OSU Road Warriors Have Shoe On Other Foot

Over the past few seasons, Ohio State has taken joy out of going on the road and playing well in front of some of the Big Ten's most feared crowds, especially at night. For the first time in a while, the Buckeyes now get to host a team in a similar situation. Find out more about OSU's thoughts on facing what should be a fired up Penn State team at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The scene is familiar for Ohio State: a home crowd, clad solidly in one color or another, is on hand to help root the upstart local team to a crucial win against a traditional power that's the invading favorite to win.

The only difference this coming weekend is that Ohio State is usually that invading traditional power – and they're more adept at ruining those shows than sending the folks home happy.

"Anytime you go on the road and it's just you against everybody else, it makes you play that much harder," linebacker Marcus Freeman said.

But now, the shoe is on the other foot because it will be No. 9 Ohio State looking to defend the venerable Horseshoe against the third-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, who expect to enter Ohio Stadium as slight favorites.

Ohio State even will be staging a "Scarlet Fever" fan event that encourages the 105,000-plus in attendance to make Ohio Stadium a see of red. Head coach Jim Tressel even wore a red blazer to his weekly press conference to promote the festivities, and he encouraged fans to make sure their ponchos are the required color in the event of rain.

"We're looking forward to a great environment this weekend," he said.

The only problem is that the Buckeyes are used to being the ones quieting such atmospheres instead of encouraging them. At least that much is true since the Buckeyes' last road loss in the Big Ten, which occurred in 2005 at this weekend's opponent.

At that game, Penn State debuted what has now become its vaunted "White Out," and Ohio State was flummoxed from the very beginning. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a first-quarter lead and shut down the Buckeyes the rest of the way to earn a 17-10 win that legitimized a fast start by PSU and ended Ohio State's national title hopes that season.

Since then, Ohio State has seen just about every kind of color-out there is – and rarely have they gone well for the home team.

It started in 2006 when No. 13 Iowa billed a Kinnick Stadium clash with Ohio State as one of the biggest home games in school history. With the 70,000-plus in attendance forming a sea of gold shirts, the Buckeyes jumped out to an early lead and cruised home to a 38-17 win.

Last year, Ohio State played three night games on the road and wasn't tested in any of them. No. 23 Purdue tried to get its fans to show up in black, but the Buckeyes wore the black hat on the way to a 23-7 win, and a week later, Minnesota's lost year continued with a 30-7 loss. Later in the year, OSU returned to the scene of the original "White Out" and made amends, handing out a 37-17 whupping to No. 25 Penn State.

That Penn State scene has been considered by many as the gold standard of fan events.

"Last time we went over there, they had the ‘White Out' and it was rocking over there," defensive tackle Nader Abdallah said. "It was a really great environment, and now they have a chance to come over here. We're going to try to get our scarlet on and get the fans wearing scarlet and get the crowd rocking."

The contest against the Nittany Lions will serve as the first the Buckeyes have had fans wear a specific color for a night game. In fact, the last time a night game was staged in Ohio Stadium was 2005 when a thunderous packed house watched the home side fall in the final moments against a Texas team that went on to win the national title. The last home Big Ten night game was in 2001 when the Buckeyes drubbed Northwestern, 38-20.

Since that game against the Longhorns, Ohio State has played eight night games away from Columbus.

"We've played quite a few of them, but they've been on the road," tight end Rory Nicol said. "I don't know why that is."

When it comes to the play between the lines, Ohio State should have the home-field advantage. The roar of 105,000-plus should negatively impact the Nittany Lions' ability to run their offense, while OSU's defense practices communicating without ever having to use their voices because of the din in the Horseshoe.

"I think they can help us," Nicol said. "I think they can be loud when Penn State's on the field and affect some of their communications and those things we have to fight when we're on the road."

But Ohio State's continued success during its road trips – especially those at night in hostile territory – also leaves open the fact that Penn State might come in with a similar mental edge to the one the Buckeyes play with on the road. OSU showed that ability to play well on the road again last Saturday against Michigan State during a 45-7 win in East Lansing, and Penn State did the same a week earlier during a 48-7 evening win at Wisconsin.

"It's motivating," guard Jim Cordle said. "It's fun, and it showed."

So one would expect the Buckeyes to be on full alert just because of the fact that they know what it's like to play well in an atmosphere such as the one that is expected Saturday night. Either way, they hope that the crowd will be as much of a help as possible.

"I hope it's absolutely crazy," Nicol said. "I want to see 80-year-old men jumping up and down and going nuts. I'm serious. We've been on the road in some of these hostile environments and people are just crazy fans. I don't want to see anything stupid, but I want to see people loving the Buckeyes and being loud and going crazy."

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