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Buckeyes add H-2-0 to playbook



Published: Thu, September 7, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ohio State lost its last four regular season night games, including their only two defeats a year ago.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- No. 1-ranked Ohio State has thought of everything to prepare for Saturday night's showdown at No. 2 Texas.

The Buckeyes have held two open practices at night to prepare for the 8 p.m. start. They've spent countless hours going over films of last year's game and the Longhorns' opening-game victory over North Texas.

Nothing, however, can prepare them for the weather.

"There's no way we could simulate the heat," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We've had lots of humidity here, but that's not the same."

What to expect

The forecast calls for a high temperature approaching 90 on game day, with the lows around 70. Temperatures have been about 20 degrees lower in Ohio in recent days.

That's ideal weather to leave a window open at night, but maybe not a good way to get used to the heat for a football game. Then again, things could be worse for Ohio State. Last year's high temperature in Austin on Sept. 9 was 96.

"Everybody says how hot it is," defensive end Jay Richardson said.

The Longhorns consider their 12th man to be the local weather forecaster.

"Weather is always going to be a factor, whether we're up there in December and it's snowing or down here right now and it feels like hell," Texas running back Selvin Young said. "They're going to get a chance to see what our atmosphere is like. We won't be able to tell until those guys are running to the sideline in the fourth quarter looking for water."

Water, obviously, is the key. The Buckeyes have been told and told again to drink plenty of water, in the days leading up to the game, on Friday's flight, and before, during and after the game.

No shortage

"That's one of the different ways that we've tried to prepare for the heat," Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith said. "We're attacking it and drinking as much water as we can, which we try to emphasize every week. But I'm sure it will be overemphasized this week."

Most warm-climate teams roll in replacements so that everyone gets plenty of time to replenish fluids and avoid having their stamina sapped by the oppressive heat.

The Buckeyes hope to follow that template, continually putting fresh people in the game. But that might be a problem on defense, where they have nine new starters and are particularly green in the secondary.

"We need to take a lesson from Texas and be committed in that type of heat to substituting," Tressel said.

He said coaches, trainers and doctors cannot fall into the trap of letting a player stay on the field too long.

"You're kidding yourself if you think someone's going to just rise up and handle things just because they're tough," he said.

Nighttime factor

As if the heat wasn't enough of a problem, Ohio State has had little success playing after dark. The Buckeyes have lost their last four regular season night games, including their only two defeats a year ago (25-22 against Texas at home and a month later at Penn State, 17-10).

None of the Buckeyes have an explanation, particularly since they're 4-0 in their last four bowl games, all played after dark.

"I don't think that when the night comes, a switch turns on in our heads to play a certain way," Smith said.

Right guard T.J. Downing said night games require patience.

"Maybe it's the anxiety of waiting around all day -- that can get in guys' heads sometimes," he said. "It's tough to really pinpoint anything but hopefully we can change our luck on Saturday."




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