Buckeyes Play Musical QBs At Michigan

Ohio State did not falter when starting quarterback Craig Krenzel was sidelined with a shoulder injury at Michigan. Backup Scott McMullen led the Buckeyes on a scoring drive. Then, each QB had two opportunities to rally the Buckeyes late in the loss to the Wolverines.

OSU head coach Jim Tressel was originally scheduled to conduct his last weekly media luncheon of the regular season on Tuesday.

But in the wake of the 35-21 loss to Michigan, that media event has been canceled. Certainly, a hot topic of discussion at that luncheon would have been the situation at quarterback, where seniors Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen each played in Saturday's game.

As always, Krenzel started the game and played until late in the third quarter when he suffered a left shoulder injury on a hit by Michigan's Norman Heuer.

With OSU trailing 28-14, McMullen relieved Krenzel and helped guide the Buckeyes on a 10-play, 93-yard scoring drive to trim the gap to 28-21.

Then, after a Chris Gamble interception, McMullen had a chance to lead OSU on a potential game-tying possession. But he threw an incompletion and was sacked as the offense went three-and-out.

Krenzel then returned and, with the team's medical personnel declaring him fit, Tressel inserted him with OSU now trailing 35-21 with 7:55 left. The results were no better in his next two series as OSU went three-and-out on both of those possessions.

McMullen returned for OSU's last gasp with 2:21 left. He completed four straight passes to get three first downs. But on the fifth play, he threw a tipped pass interception to UM's Ernest Shazor to end the rally with 1:14 left.

Tressel discussed his decision to put Krenzel back in the game.

"The doctors cleared Krenzel to go back in," he said. "It comes to that point in time where you have to make a decision and I made a decision for that particular series to go back with Craig. Medically, he was fine. There was no huge chance for future problems.

"There may have been a little ... I don't want to use the word sentiment. That might be too strong a word. But there may have been a little loyalty there, or whatever.

"I didn't pretend to know who would be more effective, but you still have to make decisions. This guy has been a warrior for us and our doctors said he can go. I just thought it was the thing to do at that time."

Krenzel ended the day 20 of 33 passing for 221 yards with two touchdowns. He was sacked three times. On OSU's first scoring drive, he was particularly effective. He completed 8 of 9 passes for 63 yards and got the other 18 yards on the march on the ground.

He threw picture perfect fade passes to Santonio Holmes for touchdowns of 8 and 13 yards.

"We knew coming into this game Michigan was a great football team," said Krenzel, whose record as a starter dipped to 23-3. "Offensively, they have great balance. Defensively, they had not allowed many touchdown passes and not very many running.

"We came out early and the biggest thing for us was we could not rush the ball. Once we went to the air, we got some things going. But it was too late. We were already behind by three touchdowns.

"We came out in the first 25 minutes of the game and we hadn't had any success running the ball. Any time you do that and you're playing a great team like Michigan, you can't take zero yard plays or negative plays."

Krenzel lamented a late first half deep ball to Michael Jenkins, who was wide open. But Krenzel, believing Jenkins was heading farther upfield, overthrew the pass. OSU trailed just 7-0 at that time.

"That was a big play for us," Krenzel said. "If he had caught that, I think he might have scored. I thought he was going to split the safeties and go more upfield. He ended up coming underneath the safety. The ball was thrown over his head. I was throwing to a different spot. It was just a miscommunication."

Jenkins, who came up big with nine catches for 132 yards, agreed with Krenzel's take on the play.

"He thought I was going to take it more upfield and beat the safety, when I cut across his face and the ball went over my head," Jenkins said.

On the play he was injured, Krenzel was hit by Heuer and fell backwards over UM defensive end Pat Massey, who was behind him.

"I was trying to throw the ball in the flat to Hartsock," he said. "I got hit and landed on it."

Team trainers took Krenzel to the locker room and treated the injury to his non-throwing shoulder. He came back to the sideline and eventually declared himself ready to return.

"I felt I was able to play and I wanted to be on the field," Krenzel said. "I wanted to try and help give my team a chance to win.

"I came out and I told Coach Tressel I was ready to play. At that time, I don't think he had a chance to talk to the trainers and doctors."

Meanwhile, McMullen was doing his best to help bring the Buckeyes back. He had led OSU to two wins earlier this season (Bowling Green and Northwestern) when Krenzel was sidelined with an elbow problem. McMullen also came off the bench to spark a late rally at Penn State, where Krenzel suffered a mild concussion.

"It was exciting, playing at The Big House with a new record crowd of over 112,000," McMullen said. "It was exciting to go in there and complete some passes and get some things rolling.

"I always practice like I'm going to go in there. He got hurt so I stepped in and did what I could to help lead the team."

McMullen also had a ball to Jenkins he would like back. On his second play, McMullen's first pass attempt was a fade to Jenkins down the right sideline. The receiver was wide open, but McMullen put a little bit too much air under it. UM's Jeremy LeSueur recovered and jostled Jenkins as the ball arrived to break it up, otherwise OSU could have had an important 87-yard touchdown.

"That was a call between me and Mike," McMullen said. "They were pressing him and we called a fade. Hopefully, he could run by him."

McMullen came back on the next series and led OSU on its 93-yard scoring march. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 71 of those yards. The key play was his 40-yard pass to flanker Santonio Holmes down to the UM 2. On the play, McMullen felt pressure and drifted right to see Holmes, who had been left all alone by a coverage mix-up.

"I saw a guy coming around the edge and just kind of stepped up," McMullen said. "I saw Santonio waving his arm out there. He was wide open so I just got it to him."

On the next play, tailback Lydell Ross plowed into the end zone from the 2 to bring OSU within a touchdown at 28-21.

McMullen's ability to rally the Buckeyes was appreciated by his teammates.

"We had confidence Scott could get the job done," said offensive tackle Shane Olivea. "It was like at Penn State, when we were down two scores and he came back. Nobody was like, 'Craig is out and the game or the season is over.' We've had confidence in Scott all year. He's shown when he gets the opportunity he's gotten the job done."

Jenkins added, "Scott came in and threw some good balls."

Krenzel returned to the sideline at about the time of Gamble's interception with 13:17 left in the game.

Tressel left McMullen in the game. McMullen's first-down pass to Jenkins fell incomplete. Ross then gained just 1 yard on a second-down stretch play before McMullen was quickly swarmed under and sacked on third down.

"(Coach Tressel) was talking to both of us," McMullen said. "He was going to let me have another series, but they ended up stopping us. Craig went back in the game. Then, before that last series, he made a switch again."

Michigan answered with an eight-play, 88-yard scoring march to push the lead to 35-21 with 7:55 left. That is when Tressel went back to Krenzel. But he was just 1 of 5 for 8 yards and was sacked once over OSU's next six plays as the Buckeyes could not gain a first down.

"You always want to play," McMullen said. "To get in there and have some success, I would have liked to stay in there. But the coaches decided to go with Craig."

Afterwards, reporters queried their teammates on what OSU should have done or should do at quarterback.

"I don't know," Olivea said. "You'd have to ask Coach Tressel. But Craig went down and Scott came in and did a good job."

McMullen ended up 8 of 13 for 108 yards with an interception.

"It's been great," he said, reflecting on OSU's 24-2 run over the past 15 months. "We were the national champs. Everyone has come in and given us their best shot, but that's what we expected. Now, we've got a big bowl game coming up and we have to take care of that."

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