Sunday Morning QB: Offense Ready For Big Ten?

We have a number of notables and quotables following OSU's 27-6 win over San Diego State. We look at the state of the offense, costly mistakes by veteran players, getting the ball to Ted Ginn Jr., an offensive line shake-up, Erik Haw's debut, Roy Hall's big block on a punt return and a command performance on defense. Plus, we look at the Big Ten and college football at-large.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

We start with a look at OSU's win over San Diego State:

* For the Ohio State offense is the glass half empty or is it half full?

Yes, the Buckeyes churned out 375 yards total offense and were fairly well balanced with 179 rushing and 196 passing. But there were enough mistakes, dropped passes and a couple of turnovers – not to mention the lack of any big plays -- to say that the Buckeyes should have done much more against San Diego State.

"We can't be satisfied with the win that we had today," said split end Santonio Holmes, who had four catches for 42 yards. "We had a lot of penalties that negated chances for us to score more touchdowns. We have to go out there and execute better."

OSU looks like a spread team when it takes the field. But the Buckeyes have yet to truly take advantage of their weapons at wide receiver. The season's longest pass play was a 42-yard touchdown from Todd Boeckman to Ted Ginn Jr. late in the season opening romp over Miami (Ohio).

The offense, now with Troy Smith in command, seems to be built around him running the ball on quarterback draws or sweeps or running the option with single back Antonio Pittman trailing. Any pass plays that are completed yield precious few yards after the catch.

And the lesson learned against Texas – that the quarterback draws, option game and the bubble screen scheme probably will not work against a great defense – shows that OSU could be in over its head when it matches up against some of the better defenses in Big Ten play. Those would include, but would not be limited to, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan.

"I'd like us to be a little more opportunistic than we've been," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman admitted. "There are times we've had the field position and we didn't cash in."

Split end Roy Hall, who had four catches for 44 yards, sees it the same way.

"We still haven't had that explosive game that we want to have," Hall said. "We will have it soon. It's just little things. If one guy messes up, it can mess up the whole play."

Fullback-turned-tailback Brandon Schnittker believes the offense will come around.

"The first few games are a learning experience," Schnittker said. "We're developing into the team we're going to be. I want the offense to be at its best against Michigan."

The Buckeyes know they must step it up or be doomed to another middle-of-the-pack Big Ten finish.

"Coach told us we have to play a lot better than we did to win the conference," Holmes said. "We know we need to step it up."

Smith added, "Not to take anything away from the guys we played out of conference, the Big Ten is, to me, the toughest conference to play in. There are great teams across the board."

* Coming off the loss to Texas, the Buckeyes were probably looking to their seniors for leadership.

But even the upperclassmen proved to be fallible in the lackluster win over SDSU. Schnittker fumbled trying to put the ball over the goal line. Guard Rob Sims committed a false start penalty and was also flagged for a late hit. Tight end Ryan Hamby, fresh off the dropped touchdown against Texas, dropped the first ball thrown his way against SDSU.

"We aren't going to be able to come out and do that," Schnittker said. "The teams we're going to play in the Big Ten like Iowa are too good for us to come out and drop passes and fumble the ball."

Schnittker's fumble was not reviewed. He was about as close as he could possibly have gotten to scoring.

"We'll look on the TiVo on that one," Schnittker said. "I was just trying to make something happen."

Sims was also displeased with some of his mistakes.

"We didn't play as well as we thought we would," he said. "We had a lot of mistakes that we put on ourselves. I had a few penalties in there that I'm not proud of. We kept working like we always do. I'm happy for the win and now we're ready for Iowa."

* OSU's problems in the red zone have been well pronounced. In this game, the Buckeyes were inside the 20-yard line six times. Those possessions yielded three touchdowns, one field goal and the Schnittker fumble. The sixth possession was the game's final drive. OSU was on the Aztecs' 12-yard line when time expired.

In three games, OSU has been inside the 20-yard line 14 times. Those possessions have yielded five touchdowns, six field goals, two turnovers and the one series curtailed by the end of the SDSU game.

* Other than some plays that have been spectacularly blown up for losses by opposing defenses, the touchdown grab against Miami may be the only remarkable play Ginn has turned in on offense this season.

In three games, Ginn now has five carries for a net of 2 yards and 10 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.

"It all depends how the defense reacts to a given play on how many times he is going to get the ball," Bollman said. "You can try to get him the ball. But unless you call a screen where you're throwing him the ball and there is no read there at all, you can't be sure he's going to get the ball."

In theory, the attention Ginn has commanded should allow somebody else to be open. But, at least so far, the Buckeyes haven't consistently found those receivers.

"That opens up somebody else," Bollman said. "All of those guys are pretty good."

* The Buckeyes shook up their offensive line on the game's fourth series as John Conroy subbed in at left guard, Alex Boone was at left tackle and Steve Rehring was at right guard. The result was positive as the Buckeyes moved 75 yards in nine plays down to the SDSU 1 before Schnittker's fumble.

"We planned on doing that," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "Early in the second quarter, I believe. We planned on doing that. In fact, that group as a whole new offensive line practically did a great job with the football down there and that was the one where we fumbled on the 1, which obviously you can't do.

"But we were really committed to making sure that we could get eight and nine guys playing on the offensive line. As we evaluated ourselves from a week ago, we thought maybe that would have been a positive had we done a little bit more rotation last week, so we were committed to that."

That possession was one of just five out of OSU's 14 drives that lasted eight plays or more.

* Another bright spot was the play of redshirt freshman tailback Erik Haw. He got into the game late and tallied his first career carry (for 6 yards) and two catches for 6 yards.

"I thought Erik did a pretty good job," Tressel said. "He got a chance to handle the ball a few times and I'll have to watch it and grade it, but it was good to see him. The more guys you have at that position -- you never have enough tailbacks, that's a truism."

* This was one of the more stifling performances by an OSU defense in recent memory.

"They played great," Smith said. "Hats off to the defense everyt time they come out. They go out there, they execute, they stop guys, they fly around."

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock was impressed in holding SDSU, which had averaged over 400 yards in its first two games, to just 179 yards and an SDSU school-record low three first downs.

"They always are a working group," Heacock said. "They always work hard. I didn't see any big change from last week to this week."

Of course, 80 of those yards came on Kevin O'Donnell's 80-yard screen pass touchdown to Brett Swain on the first play of the game.

"I don't know what I was thinking," Heacock said of the first play. "I probably wasn't thinking very good thoughts."

When one of the reporters said he was in the elevator to the press box and missed the first play, Heacock said, "I wish I had been in the elevator."

"We were probably in the defense we wanted to be in, but we didn't execute," he added. "We had two or three guys that didn't execute on that play. The good news is they came back on the next play and did execute."

Heacock continues to put his stamp on this defense. The Buckeyes, at least for this game, went with linebacker Bobby Carpenter almost exclusively in place of the rush defensive end. They also tweaked their nickel look by inserting cover corner Malcolm Jenkins, a true freshman, into the lineup and moving starting corner Tyler Everett to the nickel back safety slot in place of Brandon Mitchell.

* One of the key plays that got the Buckeyes going was Holmes' 35-yard punt return with OSU trailing 6-0 late in the first quarter. When an SDSU late hit penalty was tacked on, the Buckeyes were in business at the Aztecs' 20-yard line. Three plays later, they grabbed the lead for good with their first touchdown.

Holmes was sprung on the play with a devastating block by the 240-pound Hall, who crushed SDSU linebacker Joe Martin. Martin laid motionless on the stadium grass for a moment before being helped to his feet.

"We just had a regular punt return on," Hall said. "I came down the side and saw a guy I was supposed to it and I cleaned him up. It kind of scared me a little bit because he didn't move. Nowadays, it scares you because you see so many spinal injuries. I hit him head-up, so I didn't think it was that serious. I was just glad he was able to get up. You never want to see something happen to another player like that.

"The punt return was pretty good. The block was good, but everybody else did their job, too. That's how he was able to get up the sideline. That was a team effort on that punt return and everybody did a good job."

Now for a look around the Big Ten:

* Michigan State stunned No. 10 Notre Dame 44-41 in overtime in Charlie Weis home debut as the ND head coach. The Spartans had built a 38-17 lead before ND scored the last three touchdowns in regulation to force overtime.

In overtime, ND got a 44-yard field goal from D.J. Fitzpatrick. But MSU's Jason Teague took an option pitch 19 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

Brady Quinn passed for a school-record five touchdowns and a career-high 487 yards, the second highest total in Notre Dame history. MSU's Drew Stanton threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. He was 16-of-27 for 327 yards.

"We wanted to show that this program is back in the right direction," Stanton said. "There's no better way to do that than a rivalry game at Notre Dame."

Matt Trannon added five catches for 136 yards and two TDs for MSU.

Weis became just the third Notre Dame coach to lose his home opener since 1913, joining Elmer Layden in 1934 and Lou Holtz in 1986. Michigan State joins Purdue (1954-62) as the only opponent to win five straight at Notre Dame Stadium. MSU's 12 wins in South Bend are the most by an Irish opponent.

* No. 14 Michigan bounced back from last week's home loss to Notre Dame with a 55-0 drubbing of neighbor Eastern Michigan. UM tied a school record with 28 first-quarter points. The win was UM's most lopsided since a 58-0 win over Indiana in 2000. Max Martin set career highs with 117 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

* Ron Zook suffered his first loss as the Illinois coach as the Illini fell 35-20 at No. 15 Cal. Justin Forsett ran for a career-high 187 yards and two touchdowns for the Golden Bears. Tim Brasic threw for 228 yards for the Illini.

* No. 22 Iowa shrugged off a loss to Iowa State with a 45-21 win over Division I-AA Northern Iowa. QB Drew Tate returned from a concussion and showed no ill effects. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 247 yards and two TDs. Iowa tied a school record with its 20th straight home win.

* Penn State QB Michael Robinson threw three touchdown passes and ran for another score in a 40-3 rout of Central Michigan.

* It wasn't a 50-point outburst, but Wisconsin rolled to 3-0 with a 14-5 win at North Carolina. The Badgers rode RB Brian Calhoun to the win. He had 38 carries for 171 yards and two TDs. In three games since transferring from Colorado, Calhoun has 471 yards rushing.

* Purdue leaned more toward the run in a 31-24 win at Arizona. Jerod Void carried 18 times for 107 yards, scored three touchdowns and recovered a muffed punt return for the Boilermakers. Purdue gained 239 yards on the ground and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 16 games. But PU coach Joe Tiller said he isn't ready to abandon the pass just yet.

"We still play sissy ball at Purdue," Tiller joked.

* Bust up the Hoosiers. Indiana took a 38-14 win over Kentucky in Bloomington. Chris Taylor ran for a career-high 176 yards and Blake Powers threw four touchdown passes for Indiana, which ended a three-game losing streak to rival Kentucky.

Indiana is 3-0 for the first time since 1994, and coach Terry Hoeppner became the first Hoosiers coach to debut with three straight wins since James Sheldon in 1905. If the Hoosiers win at Wisconsin on Oct. 1, Hoeppner will be the first coach in school history to win his first four games.

* No. 18 Arizona State rebounded from a tough loss to LSU and piled up 733 yards total offense in a 52-21 win over visiting Northwestern. Sam Keller passed for four touchdowns and freshman Keegan Herring ran for 197 yards and scored twice for ASU. Keller was 20-of-31 for 409 yards. Brett Basanez threw for 224 yards and two TDs for the Wildcats.

* Minnesota blasted Florida Atlantic 46-7. Laurence Maroney carried 20 times for 145 yards and two TDs and also had his first career TD catch. Bryan Cupito threw for 230 yards and two TDs. Gary Russell enjoyed his first 100-yard game with 116 yards and two TDs as well. FAU, a Sun Belt Conference team, is in its second season in Division I-A.

This game, interestingly, matched coaches Glen Mason and Howard Schnellenberger – two of four active coaches with bowl wins at more than one school. The veteran Schnellenberger heaped high praise on UM's offensive line.

"They're just big boys who go jaw-to-jaw and tooth-to-tooth," Schnellenberger said. "That's probably the best offensive line I've seen since Nebraska's in 1983."

* Big Ten play opens next Saturday with no fewer than three marquee match-ups. Iowa visits Ohio State after the Hawkeyes decimated OSU 33-7 last year in Iowa City. Unbeatens Purdue and Minnesota will collide at the Metrodome. Purdue has won nine of the last 11 in that series since 1992. And Michigan visits Wisconsin in a prime time game.

And a glance at headlines nationally:

* No. 6 Florida took a leg up in the SEC East with a 16-7 home win over No. 5 Tennessee. UF coach Urban Meyer won his SEC debut. Andre Caldwell had an 18-yard TD run and the Gators won with three field goals from Chris Hetland. The game was played before a crowd of 90,716 -- the largest to ever watch a football game in the state.

Since the SEC adopted its 12-team, two-division format in 1992, the winner of the Tennessee-Florida game has won the East nine times and advanced to the championship game.

"It's a tough loss, but it's not the end of the season," said Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, whose team goes from the frying pan to the fire with a game at No. 3 LSU next week.

* No. 17 Boston College had ACC standard bearer Florida State coming to Chestnut Hill for the Eagles' ACC debut. But the eighth-ranked Seminoles scored 14 fourth-quarter points in a 28-17 win.

A.J. Nicholson intercepted two passes, taking the first 19 yards for a score on the first play of the game, and Greg Carr caught two touchdown passes for FSU.

* No. 1 USC exploded in a 70-17 win over visiting Arkansas. The high powered Trojans had four touchdowns and 246 yards in the first quarter despite having the ball for just 1:32 of clock time. USC's first four scoring drives went three plays, one play, two plays and two plays.

Matt Leinart passed for 381 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another TD in less than three quarters. Reggie Bush scored the first two times he touched the ball. USC piled up 736 yards.

"How much more can you ask of your offense? This was even more than we could have pictured," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

The Trojans, who have a nation's best 22-game winning streak, play their Pac-10 opener at Oregon next weekend. The Ducks (3-0) beat No. 23 Fresno State 37-34 on Saturday.

* Tyrone Moss ran for 139 yards and three touchdowns, including a 25-yard TD run in the third overtime, to lift No. 13 Miami (Fla.) to a 36-30 win over No. 20 Clemson. Miami avoided its first 0-2 start in 27 years.

* Texas Tech's Cody Hodges completed 26 of 37 passes for 436 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 19 Red Raiders beat Sam Houston State 80-21.

* Louisville QB Brian Brohm was 18 of 22 passing for 368 yards and five touchdowns as the No. 11 Cardinals beat Oregon State 63-27.

* No. 2 Texas has found a successor to Cedric Benson in freshman RB Jamaal Charles. Charles, making his first start, ran for 189 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-10 win over Rice.

* Oklahoma is 1-2 for the first time since 1997 after a 41-24 loss to UCLA. It was the first time No. 21 Oklahoma lost to the Bruins, who recovered three of the Sooners' six fumbles and turned them into 17 points.

* Washington coach Tyrone Willingham got his first win with the Huskies, a 34-6 decision over Idaho. The Huskies will face Notre Dame, Willingham's former school, in Seattle next Saturday. ND pushed Willingham out last December with two seasons left on his five-year contract.

* No. 25 Virginia got a 19-yard field goal from Connor Hughes as time expired in a 27-24 win over Syracuse. It was the Cavaliers' second victory in two years over the Orange, who trailed 24-14 entering the fourth quarter.

* Nebraska's Adam Ickes blocked Josh Cummings' 46-yard field goal attempt as time ran out, allowing Nebraska to hang on for a 7-6 victory over Pittsburgh. Pitt, with first-year coach Dave Wannstedt, is 0-3 for the first time since 1984.

* TCU snapped Utah's 18-game winning streak and won its first-ever Mountain West game 23-20 in overtime Thursday in Fort Worth. Tye Gunn's 4-yard TD pass to Michael DePriest was the game winner after the Utes settled for a field goal.

* Heisman Watch: This is still a three-horse race between USC's Matt Leinhart and Reggie Bush and Texas' Vince Young.

* My new top 15: USC, Texas, LSU, Florida, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue, Florida State, Georgia Tech, California, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee.

* Games To Watch: Bowling Green-Boise State (Wednesday), Air Force-Utah (Friday), USC-Oregon, Tennessee-LSU, Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech, Iowa-Ohio State, Notre Dame-Washington, Purdue-Minnesota, Colorado-Miami (Fla.), Michigan-Wisconsin.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Sept. 3, Miami (Ohio) (1-2), beat Kent State 27-10; vs. Cincinnati, Sept. 28.

Sept. 10, Texas (3-0), beat Rice 51-10; idle, Sept. 24.

Sept. 17, San Diego State (0-3), lost to Ohio State 27-6; vs. San Jose State, Sept. 24.

Sept. 24 (noon, ABC), Iowa (2-1), beat Northern Iowa 45-21; at Ohio State, Sept. 24.

Oct. 1, idle.

Oct. 8 (7 or 7:45 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPN), Penn State (3-0), beat Central Michigan 40-3; at Northwestern, Sept. 24.

Oct. 15, Michigan State (3-0), beat Notre Dame 44-41 (OT); at Illinois, Sept. 24.

Oct. 22, at Indiana (3-0), beat Kentucky 38-14; idle, Sept. 24.

Oct. 29, at Minnesota (3-0), beat Florida Atlantic 46-7; vs. Purdue, Sept. 24.

Nov. 5, Illinois (2-1), lost to California 35-20; vs. Michigan State, Sept. 24.

Nov. 12, Northwestern (2-1), lost to Arizona State 52-21; vs. Penn State, Sept. 24.

Nov. 19, Michigan (2-1), beat Eastern Michigan 55-0; at Wisconsin, Sept. 24.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Wisconsin (3-0, 0-0)

Michigan State (3-0, 0-0)

Minnesota (3-0, 0-0)

Indiana (3-0, 0-0)

Penn State (3-0, 0-0)

Purdue (2-0, 0-0)

Illinois (2-1, 0-0)

Michigan (2-1, 0-0)

Iowa (2-1, 0-0)

Ohio State (2-1, 0-0)

Northwestern (2-1, 0-0)

Sept. 17 Results

Michigan 55, Eastern Michigan 0

Michigan State 44, Notre Dame 41 (OT)

Iowa 45, Northern Iowa 21

Ohio State 27, San Diego State 6

Penn State 40, Central Michigan 3

California 35, Illinois 20

Indiana 38, Kentucky 14

Wisconsin 14, North Carolina 5

Purdue 31, Arizona 24

Minnesota 46, Florida Atlantic 7

Arizona State 52, Northwestern 21

Sept. 24 Games

Michigan State at Illinois, noon (ESPN-Plus, ESPNU)

Purdue at Minnesota, noon (ESPN or ESPN2)

Penn State at Northwestern, noon (ESPN or ESPN2)

Iowa at Ohio State, noon (ABC)

Michigan at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

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