Zwick, Smith Each Hit Paydirt For OSU

The Justin Zwick/Troy Smith era at quarterback began today for Ohio State as each of the sophomores threw a touchdown pass in OSU's 27-6 win over Cincinnati. Click here for more on how these two young quarterbacks fared in their first real shot at playing time for the Buckeyes.

For the longest time on Saturday, it looked like Ohio State's quarterback derby was a one-man race.

After all, sophomore Justin Zwick started and ended up playing nine of OSU's 13 possessions as the Buckeyes dispatched Cincinnati 27-6. Zwick completed 14 of 26 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also lost a fumble during the course of the game.

But sophomore Troy Smith came off the bench and also showed he can play a little as well. Smith tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, ending his day 2 of 3 passing for 29 yards.

When asked what he will take from the game, Zwick said, "The experience of being out there in front of the crowd and having a couple interceptions. You have to bounce back from those. I just tried to take the mentality that it was like another practice – just with a lot more people out there."

Speaking overall, Zwick was glad to have win No. 1 under his belt as the OSU starter.

"It feels good," he said. "We had a lot of yards on offense. The defense played great and only gave up six points. You can't be unhappy with that.

"I did feel comfortable out there. Everybody who had a first start today will only get better. We moved the ball well at the end of the game when we wanted to run it. Our offensive line did a good job today. They've come together pretty well."

Zwick did a lot of damage with tight end Ryan Hamby, who caught four passes for 75 yards.

"It's just how things work out," Zwick said. "He just came out and opened up for me a couple times. I don't have a favorite target. My favorite target is anybody who is open."

One of those four completions was a 17-yard touchdown pass to Hamby that staked the Buckeyes to a 10-3 halftime lead. Facing third-and-8 at the UC 17, OSU split four receivers to one side. UC countered with an all-out blitz, leaving Hamby wide open down the middle of the field. There was no one within 15 yards of him when he made the catch and walked into the end zone.

"We put that in this week," Zwick said. "We didn't know how they were going to adjust to having four guys to one side. On that play, they blitzed everybody. The middle of the field was wide open and all I had to do was get Hamby the ball. He caught it and put it in the end zone for us."

Zwick opened the game by completing 7 of his first 9 pass attempts. Things went off-stride just a bit early in the second half, when he threw interceptions on two straight possessions.

On the first one, he had just hit Santonio Holmes for a 53-yard gain on a post pass. He was going for a wide open Hamby in the right flat, but the pass sailed high and UC's JaJuan Hall made the interception at the UC 5-yard line.

"The one to Ryan, he was open," Zwick said. "He came back and I wanted to get rid of it quick. The ball just kind of slipped out. It happened to be long and they got one on me."

Then, OSU was back in its own end on the next series. Zwick threw to Holmes in the right flat. But the pass went off his hands and right to UC's Doug Monaghan at the OSU 35. The Bearcats got a field goal out of that miscue to cut the OSU lead to 10-6.

"On the second one, I didn't think it was a bad read," Zwick said. "Coach Tressel talks about putting the ball at the numbers or lower. I got the ball up and it was tipped and bad things happened."

Zwick told reporters he battled a bad mouthpiece much of the game.

"My brother was the team dentist last year and he didn't hook me up like he was supposed to," he joked. "I was calling the cadence and my mouthpiece was falling out."

Afterwards, OSU coach Jim Tressel assessed Zwick's performance.

"Individually, Justin had a couple throws that we'd like back," Tressel said. "I thought Justin did some good things. I thought he was composed, in command. That's something we talk a lot about."

Tressel was also impressed with Smith's play.

"I thought Troy was composed and in command as well," the coach said. "He made some plays. He didn't have quite as many opportunities as Justin did, but I thought he did a good job.

"Individually and collectively, I would say this was a day to build on."

Smith talked about the thrill of completing his first collegiate touchdown pass on the fade to Holmes.

"That was an adrenaline rush," he said. "I looked at the safety when I got the play call. I just wanted him to ease over a little bit. He set up where I needed him to be. Santonio just made a great catch. He made a great play on the ball.

"That was the icing on the cake. I joked with Santonio about our connection. I always seem to find him."

Smith showed no ill effects from sitting most of the day.

"I signaled plays," he said. "I just stood over there and scoped out the defense. I tried to tell Justin what was going on out there. He let me know about certain situations and I did vice versa."

Smith said he did not get ancy when Zwick faltered on consecutive possessions.

"I didn't look at (Coach Tressel) once," Smith said. "Mistakes happen. I could easily have gone in and made two interceptions myself by thinking something was there when it wasn't there."

Smith said he will be content to accept any role assigned to him.

"If it continues to go like this, I will do nothing but roll with the punches," he said. "We both want to be the clear cut starter. That's what we're out here for. But this is how it will be and we have to deal with it. He told me I would get an opportunity to play, which I did."

Smith reflected on his first true game opportunity as a quarterback after working only in a mop-up role with no pass attempts last year.

"It's like no other," he said. "There is nothing like going out in a key situation and make a play and everybody is rooting for you. Now I know at the drop of a dime, if I make a mistake everybody will be doubting you."

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