Buckeyes offense was "special"

The Buckeyes showed that maybe the best offense is great special teams. Two of OSU's most talented offensive performers -- Michael Jenkins and Roy Hall -- took their skills to special teams and got it done for the Buckeyes.

At the very start of his post-game press conference, Jim Tressel commented favorably on the play of both defenses and then credited the play of the special teams units of the Buckeyes for having a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game.

There was the career long 53-yard field goal by Mike Nugent on the Buckeyes' opening drive of the game, the booming punts of B.J. Sander, and the blocked punt by redshirt-freshman Roy Hall that resulted in six points when true-freshman Donte Whitner recovered it in the end zone. But the biggest play of them all may have been the 54-yard return of an Iowa punt for a touchdown by Michael Jenkins.

Jenkins recorded the first Buckeye touchdown by a punt returner since Nate Clements went 83 yards against Purdue in the 2000 season.

"The key guy on that play was Chris Gamble who was the guy that was our, what we call an anti-sniper," Tressel said. "Their guy who comes down (in coverage) had been making hits all year long, and Chris Gamble kept him off Mike Jenkins, and it was a great job by everyone else holding up, and Mike took it north and south. And it was really a great play."

It was just the second punt return by Jenkins in his career as a Buckeye. His first of 11 yards came against Purdue last season, and it was the longest return of a punt this season by Ohio State.

"Mike's been working as a punt returner, and as we studied on Tuesday morning Iowa's punt coverage, we felt one thing -- that they weren't going to hit the ball real high," Tressel said. "And number two, that if you could block No. 33 (Bob Sanders), you had the chance to bring one back. And so you say, well, who could do the best job of blocking No. 33? It's Chris Gamble. Well, then who could do the best job of catching the ball and going north and south? It was Mike Jenkins. And so we made the decision Tuesday morning to go that route."

Despite playing in the bright sunshine of an a crisp October afternoon for most of the game, Jenkins said he was actually in the dark on that particular play.

"I didn't even really know the return call, if there was blocking or if there was a return on or not," Jenkins said. "I just caught the ball and there was already a guy on my leg and saw two players to my right, and took it right up the field. That's one thing Coach Mel Tucker always stresses, to get up the field and continue to try and get the first down. Some guys threw some great blocks, and I was able to take it to the end zone."

The return gave the Buckeyes a 10-0 lead at the time before Iowa's Nate Kaeding, Nugent's counterpart, cut the deficit to 10-3 at the half by converting on a 36-yard field goal.

The score remained that way until midway thru the third period when Hall broke free on the "Ranger" unit and blocked the Hawkeye punt that resulted in six more points for the Buckeyes. That was the first blocked punt by the Buckeyes since Jenkins himself recorded a block, also against Purdue last season.

"Mark Snyder is our ‘Ranger' team coach, and every week he gives us what he thinks will put pressure on them," Tressel said. "He gives us a look every week of a rush and a return that we prepare, and that was the one that we prepared for this; in fact we had two different ones for this particular week. This was one of the two, and the kids executed it very well."

Hall was just excited to be a member of the OSU punt return team that provided 12 of the 19 Buckeye points in the game.

"It feels pretty good. Special teams all across the board was the tone of the game," he said. "We came out prepared to block a couple of punts and take a couple to the house. We've always got that mentality. It worked out for the good today. We went out last week, the week before that and the week before that trying to block a couple of punts and trying get a couple of returns, and this week was our week though."

Of course, Hall played the starring role on the punt block. He said that he had a good feeling that he could actually break free on a punt block because of the way Iowa was blocking whenever the punt return was on.

"I believe either the guard messed up or the center messed up because on our punt returns I noticed that when I was rushing to block the guard to hold him up for Mike (Jenkins) that he was getting back real far and the center wasn't getting back at all, and the full back, the up-back, the searchlight didn't come and help. So I was thinking to myself that if we go to use our rush to go block it, I might be able to squeak through."

And fortunately when the play unfolded for real, his vision came to fruition.

"On the block, I didn't expect to come free that fast because I thought maybe the fullback was going to come to my side and maybe the person that runs in the A-gap with me on that particular block was going to block it if I got hit. But when I came through..."

Hall thought he got both the ball and the kicker.

"I just wanted to make sure I blocked the ball," he said. "I came through and I put my hands up, but they said I blocked it with my legs or something, I don't remember. I just wanted to make sure that if I didn't block it with my hands, I'd hit the kicker so he couldn't get it off."

And he was happy for his friend Donte Whitner who got credit for scoring the touchdown, the first of his career as a Buckeye.

"That's real good for him," Hall said. "He's a true freshman making plays. He made a couple of big tackles today so he's doing real well."

In all, the special teams of the Buckeyes accounted for 27 of their 29 points in the game. Ironically, all of Iowa's points came via the special teams route. In addition to Kaeding's field goal, he also scored on a 5-yard touchdown run off of a fake field goal in the fourth period.


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