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Wolfpack, Buckeyes try to forget recent losses
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State knows it has lost Maurice Clarett for the season. Now, the Buckeyes need to find an offense.
So far, the Buckeyes have been less than imposing without Clarett, who scored 18 touchdowns and rushed for 1,237 yards in nine full games and parts of two others as a freshman during last year's national championship season.
They are 2-0 heading into today's game against North Carolina State after a narrow 16-13 victory over 32-point underdog San Diego State last week.
"We were very fortunate to get through last week," offensive lineman Adrien Clarke said. "Last week is over with and the next thing we need to do is get off that and get ready for N.C. State."
Clarett, the team's starting tailback, was suspended from the team Wednesday for 16 violations of NCAA rules, including accepting improper benefits and lying to investigators.
Coach Jim Tressel said the third-ranked Buckeyes did not welcome the end of the lengthy sideshow, which began during the summer.
"I think disappointment might right now override closure," he said.
The 24th-ranked Wolfpack are coming off a stunning 38-24 loss to Wake Forest.
"The main point I told the players is let's not talk about Wake Forest any more," Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers said. "We can analyze it and drive ourselves crazy."
Ohio State struggled all day against the Aztecs. Quarterback Craig Krenzel had the worst game of his career, going 5-for-20 for 76 yards and an interception.
An offense with every starter back -- except Clarett, that is -- couldn't muster 200 yards.
When their offense is clicking, the Buckeyes like to control the ball with runs between the tackles while keeping the defense honest with passes to wiry wide-out Michael Jenkins.
"They run a very simple and basic gameplan," Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato said. "I'm sure Woody Hayes is just beaming up in heaven at the way coach Tressel is winning games at Ohio State. It was his way of doing it, being physical. He's saying, 'Attaboy! That's the way to win national championships. You pound 'em and you pound 'em and you pound 'em and then you stop them with a great defense."'
But the offense has been a shadow of last year's.
Ohio State is averaging 131 yards rushing through its first two games. They exceeded that last season in every game but one -- and Clarett topped it by himself five times.
"We've got a lot of work to do in that area, no question," Tressel said.
A week ago, the Buckeyes' only touchdown came on safety Will Allen's 100-yard interception return of a tipped pass.
Ohio State's defense remains solid. The front line has harassed Washington's Cody Pickett and San Diego State's Jim Dlugolecki while limiting rushers to a total of 35 yards in the two games -- and an average of 0.7 yards per attempt.
"Their front four is the most impressive thing to me," said Rivers, who needs 94 yards to pass Florida State's Chris Weinke (9,839 yards) to become the ACC's career passing leader. "They get off the ball and fly to it. ... The key for us is not to get in third-and-10. We need to keep them on their toes and be consistent, to keep drives going."
Rivers believes the Wolfpack are ready to move on.
"We haven't said a word about that last game," Rivers said. "It's key that we can bounce back. Knowing we have 10 more (games) to go at least can keep you going. We still have a chance to reach our goals.
"Maybe we'll do it the hard way. Sometimes it doesn't work just right."