Buckeyes Pull Away From Indiana 41-10

Antonio Pittman carried 26 times for 133 yards as the Buckeyes overcame a host of penalties and a couple of turnovers to notch a much-needed Big Ten road win. The OSU defense was strong again, allowing just 137 yards to the Hoosiers. (NOTE: This story was updated at 6 p.m. with a ton of notables and quotables.)

Enough was finally enough, according to Ohio State offensive guard Rob Sims.

On Saturday at Indiana, the 13th-ranked Buckeyes led just 17-3 at halftime after watching several scoring chances go by the boards in a sloppy first half. OSU then watched the Hoosiers trim that lead down to 17-10 after scoring off yet another turnover.

"I think we were just fed up," Sims said.

Were they ever.

Ohio State rolled off a quick five-play, 79-yard scoring march to regain its two-touchdown lead. That was the beginning of the end for Indiana as the Buckeyes reeled off 24 unanswered points to close the game and won going away 41-10 in a messy Big Ten football game before an OSU-partisan crowd of 52,866 at Bloomington, Ind.

One week after committing four turnovers in a 35-24 win over Michigan State, the Buckeyes (5-2, 3-1) were flagged eight times for 95 yards. Plus, quarterback Troy Smith threw an interception on the IU goal line and receiver Ted Ginn Jr. had a pass completion ripped away and returned for an IU touchdown.

Ginn also had a 98-yard kick return negated by a personal foul during the play on a teammate. And two of OSU's early possessions were curtailed by costly clipping penalties.

But OSU won on the road for just the second time in its last seven Big Ten road trips. The Buckeyes remained on the lead lap in the Big Ten race with just one conference loss.

"It was good to go on the road and get a win," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "We sure tried to make it interesting with the penalties and some of the things that happened in the special teams. But I thought the kids played hard and our defensive staff did a good job of preparing."

Quarterback Troy Smith was 14 of 23 passing for 226 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards and two touchdowns.

"Troy did a great job directing our attack," Tressel said. "That is something they better take care of with him on the option. He made a lot of good decisions throwing the ball today. He was in command on the road and that's good."

Smith's top target was split end Santonio Holmes, who finished with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown. Ginn added four grabs for 59 yards and also had a late 62-yard punt return for a score.

Tailback Antonio Pittman added 133 yards on 26 carries.

"I thought we did a fairly good job of running it, especially with the number of people they brought into the box," Tressel said. "Antonio getting to run it 25-plus times is a good thing. I think he is coming along. Going into the Big Ten, I told him if we can always get 100 yards from him we should have a chance to win. That's our goal."

The OSU defense again came up big, holding the Hoosiers (4-3, 1-3) to 137 yards total offense. Nickel back Brandon Mitchell added a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Indiana quarterback Blake Powers was 13 of 29 passing for 72 yards with an interception.

"It's been a long time since I've been on the receiving end of a game like that," said first-year Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner. "Ohio State is a great football team and they played a great game. We were very ineffective on offense."

One week after OSU notched 12 sacks against Michigan State, the Buckeyes put constant pressure on Powers. He was sacked three times and those were among six tackles-for-loss by the Buckeyes. IU netted just 42 yards on 26 rushing attempts.

"At times, I think we played well," said linebacker A.J. Hawk, who led the Buckeyes with seven tackles. "Our first goal is always to stop the run. I think overall as a defense we took another huge step forward."

The Buckeyes got a big break early as IU punt returner Troy Grosfield muffed a punt and OSU's Antonio Smith recovered it at the IU 28-yard line. OSU needed three plays to cash in as, on third-and-5 at the IU 23, Smith hit Holmes on a slant. He caught the ball in front of IU's Tracy Porter and then eluded Aaron Mitchell to complete the 23-yard touchdown and put OSU up 7-0 with 10:27 left in the first quarter.

OSU was driving late in the first quarter, but Smith was intercepted by IU's Porter at the goal line. The Buckeyes appeared to hold IU on its ensuing possession, but OSU's Mike Kudla was flagged for roughing the passer on a fourth-down pass. Given new life, IU's Joe Kleinsmith booted a 39-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 13:17 left in the first half.

Ginn made a masterful return of the ensuing kickoff and he appeared to notch his first career kick return touchdown. But teammate Trever Robinson was flagged for blocking an IU defender about 25 yards behind the play. OSU got possession instead at the IU 40-yard line and, after a sack of Smith, failed to score as a result.

"We felt so badly that the kickoff return was called back," Tressel said. "There is no excuse. It was just a poor judgment."

OSU extended the lead to 14-3 with a six-play, 50-yard march midway through the second quarter. Smith got it started by dumping the ball off to Holmes for a 28-yard gain. On second-and-goal at the 10, he dumped it off to fullback Stan White Jr., who rumbled down to the IU 1. On third down there, Smith faked an option pitch and kept it for the 1-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead with 7:25 left in the first half.

Josh Huston tacked on a 23-yard field goal with 2:48 left in the half for a 17-3 lead.

On a rough day for the officials – Hoeppner was flagged for a sideline violation warning for arguing at one point – the worst moment came on the second half kickoff. IU popped the ball up to OSU up back Mike D'Andrea. D'Andrea dropped the ball, but fell on it for a split-second before an IU defender knocked it out and another IU defender recovered it.

But the officials ruled there had been an inadvertent whistle somewhere during the melee while the ball loose. By rule, IU was forced to kick off again, much to the dismay of Hoeppner and the IU fans.

"There was an inadvertent whistle with the ball in the air," Tressel said. "When that happens, you have to kick it over. That's the way I understand it."

Hoeppner's take: "We had the ball but we didn't get it. We didn't play very well or get any breaks. Good teams that play well get breaks."

OSU then had the ball to start the second half. But on third-and-8 from the IU 43, Smith hit Ginn with a flanker screen. He cut to the middle of the field, where he was stood up and IU's John Pannozzo stripped him of the ball. Pannozzo rolled 57 yards for a touchdown, trimming the gap to 17-10 with 10:48 left in the third quarter.

"I thought his forward progress stopped on that fumble, but I guess not," Tressel said.

But that touchdown only steeled OSU's resolve as the Buckeyes reeled off 24 unanswered points to close the game.

OSU answered the Pannozzo touchdown with a five-play, 79-yard drive that lasted just 56 seconds. Pittman had gains of 17 and 18 yards and Maurice Wells added a 25-yard gain. Finally, Smith kept it on a nifty 23-yard touchdown run, picking up blocks from guard T.J. Downing, tight end Ryan Hamby and receivers Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez. The play put OSU up 24-10 with 9:52 left in the third quarter.

"Turnovers have been what was killing this team all year," Sims said. "Something needed to be done and we came back out there and put it on them. Everybody was upset about it. We were killing ourselves. We went out and got it done."

Tressel added, "That tells me there is some resolve there with that group up front. There must have been some good things going on in the huddle. I thought that was probably the best of any drive today."

Smith talked about what he saw on that critical drive.

"The offensive line put us on their back," he said. "They drove us down there and we got a good touchdown."

Mitchell's 57-yard interception return made it 31-10 with 4:44 left in the third.

"That was probably the backbreaker," Tressel said. "At 24-10, it's a two-score game. They always have that hope there that even if they aren't moving the ball they have a chance."

Huston added a 39-yard field goal with 8:33 left and Ginn's 61-yard punt return capped the scoring with 6:51 left.

Also Notable

* Pittman hit the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in seven games this year and fifth time in his career.

Through four Big Ten games, Pittman now has 463 yards on 87 carries – an average of 115.8 yards per game. For the season, he now has 696 yards.

* Holmes' touchdown was his fifth of the season and 19th of his career. That brings him into a third-place tie with Joey Galloway on OSU's career touchdown receiving list. David Boston tops that list with 34, while Cris Carter had 27.

* Smith had his third multiple rushing touchdown game of the season. He also had two rushing scores against San Diego State and Iowa. He now has eight rushing TDs on the year and 10 in his career.

* Ginn's punt return touchdown was his first of the year and fifth of his career. He extended his OSU school record and tied the Big Ten career punt return touchdown mark of five, originally set by Tim Dwight from Iowa (1994-97).

* Defensively, Hawk, defensive end Mike Kudla and defensive end Jay Richardson all notched sacks. Linebacker Anthony Schlegel added five tackles and corner Ashton Youboty had four to go with two pass break-ups.

* The OSU defense was second nationally in rushing defense coming into the game, but figures to move into the No. 1 spot. OSU lowered its average from 66.2 yards allowed per game down to 62.7.

Nebraska was the national leader at 65.0 yards per game, but the Huskers surrendered 277 yards on the ground in a loss to Missouri.

* OSU improved its lead in the all-time series to 64-12-5, including 23-2-1 in Bloomington. OSU won its 13th straight in the series and holds a 44-2-2 edge since 1952.

* Tressel is now 45-13 in his fifth year as the OSU coach. His road record improved to 12-8 and his Big Ten record is now 26-10, including 5-0 over IU.

* The 31-point win matches OSU's largest margin of victory in a Big Ten game under Tressel. The Buckeyes beat Minnesota 34-3 in 2002.

* Mitchell's interception was his first of the season and third of his career.

* Besides his two made field goals, Huston missed a 49-yard attempt on the final play of the first half. He is now 13 of 16 for the season.

* This was the first home loss for Indiana under Hoeppner.

* In addition to the snafu on the second half kickoff, the Big Ten's instant replay system appeared to fail in the first half. IU's Jahkeen Gilmore was ruled to have made a shoestring catch and the immediate replay backed that up. But, somehow, replay official Verl Sell found indisputable video evidence to reverse the call and call it an incomplete pass.

* OSU will put its modest winning streak on the line next week at Minnesota (noon, ABC). The Gophers (5-2, 2-2) were idle this week after losing at home to Wisconsin 38-34 last week.

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