Nittany Lions not ready to let Ohio State go for back-to-back wins

Eleven straight victories haven't helped Penn State guard Jeff Hartings forget the Nittany Lions' last loss, a 24-6 defeat by Ohio State.

Hartings blocked for Buckeyes quarterback Bobby Hoying in high school and he's hoping to extract revenge on his friend Saturday when No. 21 Ohio State (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) visits No. 1 Penn State (6-0, 3-0).

"We really don't talk much about last year's game," Hartings said. "He doesn't want to make me feel bad."

Hoying might have been merciful, but some of Hartings' acquaintances in St. Henry, Ohio, were not so nice.

"They just said things like, 'See, you should have gone to Ohio State,"' he said.

Hartings and Hoying helped St. Henry High School win the state championship in 1991. They also played together on a team that won the state basketball championship.

They went their separate ways after graduation.

"I never really considered Ohio State," Hartings said. "Growing up, I didn't like Ohio State. For me, it came down to Michigan State and Penn State."

Hartings is one of 11 Penn State players from Ohio, including tailback Ki-Jana Carter. Three Pennsylvania high school players are on Ohio State's roster, including tailback Eddie George and linebacker Lorenzo Styles.

"Both states have great high school football, and we've had good luck in Ohio," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said.

Last year's loss is particularly haunting to Penn State because of the way Ohio State dominated, Paterno said.

"They were strong, they were tough and we weren't ready for them," he said. "I hope we're better. I hope we're more poised. I hope we're more precise and better prepared to take the kind of physical game that Ohio State is going to play."

Hartings, a 6-foot-3, 275-pound junior, and his cohorts on Penn State's big, experienced offensive line think they will be ready for Ohio State this time. The line has helped Penn State become the nation's top-scoring team.

"As the season goes on, we're going to start working together even better," Hartings said.

They've also protected the nation's top-rated passer, Kerry Collins.

Penn State quarterbacks have been sacked just three times all season, and Collins has given the line credit for much of his success. Before the Michigan game, Collins took the linemen out to lunch at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars lodge. Hartings said he was picking up the tab this week.

In return, the Nittany Lions can help Hartings silence the critics who have hounded him since last season's loss.

"This is the big game for me," he said. "I had to go through a whole summer of hearing about the last game."