For just the second time in Tressel's tenure, the offense has succeeded in wrestling the prized jerseys away from the defense. The offense outpointed the defense 72-53 in Saturday's jersey scrimmage before an estimated crowd of 3,000 on a beautiful 80 degree day at Ohio Stadium.
"The guys who won the scrimmage are excited about it," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "They feel good that they worked hard for it. The guys who didn't win the scrimmage don't feel good about that and they want to correct it."
There were bright spots in just about every direction for the Buckeyes, who will wrap spring practice with the annual spring game next Saturday at Ohio Stadium (1 p.m.).
Some of the brightest spots included:
* Senior tailback Lydell Ross rushing for 100 yards on 12 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the scrimmage.
"I've never seen a jersey scrimmage where the first play went out the gate," Tressel said. "But Lydell has been practicing hard. You could see his shoulder pads were square and he accelerated. I don't know exactly what occurred on the line of scrimmage. Obviously, they did a good job."
* All three of the program's young quarterbacks -- sophomores Justin Zwick and Troy Smith and freshman Todd Boeckman -- threw for over 100 yards.
* Freshman tailback Antonio Pittman added 41 yards on 15 carries.
* Kicker Mike Nugent was 4 of 5 on field goals with makes of 45, 48, 49 and 47 yards. His miss was blocked by E.J. Underwood, who also had an interception on defense.
* Linebacker Thomas Matthews led the defense with nine tackles, while middle linebacker candidates Anthony Schlegel and John Kerr each had six stops.
* Redshirt freshman defensive end Marcel Frost came up big with a sack, four tackles and a fumble caused.
"There will be 130 snaps to evaluate and there were some young guys that were out here with maybe some higher expectations placed upon them for the first time," Tressel said. "They'll learn a lot from it. What's exciting is you hope they love to compete and they do -- they love to get after each other."
Regarding the quarterbacks, Smith made a strong case. He ended up 11 of 18 passing for 118 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He also picked up 52 yards on the ground on 11 carries. He did have a fumble on the scrimmage‘s final play.
When asked if he helped his bid to become the starter, Smith replied, "I don't think about things like that or think about who will be the starter. I think about the task at hand. That was the first time ever we've been hit (this spring) today. I needed it. I felt I didn't make a lot of costly mistakes. I was able to step up and run and step up and throw. I got rid of the ball and read the blitzes a lot."
Tressel has repeatedly said if there was a game tomorrow that Zwick would be the starter. He ended up 11 of 26 passing for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He went through a string of seven straight incompletions late, but rallied to hit Bam Childress for a 10-yard touchdown.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," Zwick said. "There are always things you can work on. I feel more comfortable. I think it's just a matter of getting more reps. I was just worried about who had the most points at the end of the day. I wasn't as worried about how Troy was doing or Todd was doing. That's all I was worried about."
Boeckman also earned some oohs and ahhs from the crowd situated in the South Stands by completing 11 of 23 passes for 105 yards with an interception.
"It was neat to go out there where some of the great Buckeyes have played before," said Boeckman, who got his first playing experience in the Horseshoe.
Tressel was asked for his take on the quarterback derby.
"I think they all did some good things," he said. "All of them made some errors. We've got a long way to go at that position. A year ago, we had two fifth-year guys who had played some. Now we've got two third-year guys and a first-year guy who I thought all did some nice things. If they'll work hard at getting better every day, they've got a chance to do what we need."
When asked if there was a change in the pecking order, Tressel said, "I couldn't say that today."
As always, the offense received the usual points for touchdowns and field goals, but was also awarded one point for a first down and an additional point for big plays. The defense got points for a safety as well as five points for a turnover, one point for negative plays and one point for each stop on third down.
The scrimmage was conducted with the offense facing various field positions, including coming off the goal line and the red zone.
As It Happened
Ross opened the day in a big way with his 80-yard touchdown run. He made a cutback just past the line of scrimmage and was gone. Cornerback Ashton Youboty tried in vain to dive and get him at the defense's 30-yard line. The play gave the offense a 7-0 lead.
"It was off the guard to the left side," Ross said. "That's our bread and butter. I saw my pulling guard, Mike Kne, make the block and I just cut it upfield. I got behind him. They crushed the left side. I was up the field and gone.
"I'm thinking, `Don't get caught, get to the end zone.' Ashton dove and got my foot. I thought he was a little quicker than that," Ross joked.
Zwick then hit Ross for a 7-yard gain and a first down to help build the lead to 8-0. After Smith led the second team to a first down and a 10-2 lead, a pair of sacks on Boeckman helped the defense trim the gap to 13-9.
Smith completed a 12-yard pass to fullback Branden Joe for a first down and a 16-9 lead on a play that featured a major collision between Joe and safety Nate Salley. Nugent capped that drive with a 45-yard field goal, putting the offense up 19-12.
Pittman broke a tackle on a 12-yard run giving the offense a first down and a 22-12 advantage. Zwick then hit a sliding Jason Caldwell for a nifty 14-yard gain and a first down, but the offense had to settle for Josh Huston's 30-yard field goal and a 26-12 lead.
The defense trimmed the gap to 28-19 as Zwick threw behind Roy Hall, who slipped. Underwood made the easy interception.
"I had a comeback route there and I started to throw it," Zwick said. "I just put it inside and Roy slipped. By the time he got his foot back, the cornerback was there. Those things happen."
Zwick then slipped in the end zone under pressure from end Simon Fraser and was ruled down for a safety, cutting the margin to 28-22. But Nugent field goals of 49 and 48 yards put the lead back up to 38-27.
Safety Rob Harley's interception of a Boeckman pass got it back down to 40-33 and when Frost created a fumble that cut the margin down to 41-38. The defense got the game back to even at 44-44 after a botched field goal attempt was doomed by a bad snap. But Nugent's 47-yard field goal put the offense back up 47-44.
Smith completed a backside screen to Roshawn Parker that went for a 45-yard gain down to the defense's 22-yard line. Two plays later, he threw a fade to Santonio Holmes, who got behind corner Michael Roberts, for the 22-yard touchdown and a 56-45 lead.
"That was a Snag route originally," Smith said. "Fortunately, Santonio and I and really any of our receivers have a pretty good understanding of what routes to run. He gave me a nod and I just threw it up and he made a play on it. The guys up front did a good job of giving me some time."
Underwood then blocked a 38-yard Nugent field goal attempt when the attempt was mistimed. Holder Kyle Turano appeared to bobble the ball.
But the offense put it away with a 65-yard scoring march. The touchdown drive was keyed when Zwick converted a third-and-15 predicament with a throw down the middle to Bam Childress, who made a dazzling one-handed grab for a 30-yard gain down to the 10. Two plays later, Zwick hit Childress in the left flat and he spun around defensive back Antonio Smith to complete the 10-yard TD and give the offense a 69-50 lead.
* Parker finished with eight carries for 49 yards to go with the one catch for 45 yards.
Holmes had four catches for 42 yards with the one TD, while Childress had four catches for 53 yards and a score. Walk-on tight end Jordan Hoewischer had three catches for 46 yards.
* Offensive tackle Kirk Barton left the scrimmage on crutches after suffering what appeared to be a bad ankle sprain in a pile-up. Defensive end Reggie Smith was also banged up but left the field on his own power.
* Linebacker A.J. Hawk, working his way back after off-season surgery, was cleared for full-go and went 20 plays.
* Tressel credited Ross for showing a spark.
"I think he's really focused on having a career-best year," the coach said. "I think he feels healthy. He looks to me like he's maybe a little leaner than he was last year, maybe five or six pounds."
* Starting cornerback Dustin Fox did not play as he continues to recover from a concussion.
* The starters for the defense were Mike Kudla and Fraser at the ends, Sian Cotton and Quinn Pitcock at the tackles, Schlegel, Hawk and Carpenter at the linebackers, Youboty and Underwood at the corners and Salley and Donte Whitner at the safeties.
The starters on the offense were Zwick at quarterback, Joe at fullback, Ross at tailback, Hall at split end, Holmes at flanker, Ryan Hamby at tight end and the starting line of Nick Mangold at center, Kne and Doug Datish at the guards and Rob Sims and Tim Schafer at the tackles.