Zwick Makes His Case To Start Vs. Texas

The question will linger for at least a few more days as OSU coach Jim Tressel will wait to announce which of his junior quarterbacks -- Justin Zwick or Troy Smith -- will start next Saturday's big game with No. 2 Texas. Zwick threw for 155 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Miami (Ohio). Todd Boeckman also made his debut and threw for a score. Click here for more.

The victory bell was still chiming in the southeast tower of Ohio Stadium following Ohio State's 34-14 win over Miami (Ohio) when OSU coach Jim Tressel was asked the question of all questions: Who would start at quarterback for next Saturday's OSU-Texas game (8 p.m., ABC).

"Vince Young will probably start, I'm guessing," Tressel joked, alluding to the Texas standout whom the Buckeyes will face next Saturday.

Tressel's response was not the answer reporters were looking for, though. Inquiring minds wanted to know where Tressel stood with the decision he faces on which of his junior quarterbacks – Justin Zwick or Troy Smith – will start the showdown with No. 2 Texas.

Smith, who keyed a 4-1 late-season run last year, missed the 2005 season opener against Miami while he served the second of a two-game suspension for receiving illegal extra benefits from an OSU booster.

Just as he did for last December's Alamo Bowl win over Oklahoma State, Zwick – who had started OSU's first six games in 2004 before going down with an injury – stepped in and handled the quarterback duties well against Miami. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 155 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the RedHawks. He also carried the ball five times for 25 yards.

Tressel seemingly wants to keep the cat in the bag a while longer.

"I want you guys to have a mysterious weekend so when we get together again (Tuesday), we'll talk about it," he said.

Prior to the game, Tressel said he and his staff would use the performance of the quarterbacks in preseason camp and also look at Zwick's play in the opener in deciding who would start and play against Texas.

It was clear that Zwick's performance did not diminish his bid to play at least some role against the Longhorns.

"I thought he definitely made progress," Tressel said. "When you come and do what you're supposed to do and show the efficiency that he did -- I haven't seen his numbers, I haven't graded his film, I haven't studied his footwork, you know, those kind of things. But from where I stood, I thought he did well and that's great for Ohio State."

Zwick was pleased with his effort. He helped lead OSU to a 27-0 lead before leaving the game midway through the third quarter.

"I thought it went really well," he said. "We weren't able to get into the end zone as much as I wanted, but it was good overall. I just wanted to come out and have fun and not put too much pressure on myself. Now I am going to have to prepare for next week."

Tressel said he did not expect Zwick to press against Miami in hopes of impressing the coaching staff. Zwick showed no ill effects from missing about a week of preseason camp with a sprained ankle.

"I don't think that that's his makeup," Tressel said. "He studies the game well. He knows what's going on. I thought he made good decisions outside of the (interception). As I mentioned a couple days ago, he missed five or six days with an ankle sprain, and sometimes guys lose their focus mentally. I thought he did a great job of staying in it and staying on top of what we were doing and, you know, you can get better even when you're watching."

Zwick gave credit to the offense, which amassed 160 yards rushing and 222 yards passing.

"Anytime you're able to run the ball like we were able to, that helps," he said. "We had over 150 yards rushing, which was great. We had a lot of guys touch the ball receiver-wise."

Zwick got to pilot OSU's new offense, which relied heavily on three- and four-wide receiver sets. In fact, OSU's favorite formation appeared to be singling one receiver on one side and going with trips – including weapon deluxe Ted Ginn Jr. – on the other.

"We have a lot of playmakers and they know the offense so well," Zwick said. "It's nice to have a lot of weapons like that. As a quarterback, you can go this way or that way and the defense has to worry about all of the different things you can do."

Zwick completed 6 of 7 passes for 41 yards on OSU's opening 12-play, 74-yard touchdown drive. He capped that drive with a 20-yard touchdown toss to Santonio Holmes, who was the single receiver locked on man coverage to the left in that same formation described above.

"We knew they wanted to play man a lot," Zwick said. "The safety had to keep an eye on those three guys on the other side. That's what is great about having all of those weapons over there because they have to guard against the bubble (screen to Ginn).

"Santonio ran a great route and made a great play on the ball."

The one big mark against Zwick was his interception. It came with OSU up 10-0 in the second quarter. On second-and-10 from the Miami 17, Zwick and tailback Brandon Schnittker got their signals crossed on the play call. Zwick tried to throw the ball away, but Miami's Darrell Hunter caught the wobbly pass and got two feet down in the back of the end zone for the pick.

"Brandon and I weren't on the same page," Zwick said. "I did not communicate well enough with him. He still thought it was the old play. I compounded a problem with a problem. Their guy made a great catch.

"It's one of those things where I'll just put it in the bleachers."

Zwick seems unaffected by the hubbub around him.

"I'll just keep doing what I have to do," he said. "We'll start watching film tomorrow and just try and get a jump on things as quickly as we can. I just want to make myself better. I guess I'm just the kind of guy that isn't going to worry about that. Being a team guy, you can't worry about whether you're going to get the nod. You have to put the team first, like I did last year. I'll just do whatever I can to help the team.

"We'll prepare for next week, get ready to play Texas and that's all I can do."

Zwick said he doesn't pay attention to newspapers, radio shows or Internet sites that talk nonstop about the Buckeyes.

"I don't hear it," he said. "I don't talk to enough people who would know enough about the situation to say something like that. I can't worry about anything else."

Zwick, now 5-3 as OSU's starting quarterback, said he could notice a difference from his first start a year ago.

"I feel way more in control and more relaxed," he said. "Coming into your first game, you don't know what you'll see and you can't be relaxed. I was having fun with these guys, moving the ball and scoring some points. It was just a fun time."

Zwick was also seeing a different game on Saturday. He was among a group of players who wore colored contact lenses to guard against the bright early afternoon sun.

"They're like sunglasses," Zwick said. "They're amber. The sun doesn't bother me at all. They're pretty neat."

Different Viewpoints

OSU offensive coordinator Jim Bollman was succinct in his praise of Zwick: "It seemed pretty solid to me."

Left guard and co-captain Rob Sims said Zwick did a good job of leading the huddle.

"Justin was Justin," Sims said. "That's who he is. He went out there and took care of business. That's his job and that's what he did. He looked good to me."

Tailback Brandon Schnittker said there was a presence or confidence Zwick exuded.

"The guys were behind him all day on the field," he said. "He was the field general. That's what we need our quarterback to be. Troy can do that, too."

Schnittker said the Buckeyes will not let a quarterback controversy distract them.

"Our guys are always going to work," he said. "They're interchangeable. Both of them can make plays. We're confident in whichever one is in there. We're just going to continue to pass and block and run and catch."

Flanker Ted Ginn Jr., who finished with five catches for 75 yards, also assessed Zwick's play.

"Justin played great," Ginn said. "Justin is a great quarterback. He went out and was confident. He ran the ball well and he threw the ball well. He didn't make any key mistakes and he played hard."

Ginn is also tight with Smith, his former Cleveland Glenville teammate.

"Troy is going to play next week, but there's nothing big for us to talk about," Ginn said. "Troy will come out and play hard. He'll be a warrior and he'll fight and he'll be a leader."

Ginn admitted that missing time in preseason camp and not being eligible for the opener has been hard on Smith.

"It's real tough," Ginn said. "Everybody makes mistakes, but he'll overcome his mistakes and come out and play hard next week."

Boeckman Debuts

Redshirt freshman Todd Boeckman relieved Zwick midway through the third quarter. He ended up completing 5 of 7 passes for 67 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown to Ginn.

"Todd Boeckman, you know, for your first two passes of your career, your first one was a 10- or 15-yard gain for the first, the next one was a long touchdown, I'm sure he was thrilled with that," Tressel said.

Boeckman actually ran with the first team in camp during Zwick's absence. He seemed at ease when he entered the game.

"Today was a great opportunity for me," Boeckman said. "It was an unbelievable feeling to be out there and have my first touchdown in Ohio Stadium. I felt confident with myself and just went out there and did what the coaches asked. I just wanted to have fun. To do that in front of 104,000 people, I am excited and I just hope it carries over to next week."

On Boeckman's first play, he handed off to Maurice Wells for a 3-yard gain. He then got to throw on second down and hit Anthony Gonzalez for a 13-yard gain and a first down.

"I got that run play under my belt so I could take in the atmosphere with the fans and everything," Boeckman said. "On the next play, Tony was wide open. That was my first read so I threw him the ball and he did the rest."

But the fun was only starting for Boeckman, who then got to go deep to Ginn on a post route on the very next play.

"They had been biting on the corner hard," Boeckman said. "We made that fake to the corner and the post was there. Ted made a nice move to the corner and the safety came down and bit on that. The rest is history with Teddy Ginn. If you give him one or two steps, he's going to make that into five or six. If you give him the ball out there, he'll run with it and make plays."

Boeckman said the players around the quarterbacks make their job easy.

"We have weapons everywhere," he said. "You have to give the line credit. They made the blocks. I don't think there were any sacks. Then we have the receivers out there. We have four or five guys who can make plays."

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