Pittman's Career Day Helps OSU To Key Win

OSU sophomore tailback Antonio Pittman tallied 186 yards rushing and his first two touchdowns of the season as the Buckeyes defeated Minnesota 45-31 Saturday.

They'd joked about and one Ohio State Buckeye had probably obsessed about it. But it finally came to fruition on Saturday.

It, of course, was OSU tailback Antonio Pittman finally reaching the end zone. After not scoring in his team's first seven games, Pittman scored a pair of touchdowns in OSU's 45-31 win at Minnesota.

That was just one part of an overall banner day for Pittman, who tallied 23 carries and a career-high 186 yards.

"It was real big," Pittman said. "I got that monkey off my back."

It was Minnesota's rushing game that commanded all of the headlines coming into the game. With Laurence Maroney leading the way, UM boasted the nation's top rushing offense at almost 300 yards per game.

But Pittman drew high praise after he outdueled Maroney, who had 127 yards on 25 carries with one touchdown and one costly fumble.

"I said before the game to the team -- we had a little team meeting today – that I think Pitt is better than Maroney," said OSU offensive guard Rob Sims. "Maroney is a good back and, of course, you're biased toward your guy. But that's what I truly believe and I think he showed some things today."

Pittman hit the 100-yard mark for the fifth time in eight games this year and sixth time in his career.

Through five Big Ten games, Pittman now has 649 yards on 110 carries – an average of 129.8 yards per game. For the season, he now has 882 yards. He is closing in on being OSU's first 1,000-yard rusher since Maurice Clarett in 2002.

In recent weeks, Pittman had been the target of good-natured ribbing by his teammates for not finding the end zone. But as game day approached this week, Pittman said his teammates were exhorting him to show he belonged in the same breath as Maroney – a three-time 1,000-yard rusher.

OSU ended up outrushing UM 216-182.

"My teammates told me all week I need to come out here and prove it and show that I am one of the best backs in the Big Ten," Pittman said. "Our offensive line did a great job. They did a good job of opening holes for me and I had no choice but to run through them.

"I know they like to run the ball and slow down the clock. They put the story line up every week and the games that we lose are the games where we get outrushed. We knew if we outrushed them, we would win the game. They called my number and I broke a big one. We started pounding it and we outrushed them and won the game."

The game was tied 17-17 when the OSU defense stopped Minnesota and forced a punt to start the second half. Pittman got the ball on the first play from the OSU 28 and gained 5 yards. He then took a give up the middle on second down, picked up a block from a pulling Sims, ran through a tackle attempt by UM's top tackler John Pawielski and was gone on a 67-yard touchdown run that gave the Buckeyes the lead for good.

"The defense just stopped them and we had a chance to go out and take the lead," Pittman said. "They gave me the ball two plays in a row and on the second one, I wasn't going to get caught.

"That play was a long time coming. Rob pulled and kicked the ‘backer out of the play. Then, I just split the two safeties."

Sims shared his view of the play.

"I made a little adjustment," he said. "They were stretching the line a little bit – (right guard) T.J. (Downing) and (right tackle) Alex (Boone) were stretching the line. I kind of got up in the hole and got a good shot on the guy. That's all he really needs. Pitt just needs somebody to get in (the tackler's) way. I got in his way and then I saw Pitt break two tackles and take it to the house. That was big."

When asked what was bigger – his yardage total or his two touchdowns – Pittman had a quick reply: "I would say the blocking by the guys up front. Without them, none of this would have happened.

"It means a lot to me. But this shows what our line is capable of doing. Those guys up front work hard. For me to get those yards, it's a great day for our offensive line."

With 449 yards total offense, OSU eclipsed the 400-yard barrier for the second straight week and third time in five games.

"I just hope it continues," Pittman said. "We need to come out next week and have the offense do the same thing.

"This offense is capable of doing that all year long. We have to get on the same page and if we do that I think we can put 40 up every week."

Pittman added a 4-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter that extended the lead to 38-24. He left the game with OSU ahead 45-24 with about six minutes left, allowing freshman Maurice Wells to get some valuable experience.

When asked if he knew he flirted with the 200-yard mark, Pittman said, "I didn't even know how many yards I had."

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