Buckeyes Staying Sharp With Holiday Looming

For the Ohio State football team, the time between finals and the holiday break might as well be the dog days of winter. The Buckeyes are trying to stay sharp for the upcoming Rose Bowl between two major breaks in the schedule, and the Ohio State coaches and seniors are doing their part to keep the intensity up.

Other than Christmas shopping, there isn't much going on for the average Ohio State student at the moment.

Finals ended last Thursday, and with the holiday coming up many youngsters burned out after a quarter of hard work have returned home and are enjoying the break in the academic calendar.

Then there's the Ohio State football team. After a short break for Thanksgiving and finals, the Buckeyes are in the midst of an intense week of bowl practice preparations before they split up Monday. At that point, the team will spend a few days with their families before reuniting Christmas night in Pasadena.

But for those who think the Buckeyes are struggling to get back in the swing of things between the two breaks with sharp, intense practices, the Buckeyes said Monday at their bowl media that that hasn't been a huge problem.

"It's definitely been serious," safety Anderson Russell said. "I think we're definitely doing a great job of running around, so it's very up-tempo."

One impetus for that has come from the Ohio State coaching staff, which has made keeping the Buckeyes fit a major tenet of its bowl practices up to this point.

"There's definitely a lot more running, trying to stay in shape, and we're doing a lot more as a team together, like ones versus ones, twos verses twos, instead of just against the scout team," tailback Brandon Saine said.

They appear to be doing so for two major reasons. One is to get the Buckeyes back in shape after some time off that included a national holiday known for its food, but the other is to keep pace with an Oregon team that likes to race up and down the field offensively.

Around two-thirds of the Ducks' scoring drives this season took less than three minutes, showing that UO likes to push the issue with pace.

"We had a really hard practice today and we did a lot of hurry-up stuff, kind of working on what Oregon does, so guys are tired but we stuck together," Russell said Monday. "And I think it was a good practice for us today, because really when you get tired like that, it's more about your mental focus, because you can't just get so focused in on what you have to do, you have to still communicate to the other guys out there.

"That really helps you not be as tired when you're talking about what's going on still. And we did a good job of doing that today, we really stepped up to the challenge that the coaches presented for us so I think we did a good job."

While the coaches are doing their part to keep the Buckeyes working, so are members of the senior class. Defensive tackle Doug Worthington said he remembers being a younger player who couldn't wait to head home for the holidays, and that might have affected his practice habits before the break.

"It definitely was (difficult)," he said of his younger days. "I was like, ‘Oh, I get to go home tomorrow. I got one foot out the door. I can't wait to go home and see my mom.' "

With only one game left in his Buckeye career, Worthington said he's doing his best to make sure none of the younger Ohio State players feel the same way.

"You have to make sure the younger guys are ready and looking toward a practice as a practice where we have to get better instead of having one foot out the door, wanting to go home, wanting to see mom and dad, wanting to get a Christmas present," he said. "For me, this is it. I understand that as the seniors we know after this some guys are going to play football, some guys are not. We want to make sure we go out there and have our best game."

It can also help that there is no school in session. Even those who might be having a hard time getting motivated don't have to worry about the added pressure of school, leaving more time during the day to get all football work done.

"I really look forward to this time of year because you don't have anything to worry about with school and it's just focused in on football," Russell said. "It's kind of like in the NFL, you don't have anything to worry about. So I look forward to this time of year, it's time to turn it up. If you get banged up or something, you know you've got three or four weeks to get better, so you really put it all on the line every day you go out there."

The motivation of playing in the Rose Bowl and trying to snap OSU's three-game postseason losing streak help, as well.

"My main message was that I was telling them is that we need to know what we are playing for," co-captain Kurt Coleman said. "This isn't a game where we are going to go out there to soak up the L.A. sun. We are focused and we are preparing very hard."

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