It was a career day for Scott McMullen.
In his second career start, the senior Ohio State signal caller set career high marks for himself in attempts, completions and passing yardage. His 12-yard run in the third quarter was also a career mark as was his 46-yard completion to Michael Jenkins that set up the OSU's final touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"I'll have that win right there for the rest of my life," McMullen said. "It even felt better coming home and playing in front of the home crowd."
McMullen came to Ohio State from neighboring Granville, where he was a first-team All-Ohio performer. Unlike in his first career start against Illinois in the 2001 season, when McMullen was named late in the week as the starter because of the Steve Bellisari suspension, he pretty much had his emotions in check.
"I don't know if it was really nervous, (I was) more anxious I guess to get out there and get those first couple completions and take that first hit," McMullen said. "But other than that I slept fine (the night before), and I was just ready to get out there."
McMullen was marching the Buckeyes right down the field on their very first drive when Jenkins fumbled away a completion and turned the ball over. On the second series however, McMullen navigated his team through a short field after an interception by Dustin Fox for the first score of the game. The 29-yard, 6-play drive was capped off by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Drew Carter, another fifth-year senior who had a career day of his own.
"It felt great. Drew made a nice play there in the end zone," McMullen said. "It's always good to throw that first touchdown pass; that gave me a lot of confidence throughout the game."
The touchdown pass to Carter was just the fifth of McMullen's career at Ohio State, that's akin to an average game in his prolific high school career.
"Of course I've wanted to play more, that's the reason you come here; to play and be on the field," McMullen said. "Unfortunately for me, it hasn't really worked out that way, and I've just kind of accepted my role to help Craig (Krenzel) any way I can. If he goes down like he did, to step in there and lead the team."
According to various members of the offensive unit, McMullen's leadership style in the huddle is a little more loose than that of Krenzel.
"I just try to break the tension," McMullen said. "It helps keep me loose, it helps keeps everyone else loose, so every once in a while if I have a little joke, something funny to say, I'll say it. I'll do anything that will really get people to laugh and kind of calm the mood. It's really kind of a huddle talk I guess you could say. It's pretty normal stuff but what's said in the huddle stays in the huddle."
All jokes aside, Ben Hartsock thought McMullen filled in admirably for the injured Krenzel.
"I thought he did fine," Hartsock said. "He was comfortable in the huddle. I don't think anybody was concerned with his ability. He wasn't nervous, he knew the plays, he was ready to run them, and he even cracked a joke here or there, keeping things light. So I think if he was nervous, he did a great job of making sure we didn't know about it. So I think everybody was comfortable with him.
"I don't think anybody in the offensive huddle was concerned with his ability or his confidence level going into the game. The only thing that sticks out to me was he made one errant pass and it got picked off. He was trying to make an aggressive play, so things like that are going to happen. He's a competitor; he's been waiting for chances like this, and when he gets them, he's going to try to capitalize on them."
Hartsock laughed when he was asked about what the content of the jokes being told by McMullen in the huddle was.
"They were not for our general viewing audience," he said.
Carter further elaborated on McMullen's in-huddle presence.
"Right before a time out or a quarter and the band would be playing, he would like be humming the song," he said. "He's focused on the game, but he also lightens the mood in the huddle and tells us to get ready to go. The morale is up right now in the huddle, and it seems like we have a good feeling when both Scott or Craig are in the huddle."
Obviously Carter gave McMullen high marks for his performance in the game.
"He did good. We never really worried about Scott's ability to play in the game," he said. "Overall, he threw me a touchdown pass, so I feel good about that."
McMullen said he was just being himself.
I thought I was pretty comfortable in there," he said. "The offensive guys, older guys like Mike (Jenkins) that have a lot of game experience, were picking me up and giving me certainty during the game."
In the very least, the start against Bowling Green cemented McMullen's status
as a very solid backup to Krenzel and may have helped him get a better
understanding of his importance to the offense and of his contribution to the
"This week I actually had a full week getting reps with the ones, (whereas) last time I didn't find out until that Friday that I was actually starting," McMullen said. "So this was a good week-long preparation and it felt good to get in there."
Whether he starts another game or not at OSU, McMullen has a finer appreciation on what it takes to play the quarterback position in a game for the entire 60 minutes.
"I understand now what Craig goes through all game long," he said. "I really didn't have that full game experience like he has every week. So I'll be a lot more appreciative of the things that he does out there and the things that he goes through."
If only for a brief moment or two in his college career as a starter, McMullen got to feel, once again, what it was like to be back chucking the football around for Granville.
"Yeah a couple of times," McMullen said. "On that long play there at the end that Jenkins had and just that touchdown and really the crowd cheering. A lot of that just brought back old memories from high school."
Jim Bollman hadn't had much time to think about McMullen's performance at the controls when he was asked to evaluate how his quarterback played.
"I haven't really stopped and thought about it, but now when I do, I thought it was a huge play the first time we got the ball down there and on third-and-seven and hit that touchdown pass. That was as big a play that he made in the game," the coach said. "And then when he came and hit Michael on the dig route, that was a huge play to get us down there for the last score. Those were some big, big passes to hit at some key times in the game. So, we're thankful that we have a guy with his experience to step in and be able to play there."
And McMullen has to feel pretty good about being able to contribute effectively when called upon.
"I'm just glad we won, that's the main thing," McMullen said. "I look back on a lot of throws I could have made that we could have been up a lot more points, like that one where Bam Childress beat his guy and I under threw him and their DB made a great play on it. But other than that I felt the whole offense played pretty well as a whole."
The bottom line is that the Buckeyes got the win.
"We measure our quarterbacks on how they do in the win/loss column and it was good to get a win," Jim Tressel said. "Scott has been one of those guys, even though he hasn't been in the lineup, he's continued to work to become better and we like guys getting opportunities."