It was indeed Teddy's ballgame.
The Big 33 Football Classic was just the latest stage on which Ted Ginn Jr. showcased his prodigious athletic abilities.
Even the line score he recorded for the game doesn't quite tell the whole
story. Ginn caught five passes for 142 yards, was one-for-one throwing the
football for 36 yards and a touchdown, had one tackle and one pass break up in
limited action on defense and had three kickoff returns for 73 yards. Pretty
impressive numbers by anyone's standards.
But Ginn has been posting impressive numbers like that all throughout his entire high school career, be it in football or track, so why should it have been any different at his last official high school athletic event?
It's all about expectations with Ginn, and most, if not all of the time, he lives up to or surpasses them consistently!
Prior to the game on Thursday evening, I talked with Ginn briefly and asked him what his expectations were of himself for the game.
"I'm just going to go out and do what I regularly do: go out and make big plays," he said. "If I make big plays then I know that I did good."
Obviously Ginn made three huge difference-making plays in the game.
The first one was the long 82-yard TD reception that was delivered perfectly in stride from Grant Gregory to put Ohio up 14-3 early in the second quarter.
Next was the most-overlooked play in the game that was delivered by Ginn. The Pennsylvania kicker inadvertently hit an Ohio player on a kickoff and it was recovered by the Keystoners near midfield with just 50 seconds remaining on the clock in the first half. Two quick completions later, one to Devon Lyons for 23 yards, and Pennsylvania had the ball first-and-goal on the six.
I happened to be standing on the goal line looking directly at the 6-4 Ohio State-bound receiver because I just knew that quarterback Chad Henne was going to throw it up for him in the right corner of the end zone, and I watched the entire play unfold exactly that way. Just as Lyons was making his cut, Henne was lofting the ball for the corner and the next thing I knew it was batted away out of nowhere. Ginn was the man on the spot. I didn't even realize it was Ginn at the time until I saw him clapping his hands in disgust because he could have went the other way for the score had he held on to the ball. Pennsylvania attempted a field goal on the next play and missed from 23 yards out to end the half. So instead of PA leading 24-14 if it weren't for the Ginn breakup, Ohio trailed only 17-14 at the intermission.
And finally, the last big play of the contest that Ginn made was the game-winner for the Ohio squad. Quarterback Brian Hoyer lateraled the football to Ginn who quickly released it in order to hit a wide-open Dustin Woods, who then took it in for a 36-yard touchdown.
"It worked in practiced so we were going to try it," Hoyer said. "It was just the right time because we ran the bubble screen a couple times to set it up and then Ted just tossed it right in."
With Ginn, it's always about big plays and high expectations. On Friday, afternoon at the PNC Big 33 press conference, Jim Tressel talked about Ginn coming to Ohio State with all of the lofty expectations.
"If he does everything that the fans are hoping he does, then he's going to be an All-American as a freshman," Tressel said. "Living up to expectations, that's the hardest thing they have (to do). And what they've got to really work on and we talk about all the time is, the only expectations that you have to worry about are the ones that are realistic, and day-to-day, live up to what do we expect at practice. And if they'll live up to those, then we will see what happens. But Teddy is a special kid and I don't blame anyone for having those dreams about what he might be, because he has become what he is because of his own dreams. So I think that's okay."
Devon Lyons and Ted Ginn will be wearing the same uniform in a couple of weeks... and may even be lining up on the same side of the ball
Maybe the most telling point about the expectations that other people and other coaching staffs have of Ginn was apparent in the fourth quarter with the game on line and Pennsylvania driving for the winning score. Lyons was on the field but yet he was no where to be found.
After scorching the Ohio defense for four catches and 123 yards through three
quarters, one would think Lyons would be the ideal option in that situation with
the game on the line. But with Ginn on Lyons man-to-man, Pennsylvania didn't
even look to his side of the field.
People were anticipating that dream match-up all week leading up to the game.
"Teddy Ginn is probably the best defensive back in the country, but he's going to have to prove it that night," is the last thing Lyons told me on Thursday about playing against Ginn in the game.
But throughout the week it was looking more like Ginn would be used exclusively on offense and the other defensive backs on the roster would have to handle Lyons.
"I've been playing a lot on offense and not that much D," Ginn told me on Thursday. "But I'm going to get on the other side if it's necessary, I believe. I've got it out for Devon Lyons; he's been talking a lot of smack lately. I'm out to get him and he's out to get me. So we'll settle it on Saturday."
Brandon Underwood broke up Henne's fourth-and-eleven pass attempt on what turned out to be Pennsylvania's last offensive play of the game, and it wasn't intended for Lyons.
I asked Lyons after the game if he thought Ginn had anything to do with him not being thrown to late in the game.
"That's what everybody keeps asking me," he responded with a chuckle. "I don't think so because we called a few passing plays, and I guess the pressure got to the quarterback a lot, and he was rolling out and he was on the run and he was just in a hurry to throw it."
Ginn was more matter-of-fact when he was asked about being manned-up on Lyons late in the game.
"That's no biggie. I come in to shut people down. That's why they call me a lock-down corner," Ginn said. "I've been lining-up against Devon Lyons for about a month now because he had been at State and I had been at State. I knew what he was about and I guess he probably thought he knew what I was about, but it was great."
In the end, Ginn was just being Ginn, and his performance earned him the MVP for the Ohio squad.
"It's an honor and a pleasure to play in the Big 33, and I just came out and I just played ball. And me playing ball got me the MVP," he said. "It was a great game, it was a great victory; we had fun. There's more than just the game, and I liked that I came because the whole week was interesting and it showed your character. It was great."
Getting the victory for Ohio was Ginn's main focus during the week.
"It's important to win this game because it's bragging rights, that's the first thing," he said on Thursday. "And then we've got to take it home for Ohio."
With the victory and the MVP in hand after the game, I asked him if he liked the touchdown catch or the throw better.
"They both were good," he answered. "I'm a big player so I make big plays. So I knew my team was looking forward for me to make a big play, so both of them were great."
Next up, Ginn will take his big-play act to Ohio State, where the expectations can't be any higher than now after winning the MVP in both the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the PNC Big 33 Football Classic.
The big question now is: What side of the ball will Buckeye fans likely see him on?
"I'm going to concentrate on D, but I'm also going to play on offense," he said. "I'm just going to go in and see where they put me at."
I've asked him before, but after winning the MVP of the Big 33 game I asked him again if he's ever amazed at what he accomplishes.
"Yeah, but tomorrow it's over with so I move on," he said.
That's exactly what I expected him to say.