Back As Starter, Smith Guides Buckeyes To Win

We examine the good and bad from Troy Smith's first start at quarterback for Ohio State in nearly 10 months. Smith rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns and also had 149 yards passing in OSU's 27-6 win over San Diego State. We also look at Ted Ginn Jr.'s presence -- or lack thereof -- in the offense. Click here for more.

There were both positives and negatives for Troy Smith, who started at quarterback for Ohio State Saturday against San Diego State for the first time since the win over Michigan last November.

On the plus side, Smith carried the ball 14 times for 87 yards (6.2 average) and two touchdowns. He also threw for 149 yards in the 27-6 win over the Aztecs.

On the negative side, Smith completed just 14 of 26 passes, missing badly on a handful of passes and throwing an interception in the second half. Smith did complete several midrange passes, but none of his completions went for more than 25 yards. And, even when passes were completed, yards after the catch were minimal.

Smith came off the bench to relieve starter Justin Zwick a week ago in the loss to Texas to help the Buckeyes score 19 points in the 25-22 loss to the Longhorns. On Monday, OSU coach Jim Tressel named Smith as the starter for the SDSU game – and, presumably, the near future.

"He was probably smoother today than he was last week at times," said offensive coordinator Jim Bollman. "Certainly, he needs to improve. We all do."

Smith, who improved to 5-1 as a starter, admitted it was an up-and-down day.

"I think we did some good things," Smith said. "The turnovers we don't need and you never want to have. But, as a whole, I think we did pretty good.

"I tried not to think about last week. I just tried to think about San Diego State. Today, my comfort level was pretty good. There were some things I need to improve on. But, overall, my offensive line made me feel pretty comfortable."

The lack of big plays left the OSU offense in neutral, Smith said.

"It felt like we needed to have a big play or somebody needed to step up and do something," he said. "You always look and search for that guy. We were searching and searching.

"I have to give San Diego State some credit. They came out and did some things we didn't expect to see early. They came out and did those things. We tried to adjust. I could have done better by trying to hit some guys downfield.

"With them trying to take some of the deep things away, some of the step up opportunities were there. You have to learn how to capitalize on that."

Smith completed passes to five different receivers. He admitted that ball distribution is key to keeping defenses off balance.

"Once you get a guy a couple catches, he gets into a rhythm," Smith said. "He can get cold if you don't go to him again. But when you have three other guys who can do the job just as well as him, you just try to spread it around as much as you can."

Smith rushed 14 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and reached the end zone from 1 yard out in the second period, marking his first career game with two rushing touchdowns. With the two scores running, Smith becomes the first Buckeye quarterback to run for two touchdowns in a game since Craig Krenzel ran for two touchdowns Aug. 30, 2003, against Washington.

On the first one, OSU faced third-and-4 at the SDSU 14 with the Aztecs already ahead 6-0. Smith kept the ball on the option, threaded his way through a small crease and broke a tackle to reach the goal line.

"That was huge," said Smith, who now has five rushing touchdowns in his career. "Every guy on the offensive line, they were hungry for that score. We got a chance to get it. Nick (Mangold) did a great job of coming up and walling the linebacker off. Rob (Sims) zoned his guy off. I just tried to get in between the crease and get into the end zone."

Smith's second score was a simple quarterback keeper where he followed his center Mangold and left guard T.J. Downing.

"Those guys did a great job up front," Smith said. "They did a great job bearing down in there and blowing those guys off the ball."

One bad mark on Smith's day, though, came late in the third quarter. He overthrew tight end Ryan Hamby down the middle and SDSU's Donny Baker made the easy pick.

"It was a bad decision," Smith said. "I saw the corner. We teach the wide receivers on a four-go route that if the corner is trying to play in between the divide, he's supposed to pull up. Within that, I should have made the decision to go to Ted on the outside."

Get The Ball To Ted

For the second game in a row, Ted Ginn Jr.'s presence in the offense was minimal. He had two catches and one run in the loss to Texas. Against SDSU, Ginn had one carry for a 7-yard loss on a reverse and three catches for 37 yards.

Smith said the Aztecs followed Texas' lead in working overtime to keep the ball away from Ginn.

"It's a whole different type of emphasis on how they want to try to take him out of the game," Smith said. "But that leaves some areas they can't defend. When they spend so much energy trying to take one guy out of the game, our other play makers step up."

Smith said Ginn was not upset over his lack of action.

"Ted is the kind of a guy that if he doesn't get a touch and we win, he's still as happy as if he gets 10 touches," Smith said. "He's probably one of the most humble people you would ever meet.

"We understand each other all the way around. That's like my baby brother, in a sense, with how we've grown up together. I know him like the back of my hand and he knows me."

But Smith did say his receivers have been known to give him an earful when they think they've been open.

"I hear that from every receiver out there," Smith said. "But we have reads I have to go through. I have a progression I have to go through on every play. If my number one read is there, I have to give him the ball."

Grading His Game

Holmes offered his assessment of Smith's play.

"I'd probably give him a B-plus or an A-minus," Holmes said. "I thought Troy played outstanding today. He made a lot of the proper reads he needed to. He got the ball into the hands of the players that he needed to. He ran the ball well today."

Split end Roy Hall added, "I think he did a pretty good job. I think he had close to 100 yards rushing and close to 150 passing. What more could you ask for?"

Guard Rob Sims said Smith is getting back to the top form he showed late last year for the Buckeyes.

"I'm sure he's still rusty a little bit, but I have more than enough confidence in Troy that he will get it together," Sims said.

Bollman credited Smith with fighting hard for extra yardage. His second and third efforts on several plays helped the Buckeyes convert first downs.

"He seems to enjoy running," Bollman said. "When he does run, he runs pretty hard trying to get some extra yards. That's one of his assets, I would say."

But Smith remains his harshest critic: "There are still some things all the way around that we need to sharpen up and take care of."

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