Buckeye Offense Breaks Out Against Hoosiers

The much-maligned Ohio State offense did plenty of good things against Indiana on Saturday, and after the game, Troy Smith, Antonio Pittman, Santonio Holmes, and others talked about the output on the afternoon.

Ohio State fans had been clamoring to see more of Troy Smith and Antonio Pittman, and they got them both in the same game when the personnel decisions by Jim Tressel for the Indiana game were practically made for him.

Smith drew the starting assignment at quarterback when it was determined that Justin Zwick would not be game-ready for the Hoosiers, while Pittman, although he technically didn't start the game, became the featured running back in the contest because of the Lydell Ross fiasco.

"I thought Troy played with a lot of confidence," Tressel said. "I think he knew most all of the time what was going on around him and what he needed to do. The best thing, you've heard us say for a hundred years, is that no matter who the coach is you can't turn the ball over, and we didn't. And you've got to come up with some plays and he did. And he got some good balance from his run game, and so I thought he, obviously, played with the type of velocity that we needed to win the game and it was great to see."

Pittman has shown flashes of brilliance at running back ever since the spring when he enrolled early at Ohio State. He got his most extensive action of the season against Indiana and rushed the ball 20 times for 144 yards, scoring his first career collegiate touchdown on a 28-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.

"Antonio Pittman, we've been mentioning all along, is going to be a very good player," Tressel said. "I think the guys in front of him, at least I hope it's true that the guys in front of him, really created some opportunities for him and then he found the spots. I think the more Antonio plays, the better he is going to be."

When asked during the post-game press conference, Tressel commented on some of Pitman's attributes that give him the potential to be a great running back at Ohio State.

"I think Antonio has good vision and he has excellent lateral movement," Pitman said. "There are some guys that just see things. I think he wouldn't necessarily sit there and be able to draw up the defense's look but he can feel the bodies and he can feel who's coming from where. And I think the more plays and the more he carries, the better Antonio will be."

Tony Gonzalez was another relatively new contributor to the offense, and it's not by accident that he's seeing increased playing time. He had two catches for 21 yards in the game, and on one of those receptions he had to climb the ladder in order to make a spectacular grab of a ball thrown high by Smith that resulted in a first down.

"We're really excited about Tony's progress," Tressel said. "Tony may be as fast of a guy in the 40-yard dash as there is on our team. He has great explosion. He was hampered a little with a hamstring through spring and early preseason. I think he was worried that it might come back because hamstrings are tough, especially on guys that run fast. I think his last two and half or three weeks have been excellent practice-wise. And then all of the sudden game-wise, doing the types of things he did in practice. We're real high on him. I thought the one he jumped up and caught was a huge play in what was going on in the game. Tony Gonzalez, we think, has earned the opportunities that he's gotten and he's responded well to them."

With Smith under center, Ohio State scored touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game. The Buckeyes capped a six play, 80-yard drive with a 59-yard catch and run to the end zone by true freshman Ted Ginn. On a simple five-yard hitch pattern, Ginn grabbed a tipped ball out of the air and raced through Indiana defenders for the score. On the second drive of the game for the OSU offense, Santonio Holmes grabbed a five yard pass from Smith for another quick score and a 14-0 lead.

"There were very big plays by all the guys," Holmes said. "We're having a little quarterback controversy, but we still got to make plays regardless. We can't moan and grope around about Justin's hurt because our team is going to be down. We've got another guy that wants to help lead this team just as well as Justin does, and we've got to catch balls and make plays for him."

Holmes got his touchdown on a five-wide set at the five yard line.

"I knew he would give a quick call so my objective was to get in the end zone as quick as possible and get to the pylon away from the defender," he said. "And he put it where it needed to be."

At least for this week there was marked improvement in both the running and passing game for the Buckeye offense.

"It was really on the offensive line," Holmes said. "They had been practicing great all week and they just got out on the field today and showed it."

A lot of the criticism for the lack of offense this year has been aimed at the guys on the offensive line this year, and they're aware of it and working hard to change that perception.

"We work real hard and we do what we need to get done, and do it to perfection, so our skill guys are able to do what they can," center Nick Mangold said. "I think we made a good step in that direction this week. Having practiced real hard and having a good game today, I think that's a good step to try to level out some of that blame that is put all over."

After three Mike Nugent field goals of 29. 52 and 35 yards, Pittman tacked on his touchdown run from 28 yards out, covering the last three or so yards in the air, to complete the scoring.

"I just felt like I needed to dive, so I dove," Pittman said with a chuckle. "Yeah they're going to yell at me, but it was my first touchdown, who wouldn't want to dive."

In all it was a special game and a memorable day for Smith, who completed 12 of 24 passes for 161 yards, in leading the team to victory in front of a Homecoming crowd.

"Before the game, Thomas Matthews spoke to us and I could just sense it all through him that he was ready for today, he really needed this win," Smith said. "It touched me and I'm sure it touched everybody else in that locker room. You see how we came out."

It was important for the offense to play a starring role in the win over Indiana and they did.

"We set a goal every game to score 24 points or more. When we score 24 points or more, our winning percentage is like 96 percent," Smith said. "So this win today was huge for the offense because we got in the end zone the times that we needed to; rushing, passing, the whole nine."

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