In front of (an unexpectedly small???) crowd of 57,200, the Scarlet topped the Gray in today's spring game, 37-29. The Gray jumped out to a 20-7 lead, but the Scarlet stormed back with the help of turnovers and big plays. Justin Zwick and Troy Smith battled it out, but it was Zwick - who played most of the game after starter Craig Krenzel sat down after a quarter of play - who was able to guide his team to the win. The highlight of the day though was the receivers, notably Bam Childress and Santonio Holmes, as Childress was good for over 100 yards receiving and 2 TDs as well as a 94-yard kickoff return for a TD, and Holmes caught 4 passes for 65 yards and a TD as well as a 78-yard punt return for a TD. (Box Score here)
The game actually started out as a defensive battle. The score was 0-0 heading into the second quarter when the Gray got on the board first on a short Josh Huston field goal after a drive that consisted of quite possibly Bryce Bishop's first and last college reception on a deflected pass and a Troy Smith-led drive down inside the five. The Gray quickly got the ball back, and they spread the lead even quicker as Holmes took the punt back for a 78-yard TD. Things stayed exciting from there as Childress promptly answered with his 94-yard kick return to cut the lead to 10-7. The Gray would be able to put three more points on the board as Smith led the offense down once again on a drive that consisted of a fantastic escape and pass to John Hollins and a 34-yard Josh Huston field goal to make it 13-7.
The second half opened up on a mistake as Bam Childress fumbled the kickoff, giving the Gray great field position, which was quickly capitalized on by a Scott McMullen-to-Chris Gamble touchdown pass. The PAT made it 20-7, and it looked like the upset was on. But the Scarlet, despite struggling offensively all day, was about to come back in a hurry. After a couple of possessions by each team, the Scarlet's Antonio Smith recovered a fumble by Santonio Holmes on a punt (forced by A.J. Hawk) and gave them the ball deep in Gray territory. Soon after, Justin Zwick hit Roy Hall for a nifty TD strike to cut into the lead. On the next possession, it was almost like deja vu for the Gray as QB Matt Trombitas hit Santonio Holmes for a short gain, but Holmes was once again hit by Hawk and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by the Scarlet's Mike D'Andrea at the 35. Zwick combined with Ryan Hamby for two passes, one of which was a 25-yard TD that would push the Scarlet on top 21-20.
The Gray started moving again on the next drive, but it was halted by a Dustin Fox INT for the Scarlet. The ball would soon go back over to the Gray though as Jim Otis was in at QB and he was picked by Will Allen for the Gray, which would help set up another FG to make it 23-21. Bam Childress took over from there though as Justin Zwick hit him on a TD pass to put the Gray ahead 28-23 with the PAT, and then he took a short tipped pass on a later drive and ran 54 yards for his third TD. The PAT made it 35-23. The Gray scored a late TD on a Smith-to-Holmes TD pass, but a blocked PAT returned by Ashton Youboty for two points sealed the deal for the Scarlet, giving them the 37-29 win.
Overall, things looked good. Let's take a look by position:
QB - Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen are the proven 1 and 2 QBs; they didn't play much and didn't need to. Fans got an extended look at the future though as both Troy Smith and Justin Zwick showed good things. Smith showed his athleticism, escapability and rocket arm, while Zwick was able to lead the Scarlet to the comeback and victory. Zwick was 17 of 29 for 217 yards and no INTs while Smith went 19 of 37 for 234 yards and 1 INT. Everyone wants to know who the front-runner is... well, that doesn't need to be decided for another year, but it will be tough to deny Smith's arm and athleticism. It's going to be exciting to watch the two develop and compete.
RB - There wasn't much to write home about at the RB position today. The two teams only had 36 combined rushing yards. Maurice Clarett did not play though and the other tailbacks did not get much action.
WR - The WR position was on display today. EVERY scholarship wide receiver for Ohio State showed good things. This was the day when the public got to see the depth at this position. Everyone already knows that Michael Jenkins and Chris Gamble are proven commodities, but today, we got to see the excitement and big play ability that Santonio Holmes and Bam Childress bring, and we also got to see two fine big targets in Roy Hall and Drew Carter. Angelo Chattams and John Hollins also showed good things. After the game, Kirk Herbstreit said he would put the OSU WRs 1-6 or 7 up against any other WRs in America. The WRs showed why today.
TE - The tight ends definitely got some action today as Ben Hartsock caught five passes, Ryan Hamby caught six for 77, and Stan White and Jason Caldwell also caught passes. Hamby showed his pass-catching ability today as he played a big role in the Scarlet passing attack. The bad news is Jason Caldwell went out with an undisclosed injury.
OL - After years of having a thin OL, it will be nice to have that taken care of this year. The starters weren't intact today, but this year's OL has a chance to be as good as it has been in a while. Bryce Bishop also showed the ability to get some yards after the catch. :-)
DL - Sheesh. The DL looked good WITHOUT three starters today (Will Smith, Darrion Scott, Simon Fraser) as well as key backup Mike Kudla. Tim Anderson was Tim Anderson, and Jay Richardson, Joel Penton, Tim Schafer, and Quinn Pitcock showed well. Yet another deep position for Ohio State.
LB - Lots of eyes were on Mike D'Andrea today, and he had himself a nice afternoon that was highlighted with an interception, a sack, and a fumble recovery. A.J. Hawk... well, look at the tackles line in the box score and get used to seeing what you see. Bobby Carpenter didn't get to play today, but there's promise at this position. Matt Wilhelm and Cie Grant won't be easy to step up for, but the Buckeyes should be fine.
DB - The free safety spot is starting to take shape as it looks like Nate Salley is taking charge there. True freshmen Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty also had some nice plays today and Donte showed that ability to hit people. Add those guys to Chris Gamble, Dustin Fox, Will Allen, Tyler Everett, and E.J. Underwood, and the two-deep at DB is looking solid.
Special Teams - Fumbles aside, Childress and Holmes more than made their case for return man spots. Donte Whitner and Roy Hall were also among those returning. Punting-wise, B.J. Sander averaged 38.8 on five punts. Depth at P could be a concern, but this area is looking o.k.
Overall, it was entertaining -- much more so than last year's 6-3 affair, to say the least. Fans got to see all the young talent waiting in the wings on this team and why certain areas will be so deep. After today, you saw that there aren't enough footballs to go around... but it's also a nice problem to have. Go Bucks!