Freight Train Flashback

Maurice or Onterrio? The Mighty Mo or the Green Ghost? The comparisons began before the final whistle blew on Saturday. In fact, much of the Cougar Nation was probably experiencing some sort of unpleasant flashback before the third quarter of the Ohio State victory over Washington State had ended.

Yes, the running of Buckeye back Maurice Clarett was woefully reminiscent of that other rocket-powered anvil-on-wheels, Onterrio Smith, the Oregon phantom who left similar cleat marks on the chest of Cougar defenders last November.

 

For the record, two Cougar D-linemen - - Rien Long and Isaac Brown - - have stated Clarett is the best back they've ever lined up against…after Smith. And while no one is denying Clarett was scary good and the definitive difference maker for the Buckeyes, eye-witness accounts of Smith's 285-yard performance in a rain-soaked Martin Stadium last season have the air of UFO sightings about them.

 

But the other worldliness of Onterrio in '01 and the mauling moves of Maurice on Saturday aren't the only similarities between the Ohio State contest and the Cougar loss to Oregon last year.

 

For starters, a win in either game would've placed Wazzu on or around the No. 5 spot in the college football polls. A win over the Ducks last season would've given the Cougs an 8-0 record and the pre-game whispers of an undefeated season (and, gulp, a national championship) would've increased substantially in volume. A Cougar win last Saturday - - though early in the season and pre-conference play - - would certainly have generated similar talk.

 

And then there is the matter of Jason Gesser.

 

The quarterback's post game audibles last year following the emotional loss to Oregon were matched, if not exceeded, by his Ohio State vents on Saturday. The end result: A young man, who by all accounts is a wonderful human being and outstanding ambassador of the university, has ugly words like "whiner" and "cry-baby" attached to his name.

 

Like overprotective and ultra-sensitive parents, we feel the need to defend or, at very least, attempt to explain his less than appropriate post game comments following these heartbreaking losses. But privately, we bristle and wonder why the Cougar we love most hasn't learned to lose a little more - - if not graciously - - quietly.

 

And there exists yet another unfortunate side-effect from Saturday's setback that also reared it's ugly head after the Duck defeat last season: Fan panic, or more aptly referred to as "Sky is Falling Syndrome."

 

Hey, it's hard not to feel a little uneasy after witnessing a freight train run over and around our Crimson Soldiers. Backs like Clarett and Smith do more than just rack up yards and score touchdowns; they demoralize, humiliate, embarrass, and belittle. It's hard to stay positive when your missed tackles show up on the ESPN highlight reels.

 

But let's stop and flashback a little further into the '01 season, just seven days after Onterrio Smith ran so convincingly over the Cougar defense and their psyche. The Cougs faced another "next-level" runner, UCLA's DeShaun Foster and a Bruin team that had spent most of the season in the top 10. The same Foster who early in the season ran for a season's worth of yards against the University of Washington.

 

Turned out the sky wasn't falling after all.

 


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