Quarterbacks Reflect On Jersey Scrimmage

Ohio State's quarterbacks felt they played well in Sunday's jersey scrimmage. The offense dominated all afternoon, winning 93-39. We caught up with Justin Zwick and Troy Smith for their thoughts on the scrimmage and more.

Ohio State's offense cruised to a 93-39 win over the defense in Sunday's jersey scrimmage and from all accounts, the quarterbacks played well.

"We ran a lot of plays today," junior QB Justin Zwick said. "We just kind of rotated with the groups. Same situations, just different groups, and it was a good experience."

Zwick threw for two touchdowns and had one interception. He was not sure of his overall statistics.

"Curt Lukens got me in the end zone," Zwick said of his lone pick. "But overall, it went well. I felt good. Threw the ball away when needed and had some completions. So, we're working."

Zwick said the offense took a lot of positives away from the way it performed Sunday.

"I felt good about it," he said. "The offense scored a lot of points and with the scoring system it's hard for us to score a lot of points unless we score a lot of touchdowns and get a lot of first downs. So, I think it went well. All around, it went well. We held on to the ball, didn't have too many turnovers and kept them out of the game.

"Jersey scrimmage is something that you want to perform well in. It's a big test for you."

And it also gives the offense bragging rights, at least until the fall jersey scrimmage.

"Yeah, it does," Zwick said. "Especially with the spanking that we put on them. You know, 40-some points. It is nice."

With a year of playing time under his belt, Zwick is a more polished quarterback this spring.

"I'm very comfortable out there," he said. "I've been here for a few years now and I've been through this for a few times. Just knowing that I've been there before and been in these scrimmages before and certain situations, it's nice to have that experience under my belt."

Zwick wasn't sure how many turnovers the offense had on Sunday, but he said there weren't too many.

"I think the biggest thing – and the coaches always say, ‘If you don't turn the ball over in these scrimmages you're going to win with the way the scoring is.' Today, we had a few turnovers, but not enough to hurt us that bad where they could get back in the game. So, just holding on to the ball and moving it, getting those first downs and getting points is what helped us win today."

Both sides had players that missed the game due to injuries.

"I think the biggest thing with Roy (Hall) and Santonio (Holmes) being out, we had younger guys stepping up at the receiver position and making plays for us," Zwick said. "And a lot of times they might not even know what's going on, but they're out there and if you tell them, they're going to run their route. So, that was the biggest thing I saw today. Those guys really stepped up and helped us out with the secondary groups."

Zwick also gave a favorable review of tailbacks Antonio Pittman and Erik Haw.

"I think they both have what it takes," he said. "They're both hard workers and they both run the ball hard. They held on to it well today. I don't think they had any fumbles. They are going to work hard for us and I'm just excited about the more opportunities they get to play, the better they're going to be."

One of Zwick's touchdown passes was to Ted Ginn Jr.

"Ted had a nice little eight-yard catch, turned it into a 25-yard TD," Zwick said. "I gave that one to him. Just a little eight-yard hitch and he took it up and made a big play for us."

Zwick did not downplay the importance of Sunday's scrimmage. He thinks it was an encouraging sign for the offense.

"It's exciting for us," he said. "I think my last series we had a 17-play drive. Started at the one and just took it down the field. That's going to take up a lot of clock in a game and I think if we're able to do that, we'll be able to do a lot of what we want and have them (adjust) to us."

The Buckeyes mixed up their offensive formations throughout the scrimmage.

"We had a little bit of everything," Zwick said. "We had two backs in, two backs/two tights, one back/three wide. Whatever we needed."

Zwick does not think that OSU fans should be alarmed about the performance of the defense. Yes, the unit only scored 39 points and did not put much pressure on the quarterbacks. But Zwick explained one of the factors that led to the defense's bad day.

"A lot of that has to do with the reins that (head coach Jim) Tressel had on them," he said. "What they could run, what kind of stunts and what not."

The other reason the defense did not pressure the quarterbacks was that the offensive line played so well.

"Our O-line has done a great job," Zwick said. "We've got a lot of guys back from the starting O-line we had last year and they're working hard and getting better. And a lot of young guys are stepping up that were freshman last year – redshirted – they're stepping up. All three groups had a solid line in front of them and I think that's a big plus for us."

Zwick said there was a lot of good-natured talking amongst the players during the scrimmage.

"Yeah, we had a lot of jawing going on out there today – probably a little more than Coach Tressel would like," he said. "But, we're just out there having fun and having a good time. It's another practice for us and we don't want to put too much pressure on ourselves."

Zwick is obviously not surprised that Saturday's spring game is expected to draw 60,000 fans to Ohio Stadium.

"The longer you're here, the less surprising it is," he said. "We have great fan support and they're itching to get some football and we're going to have that game so they'll be able to come out and watch us."

* Junior quarterback Troy Smith had one rushing touchdown on Sunday. He did not have any passing touchdowns, nor did he have any turnovers.

"I think we had a good day today," Smith said. "We cut down on our turnovers. The quarterbacks the whole way around made some good decisions. Offensively, we finished every play. At least tried to. We were pretty productive and did the things that we wanted to do today and we kept the jerseys."

Smith said that OSU's young tailbacks got the job done on Sunday.

"Did real good," he said. "Steady run game is key throughout the season and they will assert that into our offense. Pittman overall, he had a real good day. Haw, he had a good day too. So, you've got two solid guys."

Smith was asked which of the young receivers stood out.

"Albert Dukes did a great job today," he said.

But the play of the day went to, who else, Ginn.

"Teddy made the biggest play today," Smith said. "I'm not sure if Todd (Boeckman) or Justin threw it, but I know it was just a routine six route, we call that a curl. He caught the ball, made a couple guys miss and split defenders for a touchdown pass."

Smith says he is more comfortable than ever leading the offense.

"Last year, getting some experience, I'm pretty much used to it," he said. "I know what we need production-wise and I'm pretty comfortable with it."

Overall, he says the sky is the limit for OSU's talented offense in 2005.

"We looked good today," Smith said. "We showed some glimpses of being able to break some records coming this season – hopefully. Offensively, we were just there today."

Which records does Smith think the offense can break this season?

"Any one we can. Any one we can," he said.

When asked to give the most encouraging thing that came out of the scrimmage, Smith gave credit to the big guys up front.

"To me, my offensive line did a great job today," he said. "You know, kept the pressure off me, Justin and Todd. Got a chance to really exploit them with step-ups and things like that. Throwing the ball to the backs that we don't usually do. It went pretty good today.

"Our young centers did a great job today. Guys like Jimmy (Cordle). We put a lot on our centers' shoulders as far as picking up fronts, calling things out, which way are they going to take the block in protection, things of that matter. So, they did great today."

The quarterbacks were live on Sunday. Many times during scrimmages, Tressel makes the quarterbacks wear black, no-contact jerseys. They are basically playing touch football while everyone else is playing tackle. But on Sunday, it was just like a real game, even for the signal callers.

"Yes, that's the way I like it," Smith said. "I like being live out there."

Like Zwick mentioned, Smith says no one should be alarmed about the performance of OSU's defense.

"You know, I can't really speak for the defense," he said. "But game time, they show up. Always. Every game that I've been here, they've always showed up to play.

"To tell you the truth, the defense is struggling a little bit, but it's not that much. We've got great guys on the defensive side of the ball that are going to step up and be there for us when we come to play Miami of Ohio."

Smith thought a few veteran defensive players stood out on Sunday.

"Nate Salley, A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, they're just out there doing what they do," he said. "Laying the wood, filling the gaps, all of those things."

For Smith and the rest of the Buckeyes, it was their first time playing in Ohio Stadium since the 37-21 win over Michigan last November.

"It felt pretty good," Smith said. "Just being back out there with the guys, the camaraderie with those guys is unreplaceable. So, it felt good."

Smith was asked how much the 2004 Michigan game raised his already high confidence level.

"You know, the Michigan game was last year," he said. "Don't really think about that. This year is what's going on now. My confidence level, like you said, has always been there and will never leave. So, I wouldn't say that game gave me any more confidence. It just showed that I can help my team win a big game."

Many have said that Smith's nearly 400 yards of total offense in the Michigan game was the best performance by an OSU quarterback in the history of the rivalry. What goes through his mind when he hears comments like that?

"I blush first. I blush first," Smith said. "Because there's a lot of greats that have played in that game. Eddie George, Archie Griffin, Chris Spielman, Randy Gradishar, Cornelius Greene, the list goes on and on. For me to be able to be a part of the record books like that, it's huge."

Was that performance as good as it gets for Smith, or can he do better?

"It can always get better," he said.

During the offseason, Smith says he plans on spending a lot of hours in the film room.

"Film study. Film study for me is always key," he said. "The more I get in there and watch film, the better quarterback I'll be able to become. For me, that's pretty much it. Going out there day in and day out, leading the guys, stepping up and being the leader that I can be is always going to be huge for me."

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