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New Mexico State arrives hoping to spook the Buckeyes

Zach Tuggle / Lantern Photographer

New Mexico State travels to Columbus to face No. 17 Ohio State Saturday on Halloween.

The Aggies (3-5, 1-3) are not expected to give the Buckeyes (6-2, 4-1) much of a scare, but OSU coach Jim Tressel remains firm in his stance that his team cannot afford to overlook any opponent.

Purdue held a record of 1-5 when it upset OSU in West Lafayette, Ind.

“To me, focused is having a moment-by-moment awareness of what needs to be done,” Tressel said. “I don’t feel like we did a great job of having that focus or awareness a couple weeks ago. … Purdue did what you have to do. They got five takeaways, they did this and they did that. If we have an understanding of what needs to be done today, we go do that as well as we can do it.”

Saturday’s contest is a rare non conference game, breaking up the eight-game Big Ten slate.

While the Aggies hope to come into The ‘Shoe and trick a confident Buckeye squad, their struggling defense could be a treat for a progressing OSU offense. New Mexico State has allowed 28 points and nearly 370 yards of offense per game.

After five turnovers and only 18 points against Purdue, the Buckeye offense produced more than 500 yards against Minnesota during Saturday’s 38-7 victory.

Tressel said he was satisfied with the evidence of offensive progression, which must continue this week against the Aggies.

“I hope that they do understand that the progress we make or we don’t make will affect the next time we play when we get back in the conference. They seem to be a group that is willing to take instruction and if it’s reasonable, if it makes some sense, yeah, it makes some sense, we need to get better, well, let’s go get better. I don’t think that’s going to disrupt us.”

The injury bug has taken its toll on the Buckeye roster, especially at running backs. Against Wisconsin on Oct. 10, Dan Herron reinjured the ankle he had sprained two weeks earlier, and Brandon Saine suffered a concussion during last week’s rout of Minnesota.
Both backs’ statuses are up in the air, Tressel said.

“If Brandon Saine is cleared, Brandon’s playing,” he said. “If ‘Boom’ Herron is cleared, he’s going to play. This is an important game, that’s one thing. We need to get better. That’s just as important. So the best chance you have to get better is on Saturdays.”

New Mexico State has had its share of quarterback struggles. Jeff Fleming and Trevor Walls have split the duties, combining for four touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while completing just 52 percent of their passes.

No matter how inferior an opponent the Buckeyes might face on any given week, Tressel said he wants his troops concentrating on improving.

“This is game nine,” he said. “We’ve got to progress. I’m not sitting here today saying, you know what, I think we’ll put this guy in or that guy in. No, we’re going out all barrels blazing and do what the situation calls for.”

 

WEEKLY FOOTBALL PICKS

Saturday’s Games:

New Mexico State @ No. 17 Ohio State

No. 3 Texas @ No. 14 Oklahoma State

No. 5 USC @ No. 10 Oregon

Quinn Pitcock
Ohio State, Texas, Oregon
Overall: 11-4     Last week: 2-1
Pitcock played defensive tackle for OSU from 2002–06.

Marcus Freeman
Ohio State, Texas, USC
Overall: 9-6     Last week: 3-0
Freeman played linebacker for OSU from 2004–08.

Justin Zwick
Ohio State, Texas, USC
Overall: 9-6     Last week: 2-1
Zwick played quarterback for OSU from 2002–06.

Malcolm Jenkins
Ohio State, Texas, Oregon
Overall: 8-7     Last week: 2-1
Jenkins played cornerback for OSU from 2005–08.

Zack Meisel
Ohio State, Texas, USC
Overall: 7-8     Last week: 2-1
Meisel is the sports editor for The Lantern.

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