COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State celebrated one major
accomplishment on Saturday. The Buckeyes will have to wait a little
over a week to see if they can pull off a bigger one.
At halftime of the men's basketball game, the Buckeyes football
squad received a 30-second standing ovation after presenting the
Big Ten championship trophy to athletic director Gene Smith.
"It's been a long and fun season, but it's not over with yet,"
captain Dionte Johnson told a cheering crowd of almost 18,000 at
Value City Arena.
The Buckeyes are in the midst of workouts for their Jan. 7
showdown with LSU in the Bowl Championship Series national title
game at the Louisiana Superdome.
Dressed in scarlet warmups, the players and coaches came in from
a practice on Saturday morning and then left immediately after the
presentation for the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to watch game
films and attend meetings.
"This is a special recognition," Smith said during the
ceremony at halftime of Ohio State's 92-83 victory over UMBC. "I
think we're all proud of how these young men have performed
relative to wins and losses, but I know you share my feelings in
how they represent us not only on the field but in the classroom
and off the field."
Still, it was a controversy involving a suspended player that
Tressel had to sidestep later.
Several media outlets reported just over a week ago that
starting cornerback Donald Washington and backup Eugene Clifford
had been suspended for the game against LSU. Ohio State later
confirmed that Clifford had been suspended, but never mentioned
Washington in a release.
Washington has been practicing with the team and will play in
the title game.
When asked if he had been close to losing Washington, Tressel
said no during a brief interview session after the presentation
He even took a shot at the media outlets which had cited unnamed
sources for the reports about Washington.
Asked about reports there had been a lot of contact in practice,
Tressel said, "No, I don't know there was heavy hitting. That
might have been one of those inaccurate sources or something. I
don't think we've tackled since we've been [working out]."
The Buckeyes will practice in Columbus until flying by charter
to New Orleans on Jan. 2.
Tressel said there were no players ineligible or suspended,
other than Clifford. Lawrence Wilson, a defensive end who broke his
leg in the season opener, will most likely not be ready to play
Rob Schoenhoft, the backup quarterback all season, is working
out with the tight ends and will not return to the quarterback
position until spring practice.
Antonio Henton is now Todd Boeckman's backup, a rapid rise after
Henton's legal problems from earlier in the season. He was
suspended for seven games until he pleaded guilty late in the
season to a minor misdemeanor count of loitering for prostitution.
"As we looked at ourselves trying to work out a No. 2 and a No.
3 both, we didn't see progression being made that we needed,"
Tressel said. "And you'd better go in with two quarterbacks ready
to win, especially in a championship game. We just thought it was
hard to get three guys reps."
Tressel said the team's attitude has been good and that the
players are excited to be headed to New Orleans, a city few of the
Buckeyes have visited.
Then again, the Buckeyes had a good attitude and also were
excited a year ago before Florida put a 41-14 beating on them in
the BCS title game in Glendale, Ariz.
"As we prepared and trained [last year] here in Columbus, I
thought that we were right where we needed to be. I didn't
necessarily feel great about our preparation out there," Tressel
said. "So I guess I'll have to wait and answer that when we get to
the bowl site."