Nov. 21, 1998.
(Brady’s ‘98 performance @ OSU inspired GPS technology we know today!)
I stood on the sidelines at Ohio Stadium on that miserably cold, gray day, witnessing the above play out over, and over, and over … for 3 1/2 looong hours.
That is, watching then-willowy Wolverine Tom Brady, a junior at the time, get sacked (3:09) seven times while taking the most vicious beating I’ve seen a quarterback endure in my entire 20+ years of covering college football. (In addition to bludgeoning Brady, OSU won 31-16)
(Saturday: Will I need to locate Brady’s owie towel for USC QB in Columbus?)
Saturday at the L.A. Coliseum I watched a slightly less courageous performance by USC true freshman QB Matt Barkley. In a first-and-only cram session before his ‘Shoe debut, Barkley oversaw an offense one could generously ascribe as ‘basic’ in the Trojans’ trucking of embarrassingly undermanned San Jose St.
If you think I’m island-bound in that assessment, read the L.A. DAILY NEWS’ less-than-enamored accounting. Then read Barkley’s postgame quote about an Ohio Stadium crowd he’ll attempt to stand down in seven days.
We can play in Alaska in the snow, that’s how confident I am in this offense. There can be 500,000 rooting against me (next week).
I don’t think that (Ohio Stadium crowd) will make a difference. The atmosphere will be nuts. I probably don’t even know how it will be. But that won’t faze me.
Dude has played one home game. Against San Jose State. Running three different pass plays over three quarters.
Now for a comment about USC’s upcoming Olentangic moment from perhaps the best college football coach of the past decade, Pete Carroll. (Who also served as an assistant at OSU in 1979.):
“It was a great crowd then and it’s even better now. Their fans are loud and awesome. If they get it going, it’s really hard.”
Over a four-year span in the late ’90s, I attended every Ohio Stadium home game as a working media member of the Buckeyes’ radio flagship, WBNS-AM. I did the same for USC in the 2000s at KMPC-AM in Los Angeles. And Clemson and the Univ. of South Carolina at WVOC-AM in the early-to-mid ’90s. I also attended the Univ. of Georgia.
The L.A. Coliseum, Oregon’s Autzen, LSU and Clemson’s Death Valleys? Worked them all. Hostile? Yes. Ohio State hostile? No.
Closest I’ve experienced first-hand to the Horseshoe: Penn State’s Happy Valley and Tennessee’s Neyland. But Ohio State fans, who now come 100,000 strong, are the most knowledgeable at knowing opportune times to notch up the noise. Bucknuts know their biz, something Barkley will (probably) soon find out.
This is not to completely condemn Barkley for his comments. His aforementioned quotes may well have zero bearing on the game outcome - and I suppose you can’t fault his confidence. But having covered more USC and Ohio State football games up close since 1995 than any media member you can name, my hunch is that the Barkley could well be thrown to the Wolves Saturday.
I’m not rooting for that to happen. I have no snake in this sandbox. But if Barkley is rendered bitten and bloody (mouthed) by the Buckeyes, like Brady, it could be the best thing that ever happened to #7.