Monday, December 20, 2010

BUCKEYES NEED A BALANCING ACT WHEN THEY ARRIVE IN NEW ORLEANS

Ohio State fans gather outside of Harrah's Casino in New Orleans prior to the BCS Championship game in New Orleans in January of 2008. (The Buckeye Times/Darla Dunkle-Hudnell)
COLUMBUS — Ohio State's biggest obstacle going into the Sugar Bowl may not be trying to stop Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, or figuring out a way to slow down tailback Knile Davis. No, the Buckeyes have an even tougher opponent next month — the city of New Orleans.

Let's face it, if you're going on a business trip, New Orleans is the last place you want to go. When you combine the music, the great food and the pageantry of "The Big Easy," it's nearly impossible not to pop your collar, grab a drink and party down with the natives.

So, the No. 6 Buckeyes must find a balance between the business and pleasure if they want to snap their 0-9 bowl record against the Southeastern Conference. Easier said than done — balancing business and pleasure, that is.

"Just do both," Ohio State senior cornerback Devon Torrence said, when asked if the trip is about business or pleasure. "It's obviously a great opportunity to see the city and enjoy the experience, but you're also there to win the game. So you just have to find a balance, you know, kind of a neutral zone between it all. But we definitely have fun, though."

"There's got to be some kind of balance," Ohio State senior wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher added. "With everything that surrounds these bowls, I mean, I think they're supposed to be fun to some extent, but at the same time, you have to keep that focus. I think it's on the older guys to make sure that everybody knows that we're there to play the game and not to get distracted with all of the other things going on."

Buckeyes All-American cornerback Chimdi Chekwa, who grew up in New Orleans, said that they can have fun after they take care of business.

"It's a business trip, it's definitely a business trip," Chekwa said. "We're going to make sure when we get there that we do everything we can to get the win, first and foremost. We're not going to be uptight but we're going there to get this win. 

"We can have fun afterwards."

Senior defensive end Cameron Heyward was there in 2007 when the Buckeyes lost to LSU in the BCS Championship game, and has a little bit of advice for those players who haven't been to New Orleans before. 

"You'll have fun if you win," Heyward smiled. "We're going down there for business. We know we have a game that we've got to win. To be happy, you've got to win. We're not going to have a sour taste in our mouth if we win.

"If we lose, I don't think anyone's going to be happy, so we have one goal."

Buckeyes senior linebacker Brian Rolle said the seniors need to inform the young guys that they can have fun, just do it in moderation — something not very easy to do in "the Crescent City."

"A lot of guys on the team weren't there in 2007," Rolle said. "They don't know that it's a place that will get to you, you can get in trouble down there. Our seniors, we're going to get the guys together before we leave and tell them to have fun but stay out of trouble.

"You can have fun but you've got to keep in mind what you are there for," Rolle continued. "I'm going to have fun. It's my last game, last year, last bowl game, last time with the guys, I'm going to have fun."

The big game between the Buckeyes (11-1) and No. 8 Razorbacks (10-2) will be on Jan. 4 (8:30 ET).

Darrell Hazell
HAZELL GOING TO KENT STATE ... Ohio State assistant head coach/receivers coach, Darrell Hazell, is expected to be named as the new head football coach of Kent State today at 3 p.m. in a press conference at the University.

Hazell has spent the past seven seasons coaching receivers at Ohio State under Jim Tressel. Hazell has been in coaching since 1987, working at Oberlin, Eastern Illinois, Pennsylvania, U.S. Military Academy, West Virginia and Rutgers, before taking a job at Ohio State in 2004.

It is unknown yet whether Hazell will help coach the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl.