Ross Returns To Scene Of First Triumph

OSU tailback Lydell Ross downplays the notion that today's game at Indiana (noon, ESPN) holds special significance because it was the site of his first 100-yard game two years ago. Rather, Ross is just looking for some consistency in OSU's struggling running attack.

Later today, Lydell Ross will take the field at Indiana's Memorial Stadium, the site of his first big game as a college player.

Ross, just a 17-year-old freshman at the time, became the youngest back in Big Ten history to have a 100-yard game when he tallied 124 yards in OSU's 27-14 win at Indiana.

Two years later, Ross is working as OSU's starting tailback. But days like the one he enjoyed at IU in 2001 have been few and far between. In fact, he notched his only other 100-yard day last year, when he had a 130-yard day playing in place of the injured Maurice Clarett at Cincinnati.

Neither Ross nor fellow junior Maurice Hall have found a rhythm with the running game this season, each averaging right at 3.4 yards per carry for the offensively challenged Buckeyes.

One would think that a trip back to Bloomington -- especially to play the 1-6 Hoosiers --might be just the thing Ross is looking for to jump start his season. But he doesn't see it quite that way.

"I just try to focus on the moment at hand," Ross said. "The past was good. But we have to look at this year and see what we've got to do this year. I'm just thinking about playing this game."

With OSU 10th in the Big Ten in rushing offense at a meager 108.7 yards per game, it is understandable that Ross is guarded with his comments about what might happen today.

"There are definitely some things we need to get better at," Ross said. "That goes for our whole squad on offense, but really moreso for the running game. We just have to put it together. At times, we have shown flashes of greatness.

"We know we have got to get better and polish some things up if we want to get where we want to go with this offense."

Indiana, ranked 10th in the conference in total defense (407.4 yards per game), is as good a place to start as any, Ross said.

"We approach it like any other game," he said. "We can't underestimate any team. I think we need a game out there where both backs go over 100 yards. I think that wouldn't hurt."

Injuries have stopped Ross from fulfilling his potential this season. He has missed valuable time due to an ankle sprain and a muscle pull. On the year, he has logged 70 carries for 241 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Last week, Ross netted just 16 yards on nine carries as Iowa's stingy run defense held the Buckeyes to 56 yards on 42 rushing attempts.

Ross' best success this year came against Bowling Green, when he had 94 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. He made an argument Tuesday to see the ball more.

"For a back like me, for a back to get into the game, I think there's more confidence that should be thrown into the running game," Ross said. "We can afford to carry the ball a lot more. How many carries did I have last week? Eight or nine? I think I could afford to get maybe six or seven more, and then they could think about whether or not the running game is working at that point rather than when I'm under 10 carries.

"I think I'm capable. I showed in the past I could do it. I played my whole freshman year for God's sake, at 16 years old. Maybe (injuries are) happening because I'm not getting the amount of carries."

But Ross said he hasn't made his carries -- or lack thereof -- an issue with the coaching staff.

"I haven't gone to them and asked for more carries," Ross said. "I let Coach Tressel take care of the game plan. The coaches have an idea and they know what they want to do with the backs and what's best for the team."

At the same time, many are clamoring for freshman Ira Guilford to get more of a chance. He entered the Iowa game before Hall did, leading some to believe he had moved up to No. 2 on the pecking order.

"I don't know what their intentions were," Ross said of Guilford‘s early entry. "He had been practicing good and had earned some playing time. I can see what they're doing with the substitutions. All three of us bring some different things to the table."

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