OHIO STATE NOTEBOOK From The Fiesta Bowl
Happy New Year: Players from both teams said they were asleep well before the clock struck midnight local time. Ohio State's curfew is 11 p.m. and Miami's is midnight. Ohio State defensive ends Will Smith and Darrion Scott, who are roommates, spent the night in their room and were asleep early. "I don't think they wanted us to go out at all," Smith said. "We had a curfew at 11 p.m., so we stayed in the hotel. We had a game room and pool table so we had a couple of tournaments. Guys also played X-Box and checkers." Buckeyes kicker Mike Nugent had dinner with his parents and got to bed by 10:30 p.m. Ohio State defensive tackle Tim Anderson stayed in his room and had a very mundane night. "I folded my clothes," he said. "The room was getting a little messy."
So long, buddy: Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey and center Brett Romberg are not only both three-year starters, but also good friends and roommates. That didn't stop Romberg, the acknowledged jokester on the Hurricanes' squad, from dismissing the signal caller after sighting E! Network personality and model Cindy Taylor outside one of the interview rooms. Romberg responded to a question from a reporter: "I don't know if you all saw this girl out there. Dorsey could sleep on the front lawn if I had [her] as a roommate." Romberg admitted he already had a steady girlfriend, though. "I'm already in the doghouse because I didn't take her out for New Year's Eve. I'll have to spend the off-season getting out of it."
Kind words for Clarett: Ohio State center Alex Stepanovich was asked what special thing freshman tailback Maurice Clarett brought to the team. "He's always energetic; he always wants the ball. The thing that I remember about him is the Michigan game -- how he came back from the [shoulder] injury and made a real impact. No one's had as big an impact on his team as he did that day." Stepanovich acknowledged Clarett's outspoken nature and said "that's part of what makes him so special. What's important to [his teammates] is that he comes out to practice every day, he puts his hat on and does the work."
Understanding: Clarett's teammates understand the difficult situation the freshman running back is going through after the death of a friend. Clarett wasn't able to go back for the funeral -- the reasons are in dispute between the player and the school. Clarett said he filled out the proper forms to get NCAA emergency funds, but the school said the paperwork was not complete. "My heart goes out to him," defensive lineman Tim Anderson said. "Unfortunately I know what he's feeling because I lost one of my best friends last May. I can't imagine not being able to go to the funeral. He has to use this to motivate him in the game."
Big Ten Pride: After hearing lots of criticism about their conference, the Ohio State players are taking pride in the bowl performance of the Big Ten. Big Ten teams are 4-1 in bowl games following Wednesday's win by Michigan and a loss by Penn State. "A lot of guys have been talking about it," Nugent said. "The guys on ESPN have been saying that the Big Ten is the weakest conference this year. But we're doing great." Nugent said he was even going to cheer for his school's archrival, Michigan. The Wolverines beat Florida 38-30 in the Outback Bowl. "I know they should be our biggest rival, but as long as the Big Ten wins it speaks well for everyone else in the Big Ten," Nugent said. "I might have a different opinion than some guys, but that's how I feel."
-- Staff/wire reports