The old saying goes that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Right about now, history buffs are taking a page out of last season's book to find out what to do -- and what not to do.
Last season, Ohio State faced an inexperienced N.C. State defense comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores. For most of the game, the inexperience showed. However, Ohio State could never fully take advantage.
Sure, the Buckeyes mustered 44 points on the scoreboard, but delving much deeper into the final game statistics, that was about as meaningless as your classic Hollywood marriage.
"I know we just have to eliminate the mistakes and eliminate the turnovers," Justin Zwick said earlier this week. "We can't turn the ball over as much as we have the first two games. This week, that's our priority."
That's an understatement.
More importantly, the Buckeyes cannot turn the ball over as much as they did last season against this defense that returns 8 starters and 10 of their top 13 in the rotation.
In the game in Columbus in 2003, Ohio State turned the ball over 5 times. What's worse, the Buckeyes sustained only one drive that went for more than 42 yards, and that one -- a 7-play, 70-yard drive -- was astonishingly the only one that went for more than five plays.
The root of last season's debacle stemmed to an incomplete running game. Craig Krenzel was the leading rusher with just 37 yards.
Ohio State averaged just 1.4 yards a carry on 32 attempts. For those mathematicians, that translates to a total of 44 yards rushing for the entire team.
Tackle Rob Sims knows that has to improve.
"They have an experienced personnel," Sims said of N.C. State's defense. "They gave us some problems last year, so we need to go get after them this year."
One bullet it appears Ohio State might dodge is that of the leftover of Hurricane Ivan.
It was originally expected that Ivan would dump a deluge of pouring rain during the afternoon on Saturday in Raleigh, however, the storm has moved up the East coast a bit faster than prognosticators expected, and now it appears most of the rain may be out of the North Carolina area by late tomorrow afternoon.
Should Ivan stick around a little longer, the Buckeyes don't want to let that affect their play.
"We're not really thinking about that right now," Sims said of the possible rain. "We've experienced parts of hurricanes up here, so we're not really worried about it. If it happens we will just deal with it."
Last season, the Wolfpack stuffed eight and nine guys in the box nearly the entire game. They crowded the line of scrimmage, daring Krenzel to beat them with the pass, which didn't happen until after regulation.
Nearly 75 of the 273 yards passing Krenzel had come in the three overtime periods. Although three of the four members of the N.C. State secondary return, the Buckeyes hope that their playmakers will take over.
One thing going for Ohio State is that last season they did only give up two sacks on the game, although N.C. State did bring some heat, and did put a lot of pressure on Krenzel.
Zwick expects he will see a lot of blitzing by N.C. State this year trying to force a few turnovers.
"I would think they are going to come after me a little bit," he said. "In watching the game last year, they brought a lot of pressure, and I think they will have a linebacker or someone coming quite a lot."
N.C. State (1-0) showed very few packages in their 42-0 victory over I-AA Richmond, so Ohio State will have to largely consult last season's game to get an edge on what the Wolfpack may do defensively.
Although N.C. State will once again crowd the box trying to shut down the running game, Ohio State hopes three things change this season's productivity on offense…
· A quarterback that sees the field extremely well and is quick in making
· More playmakers at wide receiver that will make N.C. State pay for sending nine guys to the line
· And a more athletic offensive line that can counteract the quickness up front of the Wolfpack defensive line
It was that pressure that allowed the linebackers, led by 6-2 230-pound senior Pat Thomas, to clean up the plays. Thomas totaled 8 tackles from his outside position.
This year, it's Williams as the guy to watch. As a quick 6-7 271, the sophomore is capable of giving nightmares to Sims or Tim Schaefer, depending on which side he lines up.
If N.C. State tries to stuff the run on Saturday, Sims has a message for them.
"Well, Marshall really tried to put a lot of guys in the box as well," Sims said. "Fortunately I think we are doing a real good job passing the ball, and we're able to take advantage of that a little more."
"I think the offense is going to get the job done this week," he added.
One thing the Buckeyes are hoping to continue is their improved pass protection. This season, the Buckeyes have only allowed a total of two sacks.
That's high praise for going against a Marshall defense that held Troy to 17 points.
In fact, their star lineman Jonathan Goddard, Sims called "the best player he has faced in his collegiate career thus far" -- including that of the Jonathan Vilmas of the world.
With Santonio Holmes going to be a focal point of N.C. State's defense, after torching Marshall for 10 catches, 224 yards, and 2 touchdowns, Zwick says it's important to spread the ball around.
"We can't just rely on one guy (Santonio)," Zwick emphasized. "We've got a lot of guys who can make plays, and we have to use them."
One of those guys might be senior flanker Bam Childress.
"I'm kind of glad, because that might give me a little more chance one-on-one or man-on-man," Childress said. "That will free me up to do what I do a little more out on an island."
Although Childress was relatively quiet against Marshall, he showed the type of ability he possesses against Cincinnati.
Of course, the ability was never in question for Childress, it was just a matter of utilizing it properly, but even so he's the type of weapon that could come in handy against N.C. State.
"I'm looking forward to it," Childress said. "I can't wait to get more opportunities and more balls thrown (my way)."
While N.C. State appears to be healthy on defense, Ohio State has had a few nagging injuries offensively.
Overall, with the quickness of N.C. State up front, expect Ohio State to try to establish the pass first this week.
Don't be surprised if they come airing it out early and often. They (the Buckeyes) will try to pick on senior corners Lamont Reid and Dovonte Edwards. Reid is the more experienced of the two, as Edwards was just converted to corner late last season as he spent the first part of his career at receiver.
The Pack will probably play some cover-2 early on, but if Ohio State passes successfully, they may have to pull back a bit more.
In the second half, provided it's a close game or the Buckeyes have the lead, you can expect them to pound the ball on the ground -- that is, if it's working.
Ohio State escaped with a 44-38 victory, last season, despite the five turnovers and despite blowing a 24-7 second half lead.
In spite of winning with the turnovers and the inability to move the ball, Justin Zwick knows he cannot turn the ball over like he has the past few weeks.
If the Buckeyes do that again like they have this season or like they did
last year, the history of still managing to sneak out with a victory probably
won't repeat itself.