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Clarett focused on Kent State next



Published: Mon, August 26, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The former Warren Harding standout said he was nervous before Saturday's opener.

By GARY HOUSTEAU

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- It was a performance that dreams are made of.

Freshman Maurice Clarett had his coming out party in front of 100,000 of his closest friends in the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium on Saturday.

Clarett rushed for 175 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns, and added 30 more yards on four pass receptions in the Buckeyes' 45-21 victory over Texas Tech. Clarett's rushing total was the most ever by a Buckeye freshman in his first game.

"It's only one game, you can't call it a success after one game," said Clarett about his auspicious debut. "I guess after a whole season's time of being consistent with running the ball like that you can call it a success, but right now you can't call it a success."

Clarett broke off two long touchdowns runs, one covering 59 yards in the first quarter and then a 45-yarder in the third. He had no negative yardage carries and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt.

"I was nervous before the game but once I finally got to the skull session [in St. John Arena] and I saw all the energy from the fans, I kind of just calmed down after a while," he said. "It was fun out there, it was fun having teammates pat you on the head and talk about a good job. But I'm really not going to try to let it soak in or dwell on it too long.

"There's not too much to say, you go back to practice next week and try to do this again," he continued. "I just wanted to come out here and play hard and get all of my assignments right and do the things that I was supposed to do and everything fell into its own way."

Two weeks to Kent

Whether he wants to take any credit for his production or not, Clarett was an integral part of the offense from the first play of the game. He was the first true freshman running back to ever start his first game in the modern history of Ohio State football.

"I'm not going to dwell on this long and I'm not going to call it special," Clarett said. "I just want to kind of put it behind me. We have a two-week preparation period for Kent State, so I'm just going to prepare for Kent State coming up. My expectations for myself are real high. I feel that I can do better so I'm just going out there and playing football everyday.

Came to OSU early

Shortly after being named Mr. Football in Ohio and Offensive Player of the Year by the USA Today, Clarett enrolled at Ohio State.

"Maurice came in, in January, with the thought in mind that he wanted to be ready to help his team early this fall," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, when he was asked if he had foreseen Clarett's performance coming. "That's, in my mind, a little bit of a sacrifice when you give up the latter half of your senior year in high school and come in when you have to adjust.

"There's no question that Maurice has got great ability and the guys up front created great openings," added Tressel. "I think we have three guys that can bang it in there pretty darn well and whenever you can rush for over 300 yards you're going to win."

Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross added 82 and 44 yards, respectively, on the ground, as the Buckeyes racked up 317 yards. Ohio State totaled 477 yards of offense.

OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel made this observation: "In terms of Clarett, he's the real deal. Sometimes you get recruits that come in and they're as highly touted as he was and they don't pan out as well as you'd like them. I think his performance today [Saturday] proved that he's ready to play and he's ready to contribute."




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