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Ohio State tries to bounce back again

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State's recent record against top 5 opponents can't be disputed, but neither can the team's resolve.

The Buckeyes have proven they bounce back strong from losses, even heartbreaking ones like last Saturday's 18-15 setback against USC. Ohio State has lost consecutive games just twice under head coach Jim Tressel, during a three-game slide way back in 2004.

While several of Ohio State's recent stumbles took place in bowl games, the team also has rebounded well in the regular season.

  • After last year's 35-3 disaster at USC, the Buckeyes beat Troy 28-10 the next week in Terrelle Pryor's first career start at quarterback. Ohio State went on to win five consecutive games.

  • Ohio State responded well from a 13-6 loss to Penn State last October, winning its final three regular-season games by a combined score of 117-37.

  • Following losses to both Texas and Penn State in 2005, Ohio State bounced back the next week against San Diego State and Michigan State.

  • When the team's 19-game win streak ended in 2003 against Wisconsin, Ohio State beat No. 9 Iowa the very next week. Later that year, after the Buckeyes fell at Michigan in what would be their last loss in the rivalry, they responded by beating Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Tressel said the first step to coping with defeat and bouncing back is being realistic about what just happened.

"We're all willing to look in the mirror, starting with us as coaches," Tressel said, "and our players have always been willing to look in the mirror and say, 'What is it that I can do to do my job a little bit better?' I don't know if we've always bounced back well, but regardless of what we've always done, what's needed right now is for us to focus on our preparation."

Ohio State's next opponent, Toledo, certainly has the Buckeyes' attention.

The Rockets come off a 54-38 win against Colorado in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Rockets quarterback Aaron Opelt leads the nation in total offense (437 ypg), and Toledo ranks seventh nationally in both total offense (558.5 ypg) and pass offense (371 ypg) and 15th in scoring (42.5 ppg).

If Pryor and the Buckeyes offense don't pick up the pace, Saturday's game at Cleveland Browns Stadium might get interesting.

"We've got work to do," sophomore wide receiver DeVier Posey said. "I wouldn't say [the offense has] a long way to go. We've got to hit on some cylinders at the right times and we've got to get our rhythm. It's a bunch of new guys playing together. Once we get that experience and get comfortable with each other and trust each other, we'll do well."

Pryor should have opportunities to get on track Saturday. Toledo has allowed 90 points in two games and ranks 110th nationally in total defense (493 ypg).

"We're going to fight back and compete," Pryor said. "That's what we're here for. We're not here to try to not lose. We're going to battle and fight get to where we want to be."

Ohio State still has its goals, namely winning a fifth consecutive Big Ten title and beating Michigan for the sixth straight season. A fourth consecutive BCS bowl berth is also out there, as well as a potential rematch against USC at the Rose Bowl.

The Buckeyes have been in this spot before, and they normally know what to do next.

"We want to win the Big Ten, so we have to regroup and we have to rebound from this," senior safety and co-captain Kurt Coleman said. "We cannot let this affect us at all. So me, myself, and I know the seniors are going to really get everybody's focus back because Toledo's going to be a tough opponent, so we have to just regroup and get back to the drawing board and get after it."