Buckeyes, Clarett Roll over Cougars.(SPORTS)

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Byline: Barker Davis, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

COLUMBUS, Ohio - College football finally has a Heisman Trophy candidate with a little Mo-mentum.

Ohio State true freshman tailback Maurice Clarett rumbled for 230 yards against No.10 Washington State yesterday, almost single-handedly carrying the sixth-ranked Buckeyes to a 25-7 victory at Ohio Stadium.

"I've always been told that big players make big plays in big games," said Clarett after the sixth most productive rushing performance in school history. "I knew the whole nation would be watching, and I just wanted to come out and establish this team and myself as a future presence."

The future could well be now for the 6-foot, 230-pound native of Warren, Ohio. Last season's national high school offensive player of the year at Warren Harding High, Clarett now leads the nation in rushing with 471 yards on 63 carries through three games. And if the Buckeyes (3-0) continue bludgeoning opponents behind their bruising freshman, Clarett has to be considered a factor in the Heisman race.

No freshman has ever won the award. But no clear favorite has emerged through the first several weeks of the season, and a host of preseason candidates have already disappeared by virtue of team losses or disappointing performances. That list of front-runners-turned-outsiders includes Florida's Rex Grossman, Marshall's Byron Leftwich, Michigan State's Charles Rogers and Washington State's Jason Gesser.

Gesser's bid ended emphatically yesterday, as the Buckeyes harassed the senior slinger into a woeful second half that included two interceptions and just 108 yards passing. Clarett, meanwhile, spent the entire second half introducing himself to the nation's Heisman voters. After a sluggish first half that left Ohio State trailing 7-6 and Clarett with only 36 yards on 11 carries, the freshman dynamo did his best Vesuvius impersonation in the third quarter.

Clarett took a pitch off tackle on Ohio State's first play of the second half, flattened Washington State's defensive end with a stiff arm and rambled 44 yards for the Buckeyes' biggest gain of the day. Seven plays later, Clarett powered into the end zone from three yards out to put the Buckeyes ahead 13-7, and the rest of the half devolved into a one-man highlight reel.

All told, Clarett touched the ball 20 times in the half, gained 194 yards (9.7 yards per carry) and scored twice, playing through cramps to the delight of the record crowd of 104, 553 fans who came to bear witness to the blossoming young legend.

"It was a little like when we had Keith Byars here," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel of Clarett's performance. …