While OSU's quarterback controversy continued to rage, the Buckeyes may have found themselves a keeper at tailback. Freshman Antonio Pittman, an Akron Buchtel graduate who just enrolled for spring quarter, stole the show with 105 yards on 21 carries for the victorious Scarlet squad.
"I thought Tony had a good spring," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "He didn't have winter conditioning and when he got here he didn't know much about what we were doing. But he stepped in and learned. He's a good football player. He can catch it and run it."
Pittman spelled starting tailback Lydell Ross, who tallied 17 yards and a touchdown on five carries before heading to the bench.
"It felt real good to be out here in front of the crowd today," Pittman said. "(100 yards), that was my goal. I just wanted to help my team win. Lydell didn't play that much. From the second quarter on, it was up to me. I just had to run."
Of course, the quarterbacks were also on center stage. Justin Zwick completed 16 of 26 passes for 165 yards for the Scarlet, while Troy Smith was 7 of 15 for 53 yards for the Gray. Todd Boeckman played one quarter for each side and ended up a combined 6 of 13 for 33 yards with an interception.
The quarterbacks wore black jerseys, meaning they were down on contact.
"I think (the black jerseys) took something away from all of them," Tressel said. "One of their weapons is to be able to step up and run when the defense is overzealous with their rush. But I did not want any one of them to get banged up."
Reporters asked Tressel for his pecking order at quarterback after the game.
"I am sure that we will go into the preseason with both Justin and Troy having a chance to work with the first group, just as the alternated every day during the spring," Tressel said. "If we had a game today, I would probably say the same thing I said two weeks ago which is Justin would start, but Troy would also play significantly.
"They both gained some really good experience this spring. They had a chance to learn."
For the Scarlet, John Hollins caught five passes for 64 yards and Tony Gonzalez caught five balls for 63 yards. For the Gray, Louis Irizarry, Bam Childress and Brandon Schnittker all had three catches.
The game was marked by poor special teams play with three blocked punts, a blocked field goal and a missed 23-yard field goal by Josh Huston.
"A blocked punt can have a horrific impact on the game," Tressel said. "We definitely need to address that. Obviously, as the head coach, you feel good about the block teams, but not as good from the protection standpoint."
The Scarlet outgained the Gray 260-49. The Gray was hampered by no running game to speak of. The Gray finished with 18 rushes for minus-33 yards, although Smith and Boeckman were sacked a combined nine times.
"You're going to have better quarterback play when you can run the ball," Tressel noted. "I think it hurt the Gray team when they lost (tailback) Roshawn Parker. He got banged up a little bit. When the Gray lost him, they lost some of their balance. That makes it harder to contain the rush when they can just pin their ears back.
"It's a reminder that you better be pretty balanced and it's not much fun being a quarterback when you can't run the ball."
Scoring just one touchdown between the two sides was not a big concern for Tressel.
"We won't know where our offense is until we line up and play somebody," he said. "We had a small package today and there were some limitations."
As It Happened
The Gray got the ball to open the game and Smith came out firing. He hit all four of his pass attempts for 36 yards. The Gray drove down to the Scarlet 33. But on first-and-5 there, walk-on running back Matt Johnson was hit by Brandon Mitchell and fumbled. The fumble was recovered by the Scarlet's Ashton Youboty, ending the drive.
The Scarlet then drove 66 yards in 12 plays. Zwick connected on 5 of his 7 throws on this possession for 44 yards. The key play came on third-and-4 at the Gray 9. Zwick hit Santonio Holmes on a crossing pattern. Only a crushing hit by E.J. Underwood kept Holmes from scoring, but the Scarlet had a first down at the 1-yard line. On first down there, Ross plowed in over left guard, taking end Simon Fraser with him in the end zone for the touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
The Scarlet then blocked a punt with Youboty blocking an A.J. Trapasso punt and teammate Stan White Jr. recovering at the Gray 10-yard line.
"I knew our corner was coming off the edge and the wing had to make a decision to block either me or him," Youboty said.
But the Scarlet was unable to capitalize. Zwick had to throw his pass away under blitz pressure on third-and-7 and, a play later, Nick Mangold broke through and blocked Huston's 24-yard field goal attempt.
"Quinn Pitcock deserves the credit on that," Mangold said. "I'm right next to him and he's kind of like a bowling ball in there. I just kind of squirt through there, if you want to call it that."
Boeckman, playing for the Gray, misfired on a deep pass to Roy Hall and walk-on Antonio Smith intercepted at the Scarlet 43 with 6:26 left in the first half.
Pittman then ripped off runs of 8, 9 and 7 yards for the Scarlet before Zwick went deep and hit Hollins for a 29-yard gain down to the Gray 4. But Pittman was stopped for a 1-yard gain on first down and Zwick threw incomplete in the end zone on the next two plays. Huston came on and hit a 21-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 3:55 left in the first half.
The Gray had a chance before the half after Scarlet punter J.D. Bergman dropped a snap and his punt was tipped down at the Scarlet 41. Zwick hit on four straight passes, including a 19-yard gain to Tony Gonzalez on a ball tipped by Scarlet linebacker Marcus Freeman. Huston attempted a 23-yard field goal on the final play of the half, but it was wide left.
Huston had another attempt early in the second half when the Scarlet squad's first possession stalled at the 35. But his 53-yard field goal sailed wide left.
Zwick helped lead one more impressive drive for the Scarlet before leaving for Boeckman. He completed three passes and Pittman picked up 23 yards on five carries. The Scarlet got all the way down to the Gray 8. But Zwick was sacked on successive plays by Marcus Freeman and Chibindhu Nnake and Huston came on and made a 43-yard field goal for a 13-0 lead with 9:47 left in the third quarter.
The Gray's Roy Hall blocked a Huston punt and returned it 37 yards down to the Scarlet 2. Brandon Mitchell saved the touchdown.
"I came unblocked, but I got touched better than I did (last year) against Iowa," Hall said. "I came through, touched the guard and the fullback stepped up. I kind of moved out of his way and it was clear sailing from there. When I blocked it, I expected somebody else to pick it up, but they didn't so I jumped on it and tried to take it to the house.
"It was frustrating when you have blockers out in front who don't see guys," Hall joked. "I had Bam running with me and he thought I was just going to ride in."
But the Gray could not capitalize as a pair of false start penalties and a pair of sacks of Smith snuffed out the possession on downs with 2:22 left in the game.
* Lack of offense should not be a concern if history is any indication: In 2002, when Ohio State won the national championship, the final score of the spring game was 6-3.
* Scarlet's Kyle Turano may have won the punting battle on Saturday. He averaged 43.0 yards on two punts. Trapasso averaged 33.7 yards on three punts, including one that went just 15 yards. Huston had his only attempt blocked.
* Defensively, linebacker Thomas Matthews had two sacks among his team-high seven tackles. Jay Richardson and Marcel Frost also had two sacks for the Scarlet.
Donte Whitner led the Gray with 11 tackles, while Anthony Schlegel had nine.