As always, the team was divided down the middle and every play of the one-hour scrimmage was a special teams play -- either a kickoff, punt or field goal. When the dust had settled, the Scarlet team had prevailed 26-24 on a late 47-yard field goal by Josh Huston.
That meant the Gray team had to walk three-quarters of a mile back to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center after starting kicker Mike Nugent's potential game-winning 50-yard field goal sailed wide right on the final play.
"When you get a chance for a 50-yarder to be the game winner, we didn't hit it, but you have to have those opportunities to protect and snap and hold," said OSU coach Jim Tressel, who invented the kick scrimmage during his days at Youngstown State. "We have all new (specialty) units when it comes to the people working together. I thought it was good work, a nice warm day and some good situations."
Huston was a busy man. He was 9 of 12 on field goals with a long of 47 yards. Nugent ended up 7 of 12 with makes of 52 and 54 yards. One of his misses was tipped at the line, another struck an upright and a third came up short from 62 yards out.
"The 62-yarder wasn't too far off and he hit a couple over 50," Tressel said of Nugent. "He had a chance on that 50-yarder at the end of the game, but didn't get it. But Mike is as good as there is."
Also impressive was the work of the punters. Huston averaged 48 yards on three punts. Early enrolling freshman A.J. Trapasso averaged 44 yards on four punts, while walk-on Kyle Turano punted 10 times for a 43.7-yard average.
"As you watched it, when you lose punters like Andy Groom and then B.J. Sander, you say, `My gosh, are we ever even going to be able to punt,' " Tressel said. "Once the jitters were out, our guys hit the ball pretty well. We have good competition there. Kyle got more hits, but I think Josh and A.J. will both be in there."
By punting and kicking well, Huston may have positioned himself for a larger role in the fall.
"I told Coach Tressel when I got back from my hip and knee surgery and rehab that I want to play, whatever that may be if it's kicker, punter or kickoff guy," Huston said. "We'll see what he has in store for me."
The return game was also on display. Ashton Youboty dazzled both teams and the crowd of about 400 with a 60-yard return of a free kick after a safety. Santonio Holmes also had a 28-yard punt return and Bam Childress also performed well with a couple late returns, one of which set up Huston's game-winning field goal.
"I think Ashton Youboty showed he can be a positive force back there," Tressel said. "Ashton is a dependable guy. He's going to do what you need done. He's very talented. He knows what he's doing. He knows how to set up his blockers. He's just a good, solid football player."
Tressel said improving the return games was important after OSU lagged near the bottom of the Big Ten on both punts and kicks a year ago.
"They have really worked hard on the return game. Coach (Darrell) Hazell has worked hard on both of those areas. We gave him a little bit of a challenge when he came on board and said, `Hey, we need to put a little bit of an extra effort and research into finding out what we can do best,' " Tressel said.
As It Happened
A Youboty punt return set up Huston for a 45-yard field goal that gave the Gray an early 3-0 lead (the kickers worked for both sides throughout the scrimmage).
Nugent then went 2 for 5 on a field goal series, putting the Scarlet up 6-3. Nick Mangold burst through the middle of the line and deflected a 33-yard attempt that flew wide right. Nugent also hit the right upright, bounced one in off the left upright and pulled one wide left.
"I wasn't down," Nugent said. "I was just thinking what do we need to do to get the timing right."
Huston then went 2 for 3 on a field goal series. He missed two opportunities as a fake failed and holder Trapasso mishandled a snap. Huston was good here from 37 and 39 yards and wide right from 41, but the Gray had gone back up 9-6 at the half.
Scarlet's Bobby Carpenter delivered a heavy blow to Childress, dropping him at the 13-yard line on the second-half kickoff. That left wrestler-turned-punter J.D. Bergman to punt out of his own end zone for the Gray. He mishandled the snap and was swarmed under by Curt Lukens, Nate Salley and Stan White Jr. for a safety, trimming the Gray lead to 9-8.
Youboty returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards to the Gray 24-yard line. Nugent had to step up and save the touchdown by knocking him out of bounds.
"I knew I had to pull through on that," Nugent said. "Rob Harley was chasing him, but Ashton had a step on him."
Huston came on to try a 41-yard field goal, but the fake by holder Trapasso was snuffed by the Gray. There was no scoring until the next set of field goal series.
This time Huston was 3 for 4, giving the Scarlet a 17-9 lead. One of his tries was aborted when the ball again went through Trapasso's hands on the hold.
Nugent then was 4 of 5 to put the Gray back up 21-17. He had makes from 31, 40, 51 and 54 yards before coming up 2 yards short on a 62-yarder.
"Out of those five balls, that was the worst one I hit," Nugent said of the 62-yarder. "I was just happy it was straight."
The teams finished the scrimmage by taking turns punting out of their own end zone. The punters did a fine job of backing up the returners, who, time and time again, succeeded in getting inside the 35-yard line so their teams could attempt field goals.
A Holmes return set up a 46-yard field goal by Nugent that put the Gray up 24-17.
Turano then had a punt deflected by Scarlet's Thomas Matthews. That gave Huston an "easy" 42-yard attempt, which he made to cut the Gray lead to 24-20.
Turano then nailed a 50-yard punt out of the end zone and Gray teammate Branden Joe nailed Youboty to the ground at the 35. But Tressel "flagged" Joe for excessive celebration, giving Huston a 31-yard chip shot, which he missed wide right.
Trapasso then faked a punt out of his own end zone. The former prep running back scrambled for a 20-yard gain.
Youboty then had a return to set up a 47-yard Huston field goal, which cut the Gray lead to 24-23. Youboty then did it again and Huston' second straight 47-yarder sailed through the uprights with the winning points.
"That's the key to being a good kicker is not to know that stuff and not think about it," Huston said. "Every kick needs to be the same. That's what I try to focus on. Mike and I have the ability, but it's just mental sometimes."
Trapasso then boomed a 50-yard punt out of his own end zone, which Childress returned 14 yards for the Gray. But Nugent's final-play 50-yard field goal went wide right.
"That last one, I'm not sure how deep it was. But I need to make that, whether I'm out here by myself or it's a real game. I need to hit that."
* Trapasso enjoyed his first chance to play inside the stadium.
"It felt really good," Trapasso said. "It was my first day playing in the stadium and I was pretty proud of myself."
* The team will return to the stadium Saturday at 2 p.m. for the jersey scrimmage. This is where the offense and defense go head to head for the coveted scarlet jerseys.
"It's huge," Tressel said. "We'll get a lot of plays. They've done a lot of learning. Every time you step into the stadium, it's turned up a notch, whether there are 100 people or 105,000. It was good for our kickers and punters to do it and now it will be good for our defense to do it."
* The player draft for next Saturday's spring game is tentatively set for Tuesday.
* Observations from the first hour of practice included:
Early enrolling freshman Antonio Pittman exploding through a hole for a 25-yard touchdown during the run defense interior drill.
In the same drill, Donte Whitner and Thomas Matthews each did a nice job of stepping up to stop the run.
In the perimeter drill, linebacker Mike D'Andrea -- who had been nursing a surgically repaired shoulder -- appeared to be full-go.
QB Justin Zwick found John Hollins for a nice 25-yard gain on an out against a soft zone.
Todd Boeckman stepped up threw a 30-yard pass to Brent Ullery down the seam. Zwick then found his old Massillon teammate Devin Jordan for a 35-yard gain down the middle.
* Huston told reporters he believes he has a good chance to win his case for a sixth year of eligibility because of a pair of surgeries he had his freshman year. The paperwork is being filed with the NCAA.
* Kicker Aaron Pettrey from Raceland, Ky., enjoyed the proceedings. Pettrey, who graduates this spring, still says he plans to grayshirt this fall and enroll full-time in winter 2005.
"I will come down this summer and stay with my uncle and kick with Nuge," Pettrey said. "I'll report for fall camp and stay until the final cut and when classes start. Then I'll just go to class part-time. That's the plan right now."