"I told Troy his performance was legendary, nothing short of that," said Gonzalez, who caught one of Smith's two touchdown passes in OSU's 37-21 win over Michigan. "You can't put into words how incredible it was. I told him, `Wait until you watch this film. You were amazing today. Congratulations.' He may not understand yet just how well he played. But he will."
Smith had the kind of day most quarterbacks will only dream of. In his first start against Michigan, Smith delivered the goods. He had 145 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries and also completed 13 of 23 passes for 241 yards and the two touchdowns.
"Playing the game, once you think like, what I'm doing is legendary, you take your mind off the task at hand," said Smith, who improved to 4-1 as a starting quarterback. "You have to keep going, you have to keep going forward, you have to keep pace and have to do the things necessary to move the ball down the field.
"If it was one of the legendary performances, I'm very grateful and thankful for the opportunity to do that, but I guess I really didn't think about it."
All day it seemed that Smith was just one step ahead of the Maize and Blue. He made good to great decisions most of the day and never committed a turnover. It was a much better day than the four-turnover performance (three interceptions and a fumbled pitch) he turned in in last Saturday's 24-17 loss at Purdue.
"I think Troy is one of those guys that's very willing to figure out and digest what it is he needs to do to meet the goal that he has," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "I thought he worked hard to work himself into opportunities playing and then when he got his opportunity playing, there were some great things he did and some things he needed to improve upon and he knew as he left West Lafayette that we weren't going to beat Michigan if we turned it over. Now, that didn't mean he felt horrible about his performance. He thought he did some good things, and he did.
"As I mentioned early in the week, he's competitive, he's tough, he studies it. He'll take a step every day as long as he stays as focused as he is."
Some of the milestones Smith accomplished on Saturday include:
* He became the first Ohio State quarterback to rush for 100 yards since Rod Gerald ran for 100 yards against Iowa on Oct. 15, 1977.
* Smith also became the first player in Ohio State history to rush for 100 yards and pass for 200 yards.
* Smith's 386 yards of total offense, ranks third all-time behind 388 by Joe Germaine at Penn State in 1997 and 412 by Art Schlitcher vs. Florida State in 1981. The 386 total yards are a record for a Buckeye against Michigan, passing Joe Germaine's 321 in 1998.
* With the 145 yards on the ground by Smith fell just 1 yard shy of the Ohio State record for a quarterback held by Cornelius Greene with 146 yards against Wisconsin in 1974.
* The 145 yards also serves as a season-high for Ohio State. Freshman Antonio Pittman had 144 yards against Indiana.
* Smith scrambled for 46 yards in the third quarter, marking a career long. (Rex Kern owns the Ohio State record for longest rush by a quarterback at 76 yards against Illinois in 1970.)
"I guess my take on everything would just be just trying to stay humble in everything that I do, understanding that it's not just me when I do what I do," Smith said. "It's something bigger than me. It's something higher than me. This game today was about Ohio State, our seniors, et cetera. I felt it down in the bottom of my heart, you know, to try and do and to fight and to scratch and to pull, to get every yard I could today and stay positive at the same time and lead my team."
Smith began the season as Justin Zwick's backup. But when Zwick went down with a shoulder injury in the 33-7 loss at Iowa, Smith stepped in and led OSU to three straight wins. His development has been a slow build to a day that nobody will soon forget.
"The road hasn't been that bad, you know," Smith said. "I guess I would say that everything that -- I'm not just going to say me in general, but everything that a human being gets is not always handed to him. You have to work hard. I worked extremely hard. I stayed positive, you know, and stayed on an even keel at all times. When you're a leader, you have to be able to do that, you can't sway to either side positive or negative, you have to stay even keel."
Smith said the players' chapel service Friday night touched him as did the words that senior linebacker Thomas Matthews spoke to the team before the game.
"Thomas Mathews, he felt it at the beginning of the game," Smith said. "Probably more so than me until I heard his words that was coming out of his mouth. Once I heard Thomas saying, I need to get a pair of Gold Pants … `We need to get a pair of gold pants for ourselves,' that really dawned on me, we need to do something today to win this game.
"We went balls out for 60 minutes. This was a tough game, Michigan was a tough team, they had great defense coming down the stretch. We just did some key things. We didn't turn the ball over, that's always a plus. We just came out with a victory."
Of course, it helps when you're able to come out and dial up a 68-yard touchdown on the game's first series, when the game was just over a minute old. Smith did just that by throwing a bomb to Anthony Gonzalez as OSU jumped ahead 7-0 before many had even settled into their seats.
"The first touchdown pass was a double post route with Ted sort of like being in the flat or intermediate, whatever you want to call it, on the corner," Smith said. "That was where I was going to go first, seeing Gonzalez had a couple steps on his man, Santonio was pretty much deep and out of the picture by the time I turned my head around, Gonzalez had his man flat footed. The safety couldn't turn around in time. The line gave me just enough protection."
Fullback Branden Joe pulled a UM defender away from Smith just as he attempted the pass.
"As my teammate told me, Brandon held him off just long enough for me to get the ball in the air," Smith said. "Gonzalez made a great play. That's one of the guys on the team that a lot of people forget about. I didn't feel (the pressure). I guess it was B. Joe watching my back."
Then, after Michigan moved ahead 14-7, OSU answered with a 99-yard scoring march to tie the game. Smith threw for 51 yards on the drive and also rushed for 24 more, including the 2-yard quarterback sneak for the touchdown that tied it up at 14-14.
"That helped a lot, knowing that even when we are hit back on the opposing team's minus yard line or whatever you want to call it," Smith said. "To know I can look at the other guys in the huddle and they have the same focus that I have to get down inside the red zone, possibly get a score, field goal, whatever it may be points-wise. That was huge for us today. The first long drive, just knowing that we could do this, and also, when we have our team meetings, going over the criteria offensively that we need to meet and match. That's the part of it. We had one with those two drives, probably an eight-play or more drive, that was huge for us."
Smith's second half exploits included a 12-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. That score was set up Smith's 46-yard run on a scramble.
"When he's back there, there's always a chance of him running the ball," said OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. "Not all of those were called runs. On some of those, he just took off. He's a big threat that way."
What They're Saying
Here's what Smith's teammates had to say about his command performance in the season's biggest game:
* Gonzalez -- "Troy is a fun quarterback to play with, he is a big-time competitor and he works very hard in practice."
* Holmes -- "It was good, man. He kept coming in the huddle before each series and just told us, `We've got to stick it out. We've got to keep fighting. We can't let up.' We just had to keep fighting and we did."
* Kicker Mike Nugent -- "I actually thanked Troy. I got to shake his hand and told him, `Thank you.' He's done such a great job. He was battling it out with Justin (Zwick) and that made it hard for him. But I think he realizes now, `I've got a job to do.' The offensive line did a great job giving him time. I'm really proud of him."
* Center Nick Mangold -- "Troy has great determination. Before the game he told the offensive line how much he appreciated us. That showed what kind of a leader he is. He got a lot done with the run today which opened up the passes."