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Penn State-OSU never a boring game

| Saturday, Nov. 1, 2003

When Penn State and Ohio State get together, the result rarely is a run-of-the-mill game.

"There have been some great games," Nittany Lions tight end Matt Kranchick said. "I think it goes back to the Big 33. There's a lot of guys here who played against those guys at Ohio State back then -- and we've beaten them a lot in the Big 33.

"There was John Cooper (calling for) a touchdown after Adam (Taliaferro) broke his neck. That was horrible. Then, us coming back the next year to get Joe (Paterno) his 324th win. A lot of things have happened, and I expect this year to be no different."

Ohio State has won six of 10 meetings since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, In eight of those games, at least one of the teams has been ranked among the top five -- and the higher-ranked squad has won every time.

Since the teams became conference rivals, only three of their clashes have been bona fide blowouts. Still, every game has had an unusual or dramatic flair.

The Lions' 63-14 triumph in '94 marked the most points allowed by the Buckeys in 92 years.

In '96, Penn State suffered its worst loss in a dozen years. Reveling in the 38-7 win, Cooper, the Ohio State coach, boasted, "We weren't trying to hold down the score." Coop's troops piled up 565 yards against a defense that was ranked 11th-best in the nation.

Buckeyes quarterback Joe Germaine came off the bench to pass for 378 yards in 1997, but it was not enough. The Lions rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third quarter to win, 31-27.

In '98, assistant coach Tim Salem celebrated a Buckeyes touchdown in their 28-9 win by punching his first through a window in the press box and showering reporters with glass.

In 2000, Taliaferro, a freshman defensive back, sustained temporary paralysis due to a spinal injury. The ambulance had barely pulled out of the stadum when Cooper called for an unnecessary fourth-down TD pass that sealed the Buckeyes' 45-6 win.

Cooper was unemployed in 2001, when Penn State pulled out a 29-27 decision to make coach Joe Paterno the all-time wins leader among major college coaches. Backup quarterback Zack Mills threw for 280 yards, as the Lions rallied from an 18-point deficit.

Last year, Mills made one mistake -- an interception by Chris Gamble that went for a 40-yard touchdown. Ohio State held on, 13-7, and went on to win the national title.

"That was one of my worst throws ever," Mills said. "I put it behind me ... eventually. Of course, it's on my mind this week."

No. 8 Ohio State (7-1, 3-1) comes into this game with hopes of winning the Big Ten crown, and are rated sixth in the BCS standings. The Buckeyes also have another motivation to win today.

"This being fifth year, there is only one stadium in the Big Ten where we haven't won -- Beaver Stadium," quarterback Craig Krentzel said.

Penn State (2-6, 0-4) is merely trying to avoid what would be its first five-game losing streak under Paterno.

"We're approaching this like it's the biggest game anybody on this team has ever played," quarterback Michael Robinson said.

"We're gonna have to get on a serious run just to have a .500 season," Kranchick said. "We realize a lot of people have counted us out. We're pretty much lying in the grave right now and they're throwing dirt on us.

"But we do have this game, at home, on ABC (television) against the defending national champion. It sounds bad that it's come to this, but this is what we're playing for right now. This is our national championship, and we're going to make the most out of it."

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