Sunday Morning QB: Another Step Forward

We are back with our weekly roundup of Ohio State football, the Big Ten and the college football world at large. Today, we have a look at the win over Penn State as well as notes on Ted Ginn Jr., Rob Harley, Bobby Carpenter and more. Check it out!

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

We start with a look at OSU's win over Penn State:

* It seems there is the glass half-full crowd and the glass half-empty crowd out there today.

Ohio State just took an 11-point win over Penn State, a win that would be acceptable under any usual circumstances. But it was at home against a team that is 2-6 overall (the two wins being over MAC schools) and winless in Big Ten play.

The Buckeyes squeezed out 202 yards and one offensive touchdown against one of the nation's top 20 defensive units. But you'd say, "That's great," other than you've seen the same type of anemic performance from the offense all season against good defenses and bad alike.

You have to wonder, obviously, if this offense has what it takes to win what could be shootouts with Michigan State, Purdue and Michigan. By their own (low) standards, the offense might get 300 yards and 17 points in each of those three games and it might not be enough if the opponent just scratches out 21 points, which they each seem to do with regularity – well, at least not Purdue this past week.

OSU's bottom line against Penn State would have looked a lot better had the Buckeyes not committed a pair of costly turnovers. Antonio Pittman fumbled as OSU was going in at the PSU 20-yard line to possibly put the game away. Troy Smith's first turnover as the OSU quarterback came on his team's 40-yard line. That set up Penn State for its only touchdown of the game.

Of course, I think much of the criticism has come from people who were not at the game. Those who attended the game can attest that it was probably the windiest game at Ohio Stadium in recent memory.

After Penn State gift wrapped two touchdowns, the Buckeyes would have been crazy to "push the issue" by taking needless risks with the football. But, as we have noted, that conservative nature will not serve the Buckeyes well in the next three games.

The defense surrendered 177 yards rushing against Penn State as Tony Hunt and mobile quarterback Michael Robinson got a few things accomplished. It makes you wonder what Michigan's Michael Hart, in particular, might do in, say, three weeks.

But the bottom line is Ohio State got another victory it had to have. The Buckeyes are positioned to qualify for a bowl game with just one more win. Two victories could land OSU on New Years' Day at the Outback Bowl.

* Every year at Ohio State, a new star (or stars) emerge. Some of them like Chris Spielman, Andy Katzenmoyer and Maurice Clarett were destined for greatness from the moment they stepped on campus. Others get there through hard work.

I think Ted Ginn Jr. may fit into both categories, actually. We knew how good he could be when he came out of Cleveland Glenville. But even since the beginning of the year, Ginn has made strides – literally and figuratively – on the football field.

The freshman's 67-yard punt return for a touchdown to open the scoring against Penn State Saturday was a thing of beauty. He set the Nittany Lions up perfectly by drifting to his left just long enough to see the seam. Then, he burst through it with speed we haven't seen here since … well, I don't know.

It was Ginn's second punt return for a score this year. He discussed his progress.

"It just goes back to going to the Woody (Hayes Athletic Center) and learning every day," he said. "If you learn every day, ability will come through. I think I'm just comfortable from working on the things I've done wrong."

Ginn was asked who he followed as a kid growing up.

"I used to look at the Charles Woodsons, the Deion Sanders, the Desmond Howards," he said. "I had a picture of Desmond Howard on my wall at home. I always wanted to make a catch like that. Right now, I could look at it like Dante Hall. He's not fast, but as returners go nobody is as good as him."

So, Ted, what makes a great punt returner?

"A great punt returner is a guy who can get vertical as quick as possible," he said. "Once you get vertical, you can see which way you can go. If you get vertical as soon as you can, you have a better opportunity to break it. If you run east and west, there's more time for the defense to get into their lanes.

"I think a lot of guys try to use their speed to get around the corner. But if you get vertical, then get outside, then you have a chance."

OSU coach Jim Tressel was left to marvel at the star that has fallen into his lap.

"I've never seen one like him," Tressel said. "Teddy Ginn believes when he has his hands on the ball, he's going to make the play, and if we can get it to him enough, I'm sure he'll make a lot of plays.

"He's got a gear with the ball in his hands. You know, there are some track guys that are out there masquerading as football players. He's a football player. He has track speed. He's got gear.

"On that reverse, I mean, all of a sudden he got around the corner and how silly (for us) to hold. I mean, they're not gonna catch him. We should just have each of our guys drop to a knee," Tressel joked.

Ginn was asked what noise he hears in his earholes as he is running.

"Woosh," he replied. Can he hear the crowd as he takes off, "No, I can't hear nothing."

For several years, cornerback Dustin Fox has reputedly been OSU's fastest player. Even he isn't so sure now.

"He's a lot younger than I am, so I don't know," Fox said. "I'd have to get pretty stretched out. But he's fast, man. He definitely has a second gear. You could see it on that reverse. He's amazing."

* Ginn is among many OSU players who wear wristbands, a craze popularized by Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong. Some of the bands are yellow in color and, according to players, they were asked not to wear those during games. But many still do.

Ginn was asked about his bands: "One says `Live strong,' one says `You're a baller,' and the other two are Ohio State bands. I like them, I wear them. I try to live strong every day. When I'm on the field, I try to ball."

* E.J. Underwood not only lost his starting spot to Ashton Youboty at cornerback, it looks like he also lost his coveted jersey No. 2. There was Underwood out there wearing No. 29 on Saturday.

According to a source, the deal that allowed Underwood to move from No. 49 to No. 2 came with some strings. He's had some off the field problems (i.e. his injury last year) and the staff said he could move to his preferred No. 2, provided he kept his nose clean. Obviously, there's a reason for Underwood to now be wearing No. 29.

Hey, at least he's still on the field.

Likewise, if you read between the lines, Pittman's lack of action on Saturday (only seven carries after rushing for 141 yards the week before against Indiana) may have been due to some off-the-field issues as well. Tressel cited "punctuality issues." And, of course, Pittman never saw the ball again after his second half fumble.

* Linebacker Bobby Carpenter was in the Halloween spirit, dressed in a Top Gun flight suit. He and safety Rob Harley were to sport identical suits in the postgame as they planned to head to a Halloween bash. But Harley, who was to be Tom Cruise's Maverick character, suffered a knee injury during the game and was on crutches.

"Rob Harley and I were supposed to have a little get together tonight," Carpenter said. "He was going to be Maverick and I'm the Ice Man. We got a call from Miramar. Unfortunately, he got injured.

"We were just trying to have a good time. We always try to have a good time, on the field or off. It's just a game."

* How ironic is it that Harley sustained a season ending knee injury during the first half of the game where his great-great-uncle Chic Harley had his uniform No. 47 retired?

"It's not the best ending and not the way I would have had it, but you have no control over it," Harley said. "It was still a great day for Chic. You can't take that away from him.

"I was covering a punt. I planted my foot. I was going one way, a guy pushed me the other and my knee just gave. It happened in a split-second."

Tressel was saddened by the turn of events.

"Rob's going to be out for the year, which, you know, you talk about an ironic thing," the coach said. "He was so looking forward to this game. In fact, he wore Chic's number all week in practice, even though he couldn't, you know, wear it in the game because there's a guy named (A.J.) Hawk that wears it. But I feel bad for our Chic Harley, but I know it's an exciting day for that whole family.

"You know what Chic Harley meant to Ohio State. I'm sure none of us even fully can appreciate because it's not that close to us, but you hear some of the old-timers talk, there's no one like Chic Harley."

* Smith was asked after the game what he has learned after making two starts against Big Ten teams.

"The Big Ten is physical," he said with a smile. "You can't go out there and turn the ball over, playing at the collegiate level. I learned that this is a team game and team is in focus all the time."

* Tressel opened the door for senior tailback Lydell Ross to return to action next week at Michigan State. He has missed two games after being accused of spending counterfeit house money at a Columbus area strip club.

"He'll probably start this week eligible to play based upon what I know," the coach said. "You know, I haven't gotten any confirmation, per se, but based upon what I've been told. You know, it was tough for him to be out there this afternoon and not be able to walk out with his peers as captain and not be able to get in the game.

"But I thought he handled it well this week and ran scout team and did what he had to do, and now it's time to go forward, just like we would with anyone else."

Tressel added that Ross will likely retain his status as a team captain.

"I posed that question to our older guys, and -- because I don't know that his remaining captain is my decision more solely, because I didn't cast all the votes for him, I cast one, quite honestly, but his peers really would prefer that he remain a captain," Tressel said. "They didn't feel as if this week was the time, but they would like him to remain as one of the leaders."

Now for a look around the Big Ten:

* The Game of the Week was at No. 12 Michigan, where the Wolverines rallied from down 27-10 with seven minutes left to force overtime and then went on to defeat Michigan State 45-37 in triple overtime.

Braylon Edwards caught two touchdown passes to help the Wolverines erase their 17-point deficit. Then, he grabbed a third TD pass from freshman QB Chad Henne, who threw for 273 yards and four TDs, in triple overtime for the win. Edwards caught 11 passes for 189 yards -- breaking Anthony Carter's school record for career yards receiving. Freshman RB Michael Hart ran for 224 yards -- his third straight 200-yard game -- and a TD.

MSU quarterback Drew Stanton helped the Spartans build a 17-10 halftime lead before leaving with a separated shoulder. He is not expected to play next week against Ohio State.

The game lasted 4-1/2 hours and MSU still hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1990.

What We Learned: Michigan is having one of those destiny kind of years after scraping out tight wins over Minnesota, Purdue and now MSU … Nobody can check Edwards when the game is on the line … Henne and Hart are in for quite a three-year run … John L. Smith is the real deal at MSU … The Spartans are maybe a player of two away from being really something … There's nothing better than the tension of a college football game that goes into overtime.

* Indiana shocked No. 24 Minnesota 30-21. The Gophers, the nation's No. 3 rushing team, were held to 169 yards, more than 100 yards below its season average, in a 30-21 loss to Indiana. Minnesota, a prohibitive 18-point favorite, still hasn't won in Bloomington since 1985. IU beat two ranked teams in the same year for the first time since … well, I don't know.

"The only reward in this game is winning," said IU coach Gerry DiNardo. "It's no fun to practice, it's no fun to play and lose."

What We Learned: You can't assume any results, I guess, in the Big Ten.

* Northwestern stunned No. 17 Purdue 13-10. After winning their first five game, the Boilers have it in serious retrograde with their third straight defeat.

With NU coach Randy Walker just out of the hospital after dealing with an inflammation of the heart muscle, the Wildcats pulled out a dramatic win on Noah Herron's 4-yard TD run with 42 seconds left. Then, NU's Jeff Backes knocked away a desperation Purdue pass on the final play.

Purdue QB Kyle Orton, who was ailing, was pulled in the third quarter as things went from bad to worse for the Boilers.

What We Learned: You can't assume any results in the Big Ten, where everybody seems destined to finish right around five or six wins (everybody except Wisconsin and Michigan).

* Illinois lost to No. 23 Iowa 23-13, dropping its sixth game in a row and losing its 14th consecutive Big Ten game. Iowa QB Drew Tate threw for 243 yards and two TDs and also rushed for a score.

What We Learned: Iowa, with six wins, is headed to its fourth straight bowl game for Kirk Ferentz … Tate is definitely for real.

And a glance at headlines nationally

* The ACC was turned on its ear as a pair of national top-five powerhouses tasted defeat on the road.

North Carolina knocked No. 4 Miami (Fla.) from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 31-28 win on Conner Barth final play 42-yard field goal. The fans were so excited at UNC they stormed the field en masse and snagged both sets of goal posts. Miami fell for the first time in 12 games, dating to a 10-6 loss to Tennessee last year. Miami's Brock Berlin was 20-for-35 for 338 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Barth said. "I've never made a game-winner like that. That was the first one ever, and what a game to do it in."

The other upset came at Maryland, where the Terps shocked No. 5 Florida State 20-17. Joel Statham threw for 333 yards and ran for a score. Maryland defeated FSU for the first time in 15 tries.

Unbelievably, this marked the first time in 26 years that Florida, Florida State and Miami lost on the same day.

What We Learned: Wisconsin, without taking the field on Saturday, is suddenly a legitimate national championship contender … The old-line ACC teams aren't going to just roll over at the sight of Miami … Utah's hopes of crashing the BCS party got a major upgrade with FSU's second defeat.

* No. 10 Georgia ended a six-game losing streak against rival Florida with a 31-24 victory. Florida, which fired Ron Zook on Monday, had won 13 of the last 14 in the series.

* Oklahoma freshman RB Adrian Peterson rushed for 249 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown run, in the No. 2-ranked Sooners' 38-35 victory over No. 20 Oklahoma State.

What We Learned: Oklahoma can all but clinch the Big 12 South with a win over Texas A&M next week … Peterson is a load and he's going to set some records over the next couple of years.

* Nebraska's Cory Ross ran for a career-high 194 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cornhuskers to a 24-3 victory over Missouri.

* Kent State QB Joshua Cribbs ran for 223 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 150 yards and another score in a 42-16 win over Ohio.

* Baylor shocked No. 16 Texas A&M 35-34 as Shawn Bell threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Ziegler and they connected again for the winning two-point conversion in overtime.

* Texas El Paso – in disgraced head coach Mike Price's first year -- secured its second winning season in 16 years with a 38-20 victory over San Jose State.

* In a key Pac-10 game, No. 7 California blanked No. 20 Arizona State 27-0. Cal's J.J. Arrington had 188 yards and a touchdown and the Golden Bears forced five ASU turnovers in the win. Cal, which blanked Arizona 38-0 last week, won back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1968. ASU was shut out for the first time since 1995.

* Heisman Watch: OK, we're revamping the list. Oklahoma freshman RB Adrian Peterson has to be in the final five somewhere. That doesn't mean he necessarily wins it because with senority should come some privileges. But wow. Besides him, I have USC's Matt Leinhart, Cal's Aaron Rodgers, Oklahoma's Jason White and Texas' Cedric Benson.

* My new top 15: USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Wisconsin, Georgia, California, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Miami (Fla.), West Virginia, Boise State, Virginia, Louisville.

* Games to watch next week: Louisville-Memphis (Thursday), Oklahoma-Texas A&M, Oklahoma State-Texas, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Notre Dame-Tennessee, Purdue-Iowa.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Sept. 4, Cincinnati (4-4), beat TCU 21-10, Oct. 30; at Southern Miss, Nov. 6.

Sept. 11, Marshall (5-3), beat Central Florida 20-3, Oct. 30; at Akron, Nov. 5.

Sept. 18, at N.C. State (4-4), lost to Clemson 26-20, Oct. 30; vs. Georgia Tech, Nov. 6.

Sept. 25, idle

Oct. 2, at Northwestern (4-4), beat Purdue 13-10, Oct. 30; at Penn State, Nov. 6.

Oct. 9, Wisconsin (8-0), idle, Oct. 30; vs. Minnesota, Nov. 6.

Oct. 16, at Iowa (6-2), beat Illinois 23-13, Oct. 30; vs. Purdue, Nov. 6.

Oct. 23, Indiana (3-5), beat Minnesota 30-21, Oct. 30; at Illinois, Nov. 6.

Oct. 30, Penn State (2-6), lost to Ohio State 21-10, Oct. 30; vs. Northwestern, Nov. 6.

Nov. 6 (noon, ESPN), at Michigan State (4-4), lost to Michigan 45-37 (3 OT), Oct. 30; vs. Ohio State, Nov. 6.

Nov. 13 (TBA), Purdue (5-3), lost to Northwestern 13-10, Oct. 30; at Iowa, Nov. 6.

Nov. 20 (1 p.m., ABC), Michigan (8-1), beat Michigan State 45-37 (3 OT), Oct. 30; idle, Nov. 6; at Northwestern, Nov. 13.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan (8-1, 6-0)

Wisconsin (8-0, 5-0)

Iowa (6-2, 4-1)

Michigan State (4-4, 3-2)

Northwestern (4-4, 3-2)

Minnesota (6-3, 3-3)

Purdue (5-3, 2-3)

Ohio State (5-3, 2-3)

Indiana (3-5, 1-4)

Penn State (2-6, 0-5)

Illinois (2-7, 0-6)

Oct. 30 Results

Ohio State 21, Penn State 10

Northwestern 13, Purdue 10

Iowa 23, Illinois 13

Indiana 30, Minnesota 21

Michigan 45, Michigan 37 (3 OT)

Nov. 6 Results

Ohio State at Michigan State, noon (ESPN)

Northwestern at Penn State, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Indiana at Illinois, 1 p.m.

Minnesota at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Purdue at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)

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