Buckeyes Prepare For Hostile Environment

Ohio State is used to playing in loud stadiums, whether they be Michigan Stadium, Penn State's Beaver Stadium or its own Ohio Stadium. Despite holding 30,000 less fans than any of those facilities, Husky Stadium has its own reputation for pumping up the decibel levels. Find out what the Buckeyes are doing to combat that fact, and what Malcolm Jenkins says is the key to playing on the road.

Malcolm Jenkins has been there before. He was in Beaver Stadium in 2005 when 109,839 rowdy – and some would say rude – Penn State fans used a White Out to defeat Ohio State. He was in the Big House that same year when OSU made up a 9-point deficit in the final 10 minutes, and Jenkins was a starter when the top-ranked Buckeyes went down to Texas last season to defeat the No. 2 Longhorns.

So when Malcolm Jenkins hears that 72,500 fans likely will fill Husky Stadium Saturday when Ohio State visits Washington for a 3:30 (ET) start, he knows what to expect. The problem is, not many of his Buckeye brethren do.

On Ohio State's two-deep for the game, 30 players listed have sophomore eligibility or below. Of OSU's 22 starters, 11 will likely be starting their first marquee road game.

As one of the elder statesmen of the group, Jenkins said he'll have to pass along a message for some of the younger players on the team who might not be used to a trip into such a hostile environment.

"I would say the biggest thing when you're playing away and the crowd is hostile, use that as your fuel," he said. "That's what I do. When I step into a hostile environment, I just get hostile. You just match the environment, pretty much."

Jenkins isn't the only Buckeye with a message this week. Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has coached at Washington and has passed along to his team just what to expect, as has head trainer Doug Calland, who used to work has UW. The Buckeyes also received words from former head coach Earle Bruce and strength coordinator Jeff Uhlenhake, who were part of the 1986 team that went to UW and lost 40-7 to the 17th-ranked Huskies.

Part of the message will surely entail that the Buckeyes should expect Husky Stadium to be shaking. While the building doesn't hold six figures like Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium or Michigan Stadium, the double-decked stadium has most of its seats on the sidelines, not in the end zones, and a metal overhangs help funnel noise down toward the field. After a 1995 game, Army's Al Roberts compared it to being on a runway.

"Many say that it's louder than, perhaps, anyplace in the Big Ten. It's an unusual makeup in that about 70 percent of the seats are inside the 20s and you have that overhang and it creates kind of a megaphone thing that everyone talks about as being loud," head coach Jim Tressel said. "That's exciting, because our guys enjoy those loud environments; they enjoy playing in Ohio Stadium."

To help combat the noise that is sure to come when the Buckeyes are on the offensive side of the ball, the Buckeyes will go to the usual repertoire of methods. Crowd noise has been pumped into practices, while the offensive linemen have been working on hand signals and a silent count for line calls and snaps.

"Noise affects us a lot on the O-line," first-year center Jim Cordle said. "You can't hear the calls. What we're doing this week is coming up with a lot of different hand signals for our different calls. We're pointing to where we're going, different things like that. I can scream and yell at my guard and then he can pass it down to the tackle, pass it down to the right end.

"That's what we're going to have to do: get to the line fast, make a call and then try not to give them a chance to adjust."

For tight end Jake Ballard, that puts him in a bad spot. As the last guy in the chain at the end of the line, Ballard is going to have to get used to playing telephone with his linemates and hope none of the signals get crossed. The situation puts some pressure on the sophomore who will be seeing his first extended action in such an environment.

"We (tight ends) have to think a little bit faster than the tackles do and be in our stance a little faster just so we can be ready to get that call," he said. "We might get the call then the ball might be snapped right after that. We have to be prepared to think fast and move even faster."

With so many young guys in important spots, including quarterback Todd Boeckman, who will be taking his first significant snaps away from the Horseshoe, the challenge will be avoiding getting overwhelmed at the start. Even after saying the nearly 110,000 fans at Penn State didn't bug him at all, Jenkins admitted his first handful of plays in Beaver Stadium were a bit of a shock.

"I would say probably the first three plays, I was like, ‘Wow,' but after that you get used to it," Jenkins said. "You take your attitude to the same level that's around you and you just feel at home."

If Jenkins is right and attitude is key, then it's clear that safety Kurt Coleman has already been listening to his more experienced backfield partner.

"From what I've talked to all the guys, we love road games," Coleman said. "We definitely love to thrive on them. We just want to go out there and show them what we can do."

Buckeye Sports Top Stories