Smith Rebounds With Big Game Vs. MSU

Troy Smith bounced back from a subpar game at Penn State to lead Ohio State to a win over Michigan State. Smith threw for 249 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score in the 35-24 win.

If Troy Smith were a stock listed on Wall Street, he would have to be considered volatile.

Smith, Ohio State's fiery starting quarterback, continued his recent trend, following a subpar performance with a winning one as the Buckeyes rallied with two late touchdowns to defeat visiting Michigan State 35-24 Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

It had been a tough week for Smith, who had a pair of costly turnovers in last Saturday's 17-10 loss at Penn State. But Smith pulled himself together and helped lead Ohio State to a much-needed win over Michigan State.

He finished the game 10-for-15 for a career-best 249 yards passing, besting his previous high of 241 yards last season against Michigan. Smith added another 42 yards and a touchdown on the ground for 291 yards of total offense. The only negative, perhaps, was a fumble he lost in the fourth quarter.

Afterwards, Smith deflected much of the praise for this win toward his offensive line.

"It was great," he said. "Without a doubt, I want to give everything to the offensive line. We call him Big Boone, (right tackle) Alex Boone, he did a great job out there today. Michigan State is a tough team. A very physical and talented team. Alex stood out there in front of the 105-plus, and did his numbers.

"Nick (Mangold) and Rob (Sims) led the group as usual. They told me they were going to put us on their back and lead us. They gave me some time to find some receivers downfield and the receivers made plays on the ball.

"The only thing I am upset about is we weren't able to get (Antonio) Pittman a touchdown. I really want to share the wealth with everybody. Pittman is probably one of the cornerstones of the team that deserves the majority of the touches. He works hard. We should reward him with touchdowns."

Against Penn State, Smith seemed indecisive. He ended up with 19 rushing attempts and was sacked five times. But against MSU, he was able to spread the ball around to his receivers. The results were obvious as Smith hit Santonio Holmes for touchdowns of 51 and 46 yards and Ted Ginn Jr. for a 57-yarder.

"We've always got plans to get the ball to the guys that really can make some great plays," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "With the way Michigan State plays defense, we thought that the outside receivers were going to have some opportunities and they did. We always try to -- try to get the ball to those guys to get in the end zone."

This game was Smith's first three-touchdown game as a passer. He now has six TD passes for the year and 14 for his career. Smith has run for a touchdown in four consecutive games. He has six TD runs on the year and eight in his career.

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman discussed Smith's play.

"Somebody told me he was 10 of 15, and I would not have realized that," Bollman said. "We had some big plays in there. It was great when Teddy broke the tackle on that slant. That's nothing new or unusual, but we were waiting for that to happen and it did.

"He did throw a couple of good deep balls, which was great to see because we haven't had that. It was nice for that to happen."

Smith, now 7-2 as a starter, said it was his receiving corps that also helped make it happen.

"We've got special guys all across the board, whether it's Tony Gonzalez making great plays or Santonio Holmes making key catches or Ted bursting away from guys," Smith said. "Roy Hall stiff-arming guys downfield. I was really relieved when Ted was able to get his touchdown.

"You can tell in the games we've played, he's been trying and trying so hard to get into the end zone. He finally got away from guys today."

Just as Ginn slipped a tackle attempt on his long TD catch, Holmes did the same on one of his.

"I told Gonzalez on the sideline that I am very proud because I've got a special group of guys as a receiving corps," Smith said. At any given moment, they can break it. They don't give up on plays.

"Santonio's (second) touchdown, the funny thing about that, I started looking toward Coach Tressel to get the next play because I thought he was going to be down. But he pulled away from the guy. He used his speed. A lot of people don't give Santonio enough credit. He is a very fast guy."

With OSU's Big Ten hopes riding in the balance, Smith discussed the importance of the win.

"It was a huge victory because if we ended up 3-3 we would have been at the same situation we were in last year," he said. "I hope this victory can be a turning point in the season. Character describes a man or a woman, whoever you want to talk about. The guys showed up to play today. The defense did what they normally do. When things got tough, the defense stood up for us."

He talked about the things that led OSU to battle back from deficits throughout the game, including 24-21 in the fourth quarter.

"Disclipline and character," Smith said. "I could have given up, Ted could have given up, Santonio could have given up. But we stuck with the game plan and made it happen.

"That is kind of fortunate when you turn around and look at it. But everybody was out there working hard. That was a hard fought game and we just had to stay positive as a team to get this victory.

"I think my guys up front are the focal point to me. Without those guys up front, I can do nothing."

Smith is learning to be resilient.

"It means a lot, but within the media I'm learning there are always going to be questions about something," he said. "Nothing can ever be picture perfect. That's the way life is. For the guys up front, I think this was a great game for them."

Smith discussed the notion that some coverages have been confusing for him.

"There's not a team that comes out and does something I don't recognize," he said. "I sit down every week with Tressel, Coach Daniels and Coach Bollman and we watch film. Within their defensive scheme, they may try to mix it up.

"I throw the ball to who is open. You have to read the whole field within our game plan and make things happen."

Smith talked about what was going on the huddle in the fourth quarter.

"I'm just telling myself, ‘I know the offense and the 10 other guys on the field know the offense. All we have to do now is capitalize and be precise with our decision making,' " he said.

"When I get in the huddle, I tell them, ‘We are always one block away from springing Pittman. Let's put it together.' That could be if we're on the 4-yard line going towards the JumboTron or going the other way toward the flag pole.

"My whole focal point within the huddle is telling the guys to be tough and to be assertive and let's go out there and make it happen."

He scoffed at the notion that this was a comeback win for him.

"I don't like that because the 10 other guys in the huddle have to step up and be with me," he said. "Something clicks on their head, too, and says we've got to go. The character of this time is undescribable.

"I feel blessed that within the staff and my teammates that they believe in me."

More Viewpoints

Here are comments from several of Smith's teammates on his latest big day:

* Antonio Pittman -- "It was a good game for him. He hung in the pocket a lot, especially on that last touchdown to Santonio. He hung in there when he delivered the ball and Santonio made a great play after that. He never got down on himself after that game last week. He came out and rallied the team. He's a great leader."

* Rob Sims -- "He's a great player. He stayed relaxed this week and did his thing. When he gets the chance, he just makes big plays."

* Nick Mangold -- "He's such a competitor. When he's out there, he's out there to win. He showed that in practice this week. You could see it in his eyes as we were coming out for this game today. He was ready to get back after it. He's good enough to put things behind him and keep going."

Mangold discussed the faked option plays, which OSU twice used to burn the Spartans on deep balls to Holmes for touchdowns.

"When you have a quarterback back there who can run the option so well, you've got to honor it. If the guys execute the right routes and we have our protection going, big things can happen."

When told that Smith praised the offensive line first and foremost, Mangold replied, "God bless him. I love him more and more every day. That shows his character right there. He makes such great plays that he is real humble about what he does and I love him for it every day."


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