The jersey scrimmage was coming to an end Saturday at Ohio Stadium and the Ohio State defense was staring at the likely possibility of losing the prized scarlet jerseys until at least next April.
But senior safety Will Allen, noting his team's 59-55 deficit, moved about the sideline and rallied the troops.
"We've got one more series left!" Allen screamed. "Let's get it up defense!"
The defense went on the field and followed Allen's lead. While the offense was trying to filibuster the last few plays of the scrimmage and cling to the lead, linebacker A.J. Hawk was having none of that. The sophomore blasted quarterback Scott McMullen and forced a fumble. Cornerback Chris Gamble struggled to get a handle on the loose ball, but when he finally did nobody could catch him on a 30-yard touchdown return on the final play that lifted the defense to 68-59 win.
"I thought the hitting was good," said OSU head coach Jim Tressel, whose defending national champions will return to the Horseshoe to open the season against Washington in exactly two weeks. "For as hard as we've gone, I thought there was a little bit of life and a little bit of spring. Sometimes you're concerned when you're a little bit weary that you'll have some injuries. But I thought we looked interested and played and competed.
"I think it meant a lot to them and I think it showed again that if you turn it over you're not going to win the game and if you're able to create a few turnovers you will."
The scrimmage lasted an even 100 plays on an 88 degree at the mostly empty stadium. Tressel used a scoring system that awarded the offense for first downs, long plays and usual scoring (touchdowns, field goals), while the defense got points for three-and-outs, tackles-for-loss, turnovers and defensive scores.
Hawk's forced fumble ended up being the deciding play.
"I was blitzing off the edge," said Hawk, who ended up with two sacks among his five tackles. "I was trying not to show it. Luckily, I came up just in time. I came free and had a free shot at the quarterback. I have to give some credit to my D-linemen there for keeping the linemen off of me.
"You get 12 points for scoring a touchdown. Having Chris Gamble back there to pick it up doesn't hurt, either."
Hawk said he was glad to be back at the Horseshoe.
"Just being in Ohio Stadium makes it feel like more of a game atmosphere," he said. "We're so used to being out here on the practice fields, going against each other. This gets everybody pumped up and we can't wait for Aug. 30."
It was a workmanlike day for starting quarterback Craig Krenzel, who wore a black jersey and was off-limits to contact. He was 10 of 18 passing for 85 yards and a touchdown. He led the offense on an 11-play, 65-yard touchdown march against the first-team defense to open the scrimmage.
"It was a good day," Krenzel said. "It's always a good day when you can get out there in a full-go, live situation, even though I wasn't live, but everything is buzzing around in front of you. You have to focus through all of that and the distractions and throw the ball downfield. I got some good quality reps today and some good film to learn from."
Maurice Hall only played a handful of plays at tailback while nursing a sore knee. Lydell Ross missed the scrimmage due to injury. That allowed freshman Ira Guilford to play quite a bit. He had 12 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown.
"We did some good things," Jenkins said. "I think the first group was able to move the ball on that first series."
The key play on that first series was a 31-yard pass play from Krenzel to Jenkins down to the 2. Walk-on Colby Staubs powered in for the touchdown and an 11-0 lead on the next play.
Zwick led a four-play, 62-yard scoring march, finding Holmes for a 34-yard gain down the right sideline before dialing up Childress, who got behind walk-on DB Antonio Smith, for a 25-yard touchdown. That helped the offense move ahead 29-28.
"I think it was a zone and I just found a void in the zone and Justin found me," Childress said.
The defense notched back to back sacks on Smith to go up 44-38. Mike Nugent, who hit a 54-yard field goal earlier, then made a 45-yarder to cut the lead to 45-41.
Krenzel took advantage of a short field series to lead a four-play, 28-yard scoring march, capped by his 4-yard fade to Jenkins, who skied to grab the touchdown over Chris Gamble. The play put the offense up 50-45.
"That's what Mike does best," Krenzel said. "He's a great receiver who's made some big plays for us. That's something we've been working on. With guys like Mike and Drew who are 6-5, it's always a threat to run a quick fade to the back of the end zone. We have that jump ball, plus slants and a variety of great routes we can run on the goal line and we're confident our receivers are going to win."
Jenkins hopes to see that kind of ball a lot this fall.
"We just kind of put that in this week so we can take advantage of our taller receivers," he said. "It's kind of like you saw with Keenan McCardell in the Super Bowl. We try and put it out there high where we're the only ones who can get it."
Jenkins was asked if the play gave him bragging rights over Gamble, who is also his receiver mate.
"Oh, we don't go back and forth like that," Jenkins said. "I know he's a competitor and he wishes he could have stopped it. That was a nice throw by Craig."
The offense held a 59-55 lead after Guilford made a neat cutback on a 7-yard touchdown run. That was set up by Todd Boeckman's only completion, a 17-yard square-in to Holmes.
Hawk and linebacker Thomas Matthews led the defense with seven tackles. In addition to his interception, Mitchell had six stops. Curt Lukens, working mostly at linebacker, had five tackles.
The scrimmage was highlighted by a slugfest between a pair of seniors, Anderson and offensive guard Adrien Clarke. Each was sent to their respective benches to cool out before returning.
"There's nothing to it," said Clarke, who was a vocal leader for the offense. "Tim and I are good friends both on and off the field."