A couple of old hands, seniors Bam Childress and Maurice Hall, came up big in OSU's 27-6 win over the Bearcats. At the same time, an energetic youngster, freshman tailback Tony Pittman, joined the fray as well.
Here is a look at how each of these players contributed to the victory on Saturday:
Childress Steps Up
Childress, a flanker, is one of 13 fifth-year seniors on the OSU roster. But until this year, he has always been stuck behind talented receivers for the Buckeyes.
On Saturday, though, the slippery Childress – a former Ohio Mr. Football award winner from Bedford Chanel – moved to the front of the class. He had four catches for 67 yards in helping the Buckeyes turn back UC.
"We all saw what Bam did as far as making plays after we threw him the football but he also did a good job of blocking," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "A couple of our longer runs were sprung by blocks down the field by Bam and he did an excellent job out there as a leader and he had some young people out there with him and did a good job of steadying them and getting them lined up and, therefore, was given the offensive player of the game."
Childress talked about getting into the flow (finally) at receiver.
"I just worked even harder and just kept pushing," he said. "Eventually, something is going to happen when you work hard and believe in yourself and just keep pushing. I always thought God had a plan for me and that plan was going to come if I just worked hard sooner or later."
One of Childress' signature plays from Saturday was a short catch over the middle. He stopped on a dime, did a spin move, picked up a block and scooted to the left sideline for a big gain.
"To be honest with you, when I catch the ball, I try to think ahead of time," he said. "If I make a move on this guy, then I have to make a move on this guy. When I'm out there, I'm just out there playing. When I catch a ball, that's when I start thinking `What can I do to get up out of this jam?' I don't even remember it."
Childress knows he needs to help take some pressure off leading receiver Santonio Holmes.
"We just have to go out there and play hard and have fun and block and when we do get a chance to make a play we have to make a play to take the pressure off him a little bit," he said. "Every time I touch the ball, I want to make something happen."
Childress shared a scouting report on Marshall.
"They're a good team," he said. "They run to the ball well. They come up and make tackles. Blocking will be a big key for this game. We can't take them lightly, even though they are a MAC team. They just came off a loss and that's really going to be on their mind.
"(OSU defensive coordinator and Marshall alum Mark) Snyder told us that during spring practice, three or four of their practices were geared toward playing us. That tells you right there they're trying to get ready."
Hall Has Several Happy Returns
Hall had become OSU's forgotten man at tailback. The senior missed spring practice after undergoing surgery on both knees. But when the season opened up, Hall was back there with the kick return unit. He had kick returns of 43 and 41 yards, the second one helping set OSU up for a touchdown that pushed the third-quarter lead to 17-6.
"Our special units player of the game was Mo Hall," Tressel said. "I thought his two kickoff returns, he and his unit had were two big momentum situations. Both times I think they were after the field goals that Cincinnati had kicked, brought the game tighter, one, they got out ahead and the other they brought the game tighter and seized a little bit of momentum and then we took the momentum right back away from them by bringing the ball out to near mid field and I thought that was a real plus for our young quarterbacks that as the game tightened up a little bit all of a sudden they didn't find themselves on their own 13 with 87 yards to go and I thought those were two huge plays."
Hall, a product of nearby Columbus Brookhaven, was happy to do his part after an off-season of uncertainty.
"I think everybody just gave it all their effort and did the best they could with their blocking," Hall said. "I tried to run the ball. I think everybody believed we were going to break one and we're still going to break one.
"I felt good. I felt like my knees don't hurt any more. I feel a lot better than I did last year."
Hall discussed what it takes to be successful on special teams.
"I think a lot of it is effort," he said. "They're coming down. You're going to get some blocks and it comes down to how long you're going to hold that block and how fast you're going to run. You have to time it up.
"For the returner, it's pretty much instinct. You're looking and you hit the hole. You just try to go."
Hall credited new assistant Darrell Hazell for energizing the return games.
"He has spent a lot of time with us on the kickoff return team," Hall said. "He has shown a lot of passion for it and he wants to be good at it."
Hall discussed Marshall coming into Ohio Stadium off a loss.
"They lost, but they're a good team," he said. "They're going to bounce back. They're going to come into Ohio Stadium and play. We just have to make sure we're ready."
Pittman's Fine Debut
Pittman, a product of Akron Buchtel, graduated early and enrolled at OSU in time to participate in spring football. He staked his claim to some playing time in the spring with a 105-yard game in the spring game.
Senior Lydell Ross got out of the block strong with a 141-yard game against UC. But Pittman also got his chances. He ripped off a nice 38-yard run as part of a seven-carry, 66-yard debut for the Buckeyes.
"It seemed like everything paid off with jumping from high school early," Pittman said. "That gave me a chance to learn the playbook and pick up my blocking assignments. I feel like that made a big difference for me."
Pittman said he got a chance to prepare for the college game against OSU's stellar run defense.
"I think that made me stronger by going against our defense every day," he said. "We feel like we have the best linebackers in the nation and our safeties are also very physical."
Pittman gained 5 yards on his first career carry.
"Our coaches always talk about trying to get at least 5 yards a carry," Pittman said.
On his big run, Pittman had a cramp that caused him to run out of bounds without being hit.
"I saw the end zone … and then my leg went out," Pittman said. "I think I might have scored if my leg hadn't tightened up."
Pittman said his teammates razzed him for going out of bounds.
"I heard it," he said. "They said, `Don't do it again.' But my left leg was bothering me. I have a contusion there to my thigh."
Pittman reflected on his first Saturday in the Horseshoe as a Buckeye.
"I was juiced," he said. "I've never come out of the tunnel with the crowd like that. It was good for me. I just hope everybody can feel that."