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Fickell Plays Despite Injury

Ohio State senior nose guard Luke Fickell did not reveal he had a completely torn pectoral muscle in his left shoulder until after the Rose Bowl game.

He played the entire game with his shoulder wrapped tightly.

“I had no power in my left arm,” said Fickell, who was injured in practice Friday. “It’s almost like you’re playing with one hand.”

Fickell was making a school-record 50th start. He started in the season opener at tackle against Louisville in 1992, broke his leg in practice the following Monday and sat out the rest of the season. Since then, he has started every game.

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“At first, it was going to be a start for me, and then maybe someone else would come in the game,” Fickell said. “But it was my last game at Ohio State and I wanted to give it my all. Adrenaline takes over, but when there was just no muscle there, it still limits you.

“I told Coach [John Cooper] when it happened, and all I asked for was the opportunity. I told them, ‘I’ll go in for the first play and I’ll tell you if I can’t do it, if I can’t get the job done.’ ”

Fickell will have surgery on Sunday morning in Columbus.

“It’s completely torn from my body, so it’s not like it’s really a stretching pain because there’s nothing there,” he said.

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The Rose Bowl victory helped ease the discomfort. Sort of.

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Had Ohio State not scored on its last possession, Jake Plummer’s second-quarter touchdown pass to Ricky Boyer would have been hotly debated for years.

Boyer made a diving end zone catch to give Arizona State a 7-7 tie.

Replays showed Boyer had marginal fingertip control when he hit the turf, and the ball bounced from his grasp.

“In my opinion, it wasn’t a catch, but it was a very difficult call,” said Pacific 10 officials chief Verle Sorgen. “The problem was, no part of his body had hit the ground before the ball did. Did he have control before that? I didn’t think he did.”

The officiating crew was from the Big East Conference.

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Ohio State cornerback Shawn Springs and offensive tackle Orlando Pace--both juniors--remained coy when asked if they will enter the NFL draft.

Pace said he would make a decision in the next three or four days, saying: “I’m sure somebody will be contacting you about a press conference.”

Springs was asked whether he and Pace would go as a package.

“Hey, Orlando said he was staying,” Springs said, laughing. “That’s what he tells me.”

Springs said he was worried about upsetting the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator, and joked, “He might beat me up. I’m scared to tell my coach that I might be leaving.

“I’ll probably decide the middle of next week.”

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Lost in the shuffle of all the other heroes Wednesday were Damon Moore, Dimitrious Stanley and Springs of Ohio State and Pat Tillman of Arizona State.

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Moore, a strong safety, made one of the biggest tackles of the game in the third period, possibly keeping Arizona State from taking a 14-7 lead.

The Sun Devils sent running back Terry Battle around left end on third and one from the Ohio State 19. Battle turned the corner, and the issue seemed to be, at least for a moment, whether he would go all the way for a touchdown. Instead, Moore stopped Battle for no gain and Arizona State had to settle for a field goal.

Stanley caught a 72-yard pass from Joe Germaine in the third period that put the Buckeyes back in the lead. It also turned out to be the longest ever for Ohio State in a bowl game, and the Buckeyes’ longest of the season.

Springs showed why he is one of the best defensive backs in the country by limiting Keith Poole, Sun Devil star receiver, to one catch for 10 yards.

Tillman, the 200-pound linebacker, led his team in total tackles with 11 (six unassisted and five assists), plus two tackles for losses for a total of six yards and one sack.

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The Rose Bowl turf was covered by a tarp during recent rains, but the field was still a bit mushy Wednesday morning. A helicopter hovered about six feet off the field for about 30 minutes over damp spots at 10:30 a.m. to try to dry it.

A drizzle fell late in the game, but the much-feared downpour never materialized. It began raining steadily at 12:20, but only for a few minutes.

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Ohio State threw 31 times and completed 15 for 190 yards. Not normally associated with a passing attack, the Buckeyes nearly matched trigger-happy Arizona State’s total of 35 attempts and 201 yards.

Ohio State receiver David Boston said he was glad the Buckeyes were not so conservative.

“I guess that’s our motto, though: ‘We Always Run the Ball.’ ”

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The Pacific 10 Conference had won 21 of the previous 30 and 14 of the last 20 Rose Bowls.

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Cooper, on Plummer’s 11-yard touchdown scramble in the fourth quarter: “He’s a great football player, to make a play like that. . . . I thought we had him sacked.”

Cooper was one of the first to enter the Arizona State locker room after the game to congratulate Plummer.

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History lesson: Arizona State’s defeat marked the first time since 1980 that an unbeaten team had lost in the Rose Bowl game.

The last time it happened was when Ohio State came in 11-0 and lost to 10-0-1 USC.

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Cooper in Bowls

A look at John Cooper’s bowl record at Ohio State.

Year, Bowl, Opponent: Score

1990--Hall of Fame, Auburn: 14-31

1990--Liberty, Air Force: 11-23

1992--Hall of Fame, Syracuse: 17-24

1993--Citrus, Georgia: 14-21

1994--Holiday, BYU: 28-21

1995--Citrus, Alabama: 17-24

1996--Citrus, Tennessee: 14-20

1997--Rose, Arizona State: 20-17

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Times staff writers Thomas Bonk, Lisa Dillman and Earl Gustkey and sports editor Bill Dwyre contributed to this story.


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