Buckeyes Can Finally Talk About Texas

It's been the talk of town for several months and Texas week has finally arrived. Ohio State's players did a good job of staying focused and not looking past Miami University. But now that Texas week is here, they can finally say what is on their minds. We have comments from several Buckeye players on the magnitude and excitement of the Texas game.

Ohio State's players can finally talk about the Texas game.

Following the Buckeyes' 34-14 win over Miami University on Saturday, the discussion immediately turned to the Longhorns.

It will be a primetime showdown at Ohio Stadium (8 p.m., ABC national telecast) with two of the top six teams in the land and OSU's players seem excited for the challenge.

For senior linebacker Anthony Schlegel, the game is extra special. He is from Highland Park, Texas, and was not recruited by UT out of high school.

"Now that Miami is over, I can say that I've been thinking about Texas a lot," Schlegel said. "I've watched a lot of film of them over the summer. They're a dangerous ballclub. You look at the breakdown, Vince Young's year last year, there was a significant difference from the sixth game on in his performance. He's dangerous and their defense is really good. Their tight end is really good. So, they have a lot of weapons and we're just getting ready to practice."

Schlegel did not root for the Longhorns growing up.

"I just never really liked Texas that much," he said. "They have a great program and they've been very successful. It's just going to be two historic teams going at it on Saturday night."

Schlegel's parents will be at Ohio Stadium for the game.

"Oh yeah, my mom and dad don't miss a game," he said.

Schlegel is proud of the state where he was born and raised. But he loves his second home as well.

"I'm a Texan and I'm proud to be from there," he said. "But I'm a Buckeye through and through. I love it here. I bleed scarlet and gray."

Junior cornerback Ashton Youboty moved to Texas in eighth grade and attended Klein High School. But unlike Schlegel, the Texas game doesn't mean anything extra to Youboty. It probably would be different if he was born and raised there, but he's originally from Liberia, Africa, and was raised in Philadelphia.

"Everybody asks me about it because I'm from Texas," Youboty said. "But I just really want another win. It's really just another game for me. We have to go practice against their scheme. We know their key players and know who to stop. That's what we're going to work on."

Senior offensive lineman Rob Sims has played in several big games during his college career. He puts Texas near the top of the list.

"Now we have to get ready for Texas. It's going to be a huge game," he said. "I would put this one right under the national championship game and right under Michigan. It's going to be a huge game, probably something I will talk to my kids about. I'm just really excited to go out there and play and show the world who we are. Every game is make or break for us. Our plan is to be undefeated."

One player who won't get too up for the Texas game is laid-back sophomore receiver Anthony Gonzalez.

"I don't get super rah-rah and bang my head against the locker or that type thing," he said. "When a game like Texas comes up, I just try to focus a lot more and make sure I'm doing my assignments properly. I just try and focus on the things that got us into that situation."

Young won't be the only Heisman Trophy candidate playing in the game. Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. will also have center stage.

"Texas is here now," Ginn said. "We have to start on that film. It's a big game. We're going to go out and test how we're doing before we get to the Big Ten and just play hard."

Even head coach Jim Tressel admitted that he began thinking about the Texas game during the final minutes of the Miami game.

"Probably in the middle of the fourth today. I'm not going to lie," Tressel said. "You start thinking about, you know, that when it's – when it's time to do that and there's no doubt about it. You know, we wanted to think about that a lot. We don't have that luxury. You (reporters) do. You know, you can talk about it and think about it. We don't have that luxury. We have work to do.

"We're anxious. Two great universities, two of the greatest research institutions in the world and two states that love the game of football and all that. Shoot, we can't wait and I'm sure they're the same."

Ohio State senior linebacker A.J. Hawk was asked when he started thinking about the Texas game.

"Maybe around the same time (as Tressel) I guess," he said. "Next weekend we've been talking about for so long and it's finally here and we can focus on Texas and get ready for that game."

Hawk says it's somewhat of a relief that Texas week is finally here.

"Maybe just a little bit," he said. "Just like Coach Tressel said, to be a part of a game that big and the magnitude of it and playing such a great team is going to be an experience for us. So, yes, I guess it's a relief to finally get to that game."

Hawk knows the key to the Buckeyes' success against Texas will depend on their ability to slow down Young. "Well, he's obviously a great player and everyone around the country has seen how great of a quarterback he is – both running and throwing the ball," Hawk said. "So, it's a huge challenge for us as a defense, but it's going to be fun and we're looking forward to it."

But just how does a defense contain a talented player like Young?

"I just think you have to focus on your fundamentals," Hawk said. "Make sure you're tackling. Don't miss too many tackles and make sure you break down and try and take the game to them. Because he is going to make some plays and you just have to move on and get ready for the next play."

Senior safety Nate Salley seems more excited than any of his teammates for the Texas game, with the possible exception of Schlegel.

"Now we can talk about Texas," Salley said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's a huge game all over the nation and we're looking forward to it. This is what we live for. A lot of us came to Ohio State to battle for national championships and play games like this. Play huge games. When we first got here, we saw that Texas was going to be our senior year and it's going to be a lot of fun. A lot of us have been looking forward to it and now it's time."

Salley was part of OSU's 2002 recruiting class, ranked No. 2 in the nation by most recruiting services. The fact that Texas' class was ranked No. 1 that year just adds to the magnitude of next Saturday's game.

"Most definitely," Salley said. "We were the No. 2 class and they were No. 1, so everyone looked at that game since then and said, ‘We play each other our senior year.' So, now is the time to kind of see which class was really best."

Senior linebacker Bobby Carpenter says that Young is one of the best playmakers he's seen on film.

"He does a tremendous job as their quarterback making plays," Carpenter said. "He does a pretty good job of finding open receivers. He does a great job of leading his offense and leading his team. I think that was pretty evident in the Rose Bowl last year.

"It's a game that we're all looking forward to. I know everyone is excited around here. As a defense, we look as it as a tremendous opportunity to go out and make a statement, just showing that we're here, we're going to be a good unit and we're going to be the backbone of this team and that's what we want to be."

Carpenter was asked how the Texas game compares to the Michigan game.

"It's a little different," he said. "Michigan game is kind of… it's usually for the Big Ten title. But a big non-conference game around here is huge. We play the same teams in the Big Ten year in and year out; there's a lot of tradition. But Texas is kind of a new buzz. I don't think we've ever played Texas before. So, two big national powers coming together early on in the season and playing each other in a stadium this big and this great… there's going to be a ton of fans. Night game, nationally televised. So, it's a different feel than Michigan, but it's definitely the same amount of excitement. They're a great team and we're looking forward to playing them."

Senior defensive end Mike Kudla is looking forward to playing on a national stage and proving that OSU is a serious national title contender.

"That game is so built up, there really isn't much that can be said," he said. "It's going to be two of the best teams in the country going at it. Night game in the 'Shoe. What more could you ask for? That's why we came here to play at Ohio State and it's going to be a great game."

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