Offense Rallies To Hold On To Scarlet Jerseys

Freshman Todd Boeckman threw 34 passes, completing 21 for 195 yards, in helping the offense turn back the defense 81-69 in Saturday's jersey scrimmage at Ohio Stadium. The three-hour scrimmage saw the Buckeyes run 177 plays. Click here for more. (Note: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. to include more game details and notes.)

For the first time in Jim Tressel's four seasons as the Ohio State head football coach, the offense will wear the prized scarlet jerseys during the course of the regular season. The offense pulled out a come-from-behind 81-69 victory over the defense on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.

The scrimmage was certainly the longest of Tressel's OSU tenure, lasting nearly three hours and totaling 177 plays.

"With 177 plays, you're going to make some mistakes," said Tressel, whose team opens the season two weeks from today against Cincinnati at Ohio Stadium. "Some people came and made plays. I don't think we had major injuries. Obviously, they have trained hard. Their conditioning is pretty good. My initial thought is I feel good about this group."

The offense scores points in typical fashion with touchdowns and field goals, but also gets one point for every first down and an extra point for plays in excess of 20 yards. The defense gets points for three-and-outs, negative plays, turnovers and defensive scores.

The defense has always won the last jersey scrimmage of the year -- there is also one in the spring, typically -- to hold the jerseys during the course of the season. The defense held, at one point, a 53-36 lead. But the offense rallied late in the scrimmage to grab the lead and never looked back.

"As one of the leaders on offense I told my guys we can't leave here without those jerseys," said quarterback Troy Smith. "We have to keep them and maintain them. You see we got the red jerseys. We did good today. That was our goal."

Of course, most eyes were on the quarterback position. Justin Zwick opened the scrimmage with the first team, leading them on an early scoring drive. He ended up 14 of 21 passing for 120 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

"This was big for all of us to perform," Zwick said. "This is our one really big test before the season starts. We put a lot of weight on this scrimmage."

Smith came next. He ended up 12 of 18 passing for 106 yards with an interception. He also rushed for a touchdown.

"I'm just taking it day by day," he said. "I'm trying to be as even-keeled as possible and just think about the things I need to do."

One of the big stories, though, was the play of freshman quarterback Todd Boeckman. At various points, it almost seemed like they were trying to get Boeckman -- projected to redshirt this year -- ready to play in the opener. He was 21 of 34 passing for 195 yards with an interception.

"I definitely want to go out there and get the job done," said Boeckman, who hit on 11 of his first 12 passes. "Once you complete a few passes, you just want to keep that going. I know they wanted to get all the quarterbacks to throw the ball a lot. I'm sure the plan is still for me to redshirt because those two guys, Justin and Troy, are unbelievable quarterbacks."

It seemed that whatever edge Zwick had prior to the scrimmage, he has maintained that. Tressel said no proclamations of would start against UC were imminent, though.

"We'll have to do a little bit of grading to do," he said. "I don't have an opinion yet. As a coach, I try not to have too many opinions until I look at the film. There are some things we need to get better at at that position. There are some things we're doing pretty well there. What's important to me is if we're going to be good enough there.

"We've learned a lot of lessons today, we have a lot of film to look at and there has been a lot of theory going on. I think they went after it."

Freshman Erik Haw was the leading ground gainer with 83 yards on 14 carries. His day included a 34-yard run. Classmate Tony Pittman added 33 yards on seven carries. Seniors Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall each finished with 21 yards. Ross, the projected starter, had nine carries, while Hall had four carries to go with two catches.

"I think Tony is going to be a good one," Tressel said of the backs. "He's aggressive and has a good burst. Erik Haw did some nice things as well. It was good to get Mo Hall back in there coming off those injuries. I'd like to think we're further ahead running back-wise than we were a year ago."

Nineteen different players caught passes during the course of the scrimmage, which featured 78 pass attempts.

Tight end Rory Nicol had four catches for 43 yards. He worked in as the second-team tight end as Marcel Frost remained on the shelf with a leg injury. Devin Jordan had three catches for 40 yards. Bam Childress had two grabs for 42 yards. Santonio Holmes had three catches for 28 yards, including a touchdown. Roy Hall had two catches for 36 yards. Tony Gonzalez (3 for 23), Albert Dukes (2 for 15), Devon Lyons (2 for 25) and fullback Stan White Jr. (4 for 25) were also involved on the receiving end.

The first-team defense allowed the offense to score on the opening drive, but otherwise seemed stout.

"There are a lot of situations we put people in today and things we wanted to look at," Tressel said. "We tried to put the ball in the middle of the field because we struggled sometimes last year when the ball was in the middle. I wouldn't go so far as to say anyone is ahead of anyone."

Linebacker A.J. Hawk led the defense with 13 tackles and a sack. Mike D'Andrea, battling Anthony Schlegel at middle linebacker, had six tackles, including a sack, and an interception.

"That's not a surprise because Mike D'Andrea is a pretty good player," Tressel said. "That really hurt us last year at the back end of the season. He couldn't be there for the spring medically. But Mike D'Andrea makes plays. He is an outstanding player."

Other key defensive standouts included: Tyler Everett (five tackles, one interception), Donte Whitner (five tackles), Marcus Freeman (six tackles, one sack, one caused fumble), Nate Salley (five tackles), Sirjo Welch (four tackles, one caused fumble), Bobby Carpenter (five tackles), Chad Hoobler (five tackles, one interception) and Schlegel (eight tackles).

David Patterson had a pair of sacks, while Jason Caldwell, Quinn Pitcock (for a safety), Marcus Green, Joel Penton and Jay Richardson each had one.

As It Happened

Zwick and the first-team offense opened the scrimmage with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring march. Zwick had runs of 11 and 10 yards, drawing a late hit penalty on the second one. Ross then converted a key third down with a 7-yard gain on a sweep behind the blocking of center Nick Mangold. Finally, on first-and-goal from the 1, Zwick was flushed out of the pocket. He drifted right and found Holmes in front of E.J. Underwood for the touchdown and a 12-0 lead.

"It was good to get that momentum and go down and score like that right off the bat," Zwick said. "That's always big when you can put the ball in the end zone like that. That was a little play-action. I felt some pressure and I moved out of the pocket. He played his guy right and I was able to put the ball in there for a touchdown."

The defense began to rally as D'Andrea intercepted Smith on the third series, stepping in front of a pass in the right flat intended for Nicol.

"I wanted to score on that one," said D'Andrea, who would have gotten seven extra points for his team if he'd been able to take it back just 10 yards farther to the end zone. The pick cut the Scarlet lead to 12-7.

Smith later led the first-team offense into scoring range with a first down at the 29, set up by a 19-yard spiral to Childress. But he threw an incomplete pass, slipped for a loss on second down and was sacked by D'Andrea on third. Mike Nugent's 54-yard field goal try was short and at that point the Scarlet still led 16-15.

The scrimmage switched to the offense coming off its own 5-yard line. On four straight possessions, the offense was unable to get a first down with Pitcock sacking a slipping Zwick on the goal line for a safety to end one of them. The Gray grabbed a 25-18 advantage.

But Boeckman came on for the fifth series and directed a 16-play drive that totaled 81 yards before it was done. He stood in and found Lyons for a 21-yard gain before Haw ripped off his 34-yard run.

"It was an inside run," Haw said. "My linemen did a good job of collapsing the middle. I bounced it outside and saw daylight. They teach us to run to daylight. I guess I just got tripped up and got tackled."

Shaun Lane saved the touchdown by tackling Haw at the Gray 16-yard line. The Scarlet got as close as the 5 before being pushed back. Freshman Jonathan Skeete came on to try a 31-yard field goal, but it was wide right. The Gray still led 28-25.

The Gray increased its lead to 39-25 after Roshawn Parker fumbled and Sian Cotton recovered it. A Josh Huston 30-yard field goal trimmed the Gray lead to 40-30. But Haw was then hit by Welch and fumbled with Nader Abdallah recovering to put the Gray up 45-32. A 42-yard field goal by Nugent made it 47-36.

Zwick then tried to lob a pass in to Holmes, but Everett stepped in front of it for the pick that gave the Gray its biggest lead at 53-36.

"I'm a shorter guy and I don't think he saw me," Everett joked.

The Gray still led 60-45 after Antonio Smith intercepted walk-on quarterback Ben Kacsandi.

Gradually, the Scarlet offense made its comeback as Nugent hit a 31-yard field goal and Huston followed with a 31-yarder as well to cut the lead to 61-58.

The offense blew on by as Boeckman directed a nine-play, 62-yard march. The capper was walk-on Andrew Johnson's 13-yard TD run to put the Scarlet up 69-61.

Smith and the second team then moved 50 yards in seven plays. Smith was at his best here, hitting on two passes for 18 yards and rushing for the other 32. He capped it with a nifty 9-yard TD run on a designed quarterback draw out of the shotgun to put the Scarlet up 79-61.

"The red zone is very important and we have worked very hard on that," Smith said. "We put in a couple plays. On that touchdown, we were in the spread formation and my play-side tailback needed to pick up the play-side linebacker. Roshawn Parker did a great job with that. He picked him up and I was able to get into the end zone and celebrate with my teammates."

The Gray made it interesting as Boeckman was hit on a pass attempt and intercepted by Hoobler. That cut the lead to 79-67. The offense did just enough, though, despite two more misses by Nugent (a 52-yarder was wide left and a 50-yarder on the final play was tipped) to hang on.

Also Notable

* Several players did not see action. They included LB Curt Lukens, TE Marcel Frost, DE Mike Kudla and FB Branden Joe.

* Freshman Ted Ginn Jr. played on both sides of the ball, seeing 21 plays on defense and 10 on offense. He had one reception for a 7-yard gain on a bubble screen and made three tackles.

* The quarterbacks were live, except for a 50-play segment in the middle of the scrimmage.

* Tressel talked about what comes next as the Buckeyes finish up preseason camp.

"You'll start making two-deep decisions and you'll make decisions on what type of team you are, the types of things you're going to feature," he said. "We tried to spread around opportunities today and make sure a lot of receivers got chances and a lot of defenders got tested and all the quarterbacks and running backs got opportunities. Really, starting about Wednesday, we'll start narrowing down and figuring out who we are.

"I know this: To grade 177 plays will probably take until 3 in the morning."

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