Buckeyes Going Bowling, But They Want More

OSU's Bobby Carpenter, who had a team-high 13 tackles in the win over Michigan State, says Buckeyes aren't satisfied with six wins. The Buckeyes want to continue their big finish with wins at Purdue Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPN) and Michigan Nov. 20.

When Ohio State dropped a 33-7 decision at Iowa on Oct. 16 -- the team's third straight loss to fall to 3-3 -- the Buckeyes redicated themselves. They called the remainder of their year a five-game season.

Well, three games into this five-game season everything seems to be going well. OSU improved to 6-3 overall and became bowl-eligible with a 32-19 win at Michigan State Saturday.

"It's been a roller coaster ride all season -- win three, lose three, win three," senior fullback Branden Joe. "It's just about controlling those emotions and using them to motivate you to be persistent and contribute in the right direction. We're peaking right now.

"It's huge today to get a road win and get three in a row after losing three in a row. There is a mental aspect to the game. Teams compete a lot better when they have some confidence. We've got this thing rolling in the right direction right now. We're looking forward to going to Purdue and keeping the ball rolling."

OSU, now 3-3 in Big Ten play, will try and carry the momentum on to Saturday's game at Purdue (5-4, 2-4). (The game is set for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN.)

The Buckeyes ended a three-game road losing streak in the Big Ten. OSU head coach Jim Tressel was asked about his satisfaction in ending that skid.

"The thing I felt was most important was the ability to go on the road and win in this league," Tressel said. "That is a relief that we've done that. Now we have to do it twice. You know how long relief lasts -- only about four minutes until you look at the things you need to do better."

The Buckeyes jumped ahead 17-0, but watched as MSU grabbed a 19-17 lead on a field goal with 3:06 left. But the Buckeyes moved back on top to stay with 1:36 left on Troy Smith's 58-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. After OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk intercepted a Michigan State pass, OSU's Maurice Hall ripped off a 51-yard touchdown run to put the game away.

"I think that's growing," Tressel said. "That helps you. We knew they weren't going to stop playing here at home. They are tough kids and it's a good program. All of a sudden, they're up. But we were able to come back and win it."

When asked if it felt like this win should count twice, Tressel smiled and said, "It only counts as one."

"Like Coach says, great football teams are measured in November," added middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel. "We need to keep winning if we want to be successful."

Joe talked about how the offense produced when it had to with 162 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

"We definitely established a sense of being poised under pressure," Joe said. "That was a tight situation. They could have gotten the ball in great field position, but we got three first downs there. Then, the next series, we came in and scored a touchdown. We want to build off those things."

Smith added, "With three wins under our belt in a row like that, you sort of get your swagger back. It gets you rolling. But we can't be complacent. We have to keep striving to be the best."

Linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who tallied a team-high 13 tackles, summed up the win.

"It's big to come up here and get a road win against a team a week ago that people felt we wouldn't have a chance against," he said. "Our offense stepped up. I was thoroughly impressed with them. Troy has been playing remarkable and getting the ball to our play makers."

Hawk chipped in 10 tackles -- including two for losses -- and also had the interception in the win.

"Any time you go on the road in the Big Ten and win, it feels that much better," Hawk said. "Our last couple Big Ten games, we hadn't shown what we could do on the road. This was a good Michigan State team and should give us some confidence going in against Purdue.

"We always say you have to play for 60 minutes and we showed that today. The defense, when we were put in pressure situations, we usually came up with a big play."

Going Bowling

Although Ohio State will go to a bowl for the fifth straight year, the particular bowl assignment is up in the air and may not be determined until the Bowl Championship Series makes its selections on Dec. 5.

If the Buckeyes can win at least one of their last two games to get to 7-4, OSU could be a candidate for the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl. This scenario is probably dependent on both Wisconsin and Michigan making it to the BCS. A two-game sweep of Purdue and Michigan would probably cement the Outback Bowl. The Alamo Bowl, set for Dec. 29 in San Antonio, would probably take Ohio State if the Buckeyes are available, even at 6-5.

A trip to the Jan. 1 Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus) seems unlikely, even with two wins, largely because an OSU win over Michigan would probably drop UM into that game.

"It's all about trying to get into the (Capital One) Bowl or something like that," Carpenter said. "Being bowl-eligible is what is expected around here. Getting into a BCS bowl is what's expected here. That isn't going to happen now, but we have two games left. We're going to focus on Purdue now and then the Team Up North."

Hawk added, "Obviously, you always want to go to a good bowl when you're at Ohio State. But we approached this as a five-game season. We've taken three of those steps toward that and now we've got two more games with that. We know it will certainly be another good one next Saturday."

Cornerback Dustin Fox said OSU still has more work to do.

"We are in the postseason and that's great," he said. "But we want to go out and win these last two games, then worry about the bowl game."

Fox said Purdue will be looking to end its losing streak against the Buckeyes.

"They have had some struggles like we had during the middle of the season," Fox said. "They have a ton of talent, a great quarterback and some great receivers. Purdue is always a great battle and a traditional match-up for us, so we know it will be a great game."

OSU-MSU Quotebook

Here are more comments from Saturday's game:

* Carpenter on Ginn's exploits -- "Ted Ginn, he scored in so many ways. He does have deceptive speed. Most people don't know how fast he is until he's by them."

* Center Nick Mangold on why he didn't start the game -- "More about the game would be great."

* Offensive tackle Steve Rehring on his first start in place of the ailing Rob Sims -- "It was just another game. That's how I looked at it. I played the last two games and those were more nervous for me."

* Rehring on MSU's comeback -- "It's Big Ten football. We knew they were going to come back. That's how this league is. You can't always keep big leads like that."

The Road Ahead

Here is a look at OSU's final two games of the regular season:

* Nov. 13, at Purdue (5-4, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN) -- Purdue was ranked in the top five three weeks ago. But successive losses to Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern and now Iowa -- all by a combined 10 points -- have left the Boilers reeling. Now quarterback Kyle Orton is ailing with a hip injury. He did not play in Saturday's 23-21 loss to Iowa. Purdue will be a desperate team still in need of one more win to qualify for postseason play. OSU has won three straight from Purdue and six of the last seven at West Lafayette in a series known for classic games in recent years.

* Nov. 20, Michigan (8-1, 6-0), 1 p.m. (ABC) -- Michigan has rebounded from an early season loss to Notre Dame to become – along with Wisconsin -- the Big Ten front runner. Michigan will host dangerous Northwestern this Saturday. A win in that game means UM would be playing for an unbeaten conference championship – and either the Rose Bowl or a likely BCS bowl bid – at Ohio State.

The Wolverines are doing it with an adequate defense and a freshman, Chad Henne, at quarterback and a freshman, Michael Hart, at tailback. Tressel is 2-1 against Michigan, although the Wolverines won the Big Ten outright with a 35-21 win last year. The Game has decided a Big Ten championship for one or both teams every year since 1994, except for 1999. It looks like it will be the case again this year.

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