tough games to end the season, two of which will be at home where the scarlet-clad crowds will be there to welcome the home team onto the field. The trick on the road, most agree, is to try to get that same feeling, but Saine said it's easier said than done.

"We try to, we talk about it, but it's easy to talk about it," he said. "But to actually do it? We like to say ‘When the crowd gets loud we play harder," but when you actually get out there everything can start going wrong. But I think this week now that we have two road games under our belt we're definitely going to be ready to go."


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