Smith Holding On Tightly To QB Job

Sophomore quarterback Troy Smith discussed the Alamo Bowl as well as his hold on the starting quarterback job for the Buckeyes. He also reflected on his performance in the win over Michigan.

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith is looking forward to the Alamo Bowl match-up with Oklahoma State Dec. 29 in San Antonio.

"I'm just happy to be in a bowl," said Smith, the hero of OSU's season-ending win over Michigan. "I know it's a worthy opponent. We're just looking forward to having a chance to showcase our talents again on the 29th. It should be a good day for us. I know they're going to be up for the challenge and so are we.

"To get a chance to go back out there and rekindle some of the fire we left after beating Michigan … just a chance to go out and do some positive things and get the ball rolling for next year. On this season, we want to end on a positive note.

"A lot of teams are defined on how they finish. If you start off strong, but finish bad that's the mark that will stay with you. As long as we finish strong, it should be OK."

Smith rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown and also threw for 241 yards and two scores in the 37-21 win over Michigan.

"I think I did pretty good," Smith said of his performance. "I think I did OK."

After each game, players suggest a grade to their position coaches. Smith was asked if this was a winning performance.

"Yeah, it was. I think it was the first one of the season by a quarterback," he said. "Our last practice before that game was pretty good. It was a great day as far as that game went, to go out with a bang like that."

Particularly of note in that win was Smith's 68-yard touchdown bomb to Anthony Gonzalez. The third-down play, just 1:13 into the game, gave OSU a quick 7-0 lead and set the tone for the day.

"It was a great catch," Smith said. "The (pass protection) was there, too. When they counted it down, it was like seven or eight seconds. They gave me a lot of time to make the decision to come back and he was the third guy on that route. My hat's off to my linemen, the guys up front. They gave me the time to make that decision and Tony made a great play on the ball."

Smith was asked if he takes the starting job for granted after leading OSU to such a big win.

"No, I don't," he said. "I just want to keep moving forward, keep being positive and keep leading the team. Jobs are won and lost every day. The guy who is behind me now is a play away or an injury away from being the starter again, so you never know."

Smith said he will always be on guard about losing his job.

"That's how I will always be because I know as soon as I let off the gas, then I start slowing down," he said. "I need to keep moving."

OSU coach Jim Tressel said Smith would start the Alamo Bowl. He has been impressed with the way Smith guided the Buckeyes to a 4-1 finish down the stretch.

"Troy Smith took advantage of continuing to learn throughout the year," Tressel said. "He progressed through the course of time, especially the latter half of the season. ... I think guys respect someone who fought their way up and Troy fought his way up from the second-string spot. That's a bonus to the guys in the huddle and Troy continues to build on that."

However, Tressel did not rule out using Justin Zwick, whom Smith supplanted at midseason.

"We'll prepare both guys as if they're going to play, and both those guys as if they can win the game for us," Tressel said. "As it draws closer, we can better answer that question."

This year's bowl game is a far cry from last year for Smith. A year ago at this time, he was emulating Kansas State's Ell Roberson as the Buckeyes prepared for the Fiesta Bowl. After that 35-28 win, many of his teammates said Smith was better than Roberson, who they faced in the game.

"Yeah, last year I was Ell Roberson," Smith said. "Now, this year, I hope somebody is playing me."

Smith knows that Oklahoma State, 7-4 like Ohio State, can be a dangerous team.

"Every team we play will give Ohio State their best game," he said. "I think Oklahoma State was asked about the teams they could face and he just said they wanted the opportunity to play against Ohio State. That's huge. They're going to show up for this game, and I'm sure we're going to, too."

When asked about what comes to mind when he thinks of the Big 12, Smith said, "I think of (Nebraska's) Tommie Frazier. I think of toughness. I think the Big 12, the Big Ten and the SEC are the toughest conferences to play in. The Big 12 has a couple of elite schools, just as we have in our conference. I know they're going to bring their whole ball of wax."

Of course, reporters then asked Smith if he patterns his game after Frazier.

"No, I wouldn't say I pattern my game after Frazier," he said. "I just think he's probably the most notable player I know of from the Big 12."

And Smith took a second to cast an eye toward next season. He figures to have his top three receiving threats – Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn Jr. and Gonzalez – back next year.

"I think we can be pretty strong," Smith said. "We'll have a pretty stable backbone. The identity of our team will be there and we should be able to compete with the elite teams around the nation. We're always going to be that group of guys that doesn't give up or just settles for what we have. We're going to keep scrapping every day."


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