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OSU looks toward its '99 effort

Ohio State coach John Cooper was treating Friday night's Sugar Bowl as a way to forget last season's, and as a tuneup for next season's.

The Buckeyes came into the game against Texas A&M ranked No. 3, behind only Monday's Fiesta Bowl combatants, Florida State and Tennessee.

This season's Sugar Bowl notwithstanding, next season's is for all the marbles, as the Bowl Championship Series game moves from Tempe, Ariz., to the Superdome. "We'd like to be back here next year, when it's 1 vs. 2," Cooper said.

The Sugar Bowl holds no fond memories for the Buckeyes.

A year ago, FSU walloped them 31-14, with Thad Busby passing for 334 yards and a touchdown and running for a touchdown as the Seminoles limited OSU's offense to 207 yards.

That was Ohio State's second Sugar Bowl since 1978, and it was no better than the first. In Ohio State's first visit, a meeting between legendary coaches Woody Hayes and Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama, the Crimson Tide swept away the Buckeyes 35-6.

The Aggies' memory of their only other Sugar Bowl appearance is far more pleasant. Well, for those who are still around. Fifty-nine years ago, John Kimbrough ran for 159 yards in Tulane Stadium, and Texas A&M beat Tulane 14-13 for its only national championship.

The star of this season's Aggies team is cornerback Antoine Winfield, who said he spent the weeks before Friday night's game clearing his mind of the disappointment of not being able to compete for a national championship.

Not that the voters who select the best defensive back in the country seemed to mind. Although Winfield didn't have an interception all season and, in his own words, "just went through the motions for the last five or six games," he received the Jim Thorpe Award.

"I think I kind of got lazy the second half of the year," Winfield said. "I was more relaxed. The first half of the season, teams tended not to throw to my side, so I didn't expect them to do that. I came out to practice relaxed, just joking around and not really working on my technique. The last couple of games I was just trotting around and just basically sticking to my man."

"I heard he said that," A&M defensive backs coach Jon Tenuda said. "I think he was just down on himself because he wasn't making the big plays when he had the chance. But for him to say he was lazy, well, that's just him talking."