Buckeyes Cruise Past Miami (Ohio) 34-14

Justin Zwick threw for 155 yards and a touchdown, Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. each had TD grabs and Antonio Pittman had 100 yards on 17 carries as the Buckeyes rolled to a 34-14 victory over Miami (Ohio) in Saturday's season opener. Click this free link for more. (NOTE: This story updated at 5:15 p.m. with quotes and more notes, including a list of debuting players.)

Sixth-ranked Ohio State came into its season opener Saturday against Miami (Ohio) hoping to make a statement and put last year's disappointing 8-4 season behind it.

Consider that statement made.

The Buckeyes outgained Miami 382-298 in total yardage and rolled to a 34-14 win before 104,695 on a beautifully sunny afternoon at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes led 34-0 after three quarters before Miami scored a couple of late touchdowns against OSU's reserves.

OSU coach Jim Tressel liked his team's attention to detail. The Buckeyes were focused on Miami – and not on next Saturday's showdown with No. 2 Texas (8 p.m., ABC).

"A lot of people tried to get these guys to think a little ahead and think out forward, and what I've been impressed about them throughout the course of time is they focused on every practice and focused on every scrimmage," Tressel said. "I thought their focus was excellent in this football game.

"We also know we're going to have to be much, much better next Saturday night," Tressel said. "But I thought we focused on the task at hand today and took another half step forward."

Junior Justin Zwick started at quarterback for OSU with Troy Smith serving the second of a two-game suspension for receiving illegal extra benefits. Zwick gave the coaching staff plenty to think about in terms of who should start against Texas.

Zwick completed 17 of 23 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also added 25 yards rushing on five carries.

"I thought Justin was very efficient," Tressel said. "He had the one play that we all wish we had back. There was a little miscommunication with the running back and instead of just throwing it through the goal post or up into the band up there, he tried to make something else happen. When you have a mistake, you don't want to compound it with another mistake and that's what we did.

"Outside of that play, I thought he was very efficient. He stepped up and ran when he needed to. He got it to the right guys. His distribution was very good, and I don't think you can say, ‘They only throw it to this guy or that guy.' I thought he played well."

Zwick piloted a new-look OSU offense, predicated on three- and four-wide receiver sets with limited use of the tight end or fullback positions.

"We won today, and that's all I was worried about," Zwick added. "It was nice to be back in the ‘Shoe and to hear the cheers going on. The atmosphere of game day and the Skull Session, that all makes it fun to be back. And to play so well as a group, that makes it even better. Now we'll get ready to play Texas."

Ted Ginn Jr. had five catches for 75 yards, including a 42-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Todd Boeckman.

"It was fun," Ginn said. "We came out and played hard, did some things and hit them real early. It was great. We have some very good receivers and a great tailback. We try to get the ball to everybody and just have fun."

Santonio Holmes caught five passes for 74 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown grab to open the scoring and cap a workmanlike 12-play drive.

Sophomore Antonio Pittman made his first career start at tailback. He went for 100 yards on 14 carries.

"I thought Antonio Pittman played well," Tressel said. "I don't know how many times he got to carry. We were hoping it would be 15 or 20 and we were hoping that Mo Wells might get 10 or so and Brandon Schnittker five or 10. But I thought Antonio showed that he's got some burst and, again, I think it was a good first step for him."

Junior safety Donte Whitner made a big mistake late in the first half by roughing Miami punter Jake Richardson. But on the very next play, he jumped an out pass by Miami's Josh Betts, made the interception and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown. The play staked OSU to a 20-0 halftime lead.

Betts, who threw for 3,495 yards and 23 touchdowns for Miami a year ago, ended up 24 of 44 passing for 250 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

OSU registered five sacks of Betts.

"I thought the defensive unit did a great job," Tressel said. "They created the play that made the difference, which was the interception for the touchdown. They held them at bay, gave us great field position. I thought (new defensive coordinator Jim Heacock) handled it great and the results speak for themselves. And, again, the only thing I'm disappointed about is that we didn't keep it as a shutout but, you know, we didn't."

As It Happened

Miami won the toss and elected to defer, giving the Buckeyes the ball first. OSU rode a controlled passing game down the field to the season's first touchdown. The Buckeyes moved 74 yards in 12 plays. Zwick completed 6 of 7 passes for 41 yards on the drive. He found Roy Hall for 7 yards on a crossing pattern on the first play before Pittman ripped off a 17-yard run.

The Buckeyes converted five first downs on the opening drive, including a nifty 5-yard screen pass to Pittman on third-and-4 at the 19. Two plays later, Zwick saw Holmes locked up in single coverage with Miami's Darrell Hunter. He threw the ball in the left corner of the end zone, where Holmes made a leaping, diving grab for the 20-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 9:24 left in the first quarter.

"(Hunter) came up and pressed me," Holmes said. "He grabbed my face mask a little. I was running with my head down. As soon as I looked up, the ball was placed in the perfect place. I just stuck my hands out and caught the ball.

"It was my first catch of the game and it felt good that my first catch was a touchdown. And it also started off the new year right, so it felt good."

After forcing a Miami punt, the Buckeyes moved 63 yards in nine plays on their second possession. The drive opened with a 23-yard Zwick pass to Holmes on a slant. Then, Zwick hit Ginn with a screen pass that went for 25 yards down to the Miami 5.

But Pittman lost 2 yards on first down, Zwick's second-down pass to Hall was overthrown incomplete in the end zone and the third down pass found Hall at the 3-yard line. Huston came on and hit a 20-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

OSU drove into scoring possession in its third possession as well. But Zwick was pressured on a broken play on second-and-10 at the Miami 17 and threw a wobbly pass off his back foot that Miami's Hunter intercepted in the back of the end zone.

"It was supposed to be a run play," Holmes said. "I think the communication just got screwed up. I think he was trying to throw it away."

The miscue did not hurt Ohio State, though, as the defense forced a punt and the OSU offense responded with a 15-play, 70-yard march. Zwick found Holmes for gains of 16 and 11 yards on this possession. A 6-yard screen to Ginn converted a fourth-and-1 at the Miami 21. But on third-and-7 at the 12, Zwick again threw underneath to Hall for only a 2-yard gain. Huston's 27-yard field goal pushed the lead to 13-0 with 2:39 left in the first half.

The Buckeyes had Miami backed up late in the half and forced Jake Richardson to punt out of his own end zone. But OSU's Whitner roughed Richardson in a block attempt, giving Miami a fresh set of downs at its own 21. But on first down there, Betts tried a pass in the right flat. Whitner jumped the route and made the easy interception. His 26-yard return for a touchdown gave the Buckeyes a 20-0 lead with 1:21 left in the first half.

OSU forced a Miami punt on the first series of the second half, then drove 80 yards in nine plays to another score. Zwick found Gonzalez for an 11-yard gain. Pittman then got 13 yards on an inside give. A pass interference penalty on Miami's Hunter on a deep pass to Holmes gave OSU a first down at the Miami 41. OSU converted first downs on a 7-yard keeper by Zwick, a 9-yard scamper by Pittman and a 7-yard run down to the 1 by freshman Maurice Wells.

On first down there, Brandon Schnittker plowed into the end zone from 1 yard out over left guard behind blocks by Stan White Jr., Steve Rehring and pulling guard T.J. Downing. OSU led 27-0 with 7:09 left in the third quarter.

"It was great to score my first touchdown," said Schnittker, who finished with 7 yards on four carries in his first game at tailback. "The offensive line did a great job there. I didn't even get touched. They did a great job all day. They controlled the line of scrimmage and they controlled the tempo of the game."

Miami then moved 51 yards to the OSU 34. But on fourth-and-8 there, Betts was hit by OSU end Mike Kudla and fumbled. OSU's Marcus Green recovered the fumble.

Boeckman then relieved Zwick and guided a three-play, 58-yard scoring possession. After Wells got 3 yards on first down, Boeckman hit Gonzalez for a 13-yard gain on his first career completion. One play later, Boeckman saw Ginn juke Miami's Frank Wiwo and hit him in stride near the goal line on a 42-yard post route for the touchdown and a 34-0 lead with 2:08 left in the third.

"It was just a little double move type route and I was open," Ginn said. "Todd is a great quarterback. He seems to like to throw it long. He always looks at the longest man. I was his key today."

Miami tallied its only score late in the game, driving against OSU's second-team defense. The RedHawks drove 73 yards in 15 plays before Jimmy Calhoun scored on a 3-yard touchdown with 2:29 left.

Then, after OSU's Malcolm Jenkins fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Betts dialed up Ryne Robinson for a 35-yard touchdown to trim the gap to 34-14 with 1:11 left. Betts got redshirt freshman Brandon Underwood to bite on a pump fake on the play.

Game Notes

* The starting lineup on offense was as published earlier in the week with Doug Datish at left tackle, with the exception of tight end. OSU went with four receivers and no tight end or fullback with Roy Hall the fourth receiver.

Defensively, the lineup was as published with David Patterson at defensive end. When the Buckeyes went to the nickel look, in most cases they pulled a defensive lineman and inserted Brandon Mitchell as the nickel back.

* Linebacker A.J. Hawk led OSU with 10 tackles, including a sack. Cornerback Ashton Youboty also had eight stops.

* OSU now has an all-time opening game record of 100-12-4. The Buckeyes have now won six straight season openers, dating to a 1999 loss to Miami (Fla.) in the Kickoff Classic. OSU has also won 27 consecutive home openers, dating to a 1978 loss to Penn State.

* The Buckeyes have now also won 38 consecutive nonconference games in Ohio Stadium. That string dates to a 1990 loss to USC. Ohio State has won 22 of its last 23 games overall at home.

* Tressel is now 41-11 in his fifth season as the OSU coach, including 26-3 at home.

* This was the fourth meeting ever between OSU and Miami. OSU also won the three previous match-ups all in Columbus, including a 27-16 decision in 2000. OSU also won 80-0 in 1904 and 3-0 in 1911.

* Ohio State is now 20-1 all-time against the MAC. Akron notched the only win (12-6) at the 1894 Ohio State Fair. OSU did not play any Ohio opponents from 1935 until 1992, when the Buckeyes hosted Bowling Green and took a 17-6 win.

OSU began scheduling MAC opponents on an annual basis in 1997. The results since then: 1997, Bowling Green (44-13); 1998, Toledo (49-0); 1999, Ohio U. (40-16); 2000, Miami (27-16); 2001, Akron (28-14); 2002, Kent State (51-17); 2003, Bowling Green (24-17); and 2004, Marshall (24-21).

* True freshmen debuting for Ohio State included Malcolm Jenkins, Maurice Wells, Alex Boone, Jamario O'Neal, James Laurinaitis, Lawrence Wilson and Brian Robiskie. Wells netted 10 yards on seven carries at tailback.

* Redshirt freshmen playing their first game ever included Shaun Lane, Brandon Underwood, Brandon Smith, A.J. Trapasso, Nick Patterson, Albert Dukes, Todd Boeckman, Alex Barrow and Nader Abdallah. Junior linebacker John Kerr also saw his first action as a Buckeye. He had not played college ball since his freshman year at Indiana in 2002. Kerr tallied three tackles. Underwood also had three stops.


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