OSU 27, San Diego State 12

The Buckeyes struggled early on, but the Aztecs would fall apart, helping lead to a 27-12 OSU win.

If football games lasted 2 1/2 quarters, San Diego State would be walking out of Columbus as a winner today.  But in order to win a football game, you gotta play all four quarters, and that's what the Aztecs did not do as they simply fell apart in the third quarter, giving the Buckeyes all they needed for a 27-12 win.

This game didn't look good for the Buckeyes at first.  The Buckeyes opened the game with a nice drive, but when they got down inside the ten, they could not punch it in, and then Josh Huston missed a short field goal attempt, leaving the Buckeyes empty-handed.  SDSU responded with a drive deep into OSU territory (a drive that wouldn't have happened if not for a running into the kicker penalty) which led to a 29-yard field goal, making it 3-0 Aztecs.  The Buckeyes would answer though, driving down the field with the help of a 44-yard Steve Bellisari-to-Chris Vance pass.  Lydell Ross would later punch it in to give the Buckeyes the 6-3 lead... but it would stay that way as Mike Nugent missed the PAT.

SDSU would then go three and out and would punt the ball to start the second half.  But the Buckeyes couldn't respond as they too went three and out.  SDSU then engineered a drive that was highlighted by J.R. Tolver's receiving and capped by RB Larry Ned and his Hendrix hairdo plunging into the end zone for a 9-6 lead.  But in keeping in the special teams trend that had been established thus far, SDSU's PAT was blocked, keeping it 9-6.  OSU could not muster a response, as a breakdown in pass protection on their next possession helped cause OSU to punt. 

San Diego State followed with another good drive down inside OSU territory, but they were stopped and held to a 38-yard field goal, making it 12-6.  On OSU's next drive, the Buckeyes started out moving the ball well with the help of a couple TE passes, but they had to settle for a 40-yard field goal attempt, which was missed by Josh Huston.  SDSU ran out the clock to end the half.

At this point, things were a bit confusing.  The Aztecs were coming in as a struggling and unhappy team, and many expected them to come into the Horseshoe and lie down while OSU ran over them.  However, to this point, that wasn't the case as Ned was having a fine day on the ground and Lon Sheriff was guiding the Aztecs through the air.

Luckily, for OSU, it wouldn't stay that way.

SDSU opened the second half with a short drive to midfield that resulted in a punt to the OSU 12.  OSU's following drive didn't look too good as they went backwards and went three and out.  On the next drive, SDSU started on their own 38 and still had momentum, however, today, the Sheriff would shoot himself as on this drive, Lon Sheriff threw his first of four INTs to Joe Cooper.  But the Buckeyes couldn't answer as on the next drive, Steve Bellisari was picked off on a deep pass.  Things still looked to be going the Aztecs' way.

Not.

SDSU started their next drive with the ball on their own 17-yard line, but they fumbled the snap, which was recovered by the Buckeyes' Fred Pagac.  The Buckeyes -- aided by a third down offsides penalty against SDSU -- would score shortly after on a Steve Bellisari 5-yard run.  The PAT was good, making it 13-12. 

This marked the beginning of the end for San Diego State.  On the next drive, SDSU ran two plays -- one of which saw Larry Ned get forced out of the game temporarily due to an apparent ankle injury -- and on the third play, Lon Sheriff threw an interception to Derek Ross which was returned all the way back to the SDSU 5-yard line.  The Buckeyes punched it in on third down on a Jonathan Wells TD run.

SDSU was still down only eight points, but they continued their self-destruction as on the next drive, Larry Ned had re-entered the game only to be absolutely drilled on a Mike Doss hit that you'll be seeing replayed for months (it was very accurately referred to on the Bucknuts.com message board as THE HIT), and then the Aztecs turned it over again as Sheriff was picked off this time by Robert Reynolds. 

The Buckeyes would drive the ball down into SDSU territory, but they turned the ball over on downs.  SDSU took over on their own 22, but on the second play of that drive, Lon Sheriff threw another interception to Derek Ross.  The Buckeyes would capitalize this time as shortly after, Lydell Ross would give OSU a nifty 51-yard TD run to make it 26-12, and then the PAT made it 27-12.  At that point, the fat lady was singing, and the Aztecs would not be able to recover.  The fourth quarter would carry on, but the score would not change as the Buckeyes finished with a 27-12 win.

The Buckeyes did win, but this was not a very well-played game on the Buckeyes' part.  San Diego State may have still lost the game without their mistakes, but in all honesty, the Aztecs' mistakes played a very big role in OSU's win.  That fumbled snap was the play that was the the start of the Aztecs' coming demise.  Throughout the game, it seemed like everyone was waiting for a play that would turn things in OSU's favor, and that fumble was it.  The ensuing TD made it 13-12 OSU, and the Aztecs were not out of the game by any means, but you almost sensed that the sudden turn in events was such a blow to SDSU's psyche that they might not be able to recover, and it was as it started the chain reaction of Aztec mistakes to follow.  But like I said, we'll take it.  It wasn't the greatest game on the Buckeyes' part, but the important thing is the tally in OSU's win column.

Let's go back to the first half for a bit though, even though the first half is one that everyone would like to forget.  Not only did the offense sputter a bit and the kicking game fail, but the defense didn't particularly play very well in the first half either.  SDSU did not look like a struggling offense in the first half.  I got on the web at halftime, and the comments on the message boards were not pretty.  However, the defense tightened in the second half, and they took the SDSU mistakes and made them into opportunities for the offense.  Not every stat tells the tale -- OSU only led in yardage 334 to 319, the Buckeyes had 19 first downs to SDSU's 15, and time of possession was nearly equal.  But there is one extremely telling stat -- turnovers, which read 5 for SDSU and only one for OSU.  This was the difference.

There were good and bad things to take from this game, but right now, the big thing is that the victory bell is ringing once again.  Next week is a road game at struggling Penn State -- a game that OSU must win.  The Wisconsin game stung, but this win today points the team back on the winning path, and that's What's Important Now.

Notes: 

-Coming into the game, the big issue was the OSU quarterback situation.  Today, the QB play wasn't perfect, but it didn't hurt OSU.  Steve Bellisari went 15 for 28 for 198 yards and one INT.  Scott McMullen got into the game with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter, but he did not complete a pass.  Bellisari was sacked four times. 

-The boo birds were back out for a little while today... that INT Bellisari threw saw plenty of boos rain down in his direction, as did the missed kicks.  But the boos were eventually turned to cheers when the Aztecs went in the tank.

-Chris Vance had another nice game as he is a player who is starting to really emerge.  He looks like he will continue to be Steve Bellisari's #1 target.  He had 5 catches for 87 yards.  It was also nice to see the TEs get back in the action


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