Brees Figures To Be a Hit With OSU

Thursday, October 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Even if Purdue quarterback Drew Brees rings up his typical passing numbers against Ohio State on Saturday, the Buckeyes plan to exact a toll.

``No matter what he does in that game, we want to make him feel it,'' captain and linebacker Joe Cooper said Monday. ``Let him know that we're here and we're going to be here for four quarters, whether he's passing the ball or running the ball.

``Even if he gets the ball off, if we're close enough, we're going to put a hit on him. Anything legal, we're going to hit him.''

No. 12 Ohio State and No. 16 Purdue meet Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium. The winner will become the favorite for the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl. If either wins out, it is assured of at least a share of the league title and can't do worse than a trip to Pasadena.

``Everybody knows the consequences of this game,'' tailback Derek Combs said. ``This is basically for the Rose Bowl. We're going to take that to heart.''

Brees is the focal point for the Buckeyes. He has completed 60 percent of his passes, with 19 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Three of his targets (Vinny Sutherland with 45, John Standeford with 44 and Tim Stratton with 39) have more catches than Ohio State's leader in receptions (Ken-Yon Rambo with 36).

Cooper, the Buckeyes' second-leading tackler, said Ohio State's defense plans to test Brees' toughness.

Ohio State's defense has no doubts about Brees' Heisman-sized talent. It does have a question or two about his toughness, however.

``I don't think he likes getting hit as hard as we hit people,'' Cooper said. ``This week, we're going to really challenge him. He's going to challenge us mentally and we're going to challenge him physically. It's going to be a war.''

Besides his passing prowess, Brees also is averaging 54.4 yards running the ball. Cooper made several references to the punishment the defense hopes to inflict on Brees if he keeps the ball.

``If he runs this week, we're going to make him pay for it, hopefully,'' he said. ``I'd like to see him run a lot because then I can get more hits.''

Ohio State coach John Cooper (no relation to his linebacker) said there is a lot to worry about with a player of Brees' abilities.

``You've got to stop the passing game first,'' Cooper said. ``The guy will eat you alive if you don't play a nickel. They're going to throw it all the time. They threw 83 times against Wisconsin'' in 1998.

Brees has thrown more passes and completed more for more yards and touchdowns than anyone to ever play quarterback in the Big Ten.

OSU cornerback David Mitchell said he looks forward to playing against Brees.

``A game like this is a defensive back's dream,'' Mitchell said. ``He throws the ball so much, he gives us lots of opportunities to make plays.''

Mitchell also said the Buckeyes were well aware of what was at stake.

``This is a deciding moment for both teams,'' he said. ``This game decides where both teams will be at the end of the season.''