Pace starves Gophers’ D with pancakes

Todd Zolecki

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Forget Paul Bunyan. Forget how he created the Mississippi River and formed the Grand Canyon. A new giant is quickly gaining folklore status in the Midwest, and he’s dwarfing the lumberjack who had a blue oxen at his side.
He’s Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace, and his talents are making him a Heisman Trophy favorite. Unlike Bunyan, Pace’s feats aren’t fiction, they’re real. Each week he throws aside and flattens a new group of defensive linemen, and each time, he makes it look incredibly easy.
He’s billed as the best player at his position in college football.
Pace showed that Saturday against the Gophers. The junior dominated Minnesota’s defensive line in a 45-0 victory in front of 93,588 fans at Ohio Stadium.
Pace stood out, both on and off the field. He stands 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs more than 320 pounds — truly a giant among men.
During the game, he overpowered the smaller Minnesota linemen. After the game, he awed fans who waited to see him as the team walked back to the Buckeyes locker room.
Pace walked by carrying his helmet. He slapped some fans’ hands and moved on.
“Oh my God, he is so huge,” one fan said. “Unbelievable,” said another.
No one could disagree. In three seasons, the Sandusky, Ohio, native has put offensive linemen on the “media map.” People are starting to believe an offensive tackle can actually win the most coveted trophy in college football.
“It’s a good feeling,” Pace said. “It’s good to see an offensive lineman get the media hype. Hopefully I’m doing something for offensive linemen in the future.”
At Ohio State it’s doubtful offensive linemen will ever be looked at the same way again. Ohio Stadium has been dubbed Orlando’s International House of Pancakes by fans.
For those not into linemen slang, a pancake is when an offensive lineman puts a defender on his back. The Gophers definitely supplied enough pancakes to satisfy Pace.
“He’s such a dominating player,” Buckeyes quarterback Joe Germaine said. “You don’t see that kind of blend very much. He’d get my vote for the Heisman.”
It’s easy to see why. As last year’s Lombardi Trophy winner, Pace recorded nine pancakes against Minnesota, bringing his total to 59 on the season.
“He’s a good athlete,” Gophers defensive lineman Ogun Akbar said. “Most of what they say about him would probably be an understatement. For a guy his size to have such good quickness in his feet — it’s something you rarely see.”
Against Minnesota, Pace went head-to-head with linemen like Jerome Davis and Antoine Richard. Pace said he felt them getting frustrated in the second half.
He was never challenged. But does he ever feel like he is?
“No, no I don’t,” he said.
Ohio State coach John Cooper said Pace will probably bypass his senior season to enter the NFL, where the game is more difficult. Cooper said he thinks Pace should be the first overall pick.
Pace doesn’t want to talk about the NFL. He wants to bring the Buckeyes a national championship. But while Pace tries to stay humble, those around him won’t stop buzzing about the lineman.
“You really can’t put it into words,” Buckeyes quarterback Stanley Jackson said. “He’s the best lineman I’ve ever seen. The thing I’d like to say about Orlando is: I don’t have to say too much about what he does on the field because he tells it every Saturday. But if I had children, he’s the type of guy I’d want to hang around my kids. He’s a tremendous person off the field. I like hanging out with him.”
Could it be the feared tackle is also a loveable teddy bear?
When asked if Pace wants a chance to score a touchdown this year he could only smile.
“It’s in the works,” he said with a grin. “We’re going to work it out. I was going to go in there (against Minnesota), but we didn’t get down there on the last drive. Nah, I was just joking about that, but it is definitely in the making.”
Oh boy. The first time Pace rumbles in for a score on a short yardage situation Buckeyes fans will go nuts. He’s already drawn comparisons to former Chicago Bears big man William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who scored a touchdown in the 1986 Super Bowl, and he hasn’t even carried the ball yet.
It would be fitting for him to carry it at least once this season. The Heisman statue is a player carrying a football.