They saw the Scarlet take a 12-0 win over the Gray in a defensive standoff on a beautiful 71 degree day.
"It was a beautiful day for a ball game," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "We had 63,000 people. It was a gorgeous day. I thought our kids competed. Any time you tell them you're keeping score, they love it. They love to compete. It was as close to gamelike as you can have for some of these young kids."
Tressel took inventory of his 2006 team after its 15 days of spring practice.
"I think we got a lot accomplished this spring," Tressel said. "We know more about what the capabilities are of the guys we have. We know even more vividly how far we've got to go to get to the position where we were, watching cut-up film of the guys we had last fall.
"The only downside I saw all spring was obviously Tyson Gentry's (neck) injury. Every play we went today, I was glad we didn't have any injuries.
"The message now is to relax and enjoy and take a week and get away from it. We asked them to go hard for a month. Now we want to back off a little bit."
For the Scarlet, Troy Smith was 4 of 4 passing for 62 yards and also had a 7-yard run in leading his side on a game-opening 80-yard touchdown drive. That was Smith's only possession of the game.
"Troy did a good job of dishing the ball off," Tressel said. "(Offensive coordinator Jim) Bollman was not too happy with me when I said he was done. I said I'd seen enough of him and I wanted to see a lot more of Troy and Robby."
But Tressel was glad to see Smith go 1 for 1 in scoring opportunities.
"I think all our guys are happy we've got that guy," Tressel said. "He's a competitor. I think they watched how focused he was this spring. He proved that going down there on that first drive."
Smith said he was fine with how his spring ended.
"It gives me a good feeling, but not good enough," he said. "I'm never going to fall into that trap. I'm very hard on myself. A couple of those balls could have been better."
Redshirt freshman Rob Schoenhoft played the final three quarters for the Scarlet. He was 9 for 28 passing for 109 yards with an interception.
"It was a learning experience for me," Schoenhoft said. "You can't duplicate being out there in front of 63,000 people. And you have people coming at you trying to take your head off, too. I'm just trying to get better every chance I can get."
Early enrolling freshman Chris Wells was the leading ground gainer with 48 yards on 11 carries for the Scarlet.
"Chris looked to me like he looked all spring," Tressel said. "He was comfortable and patient and showed an ability to accelerate. He wants to help. But he also knows he's got some guys with Antonio (Pittman), Mo Wells and Erik Haw who are good, too, and he will have to compete. But we are pleased with him."
Wells enjoyed his first big day in front of a crowd at the Horseshoe.
"It was great," Wells said. "It was a great experience for me to be out there today. Thank God I came in early. I think that helped me out. I see some things I need to improve on, though."
Erik Haw added 38 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries on the Scarlet. Brian Hartline had seven catches for 88 yards for the Scarlet.
For the Gray, Justin Zwick started and was 4 of 6 passing for 32 yards before giving way to Todd Boeckman. Boeckman was 13 of 27 for 189 yards with two interceptions.
"Our goal going into the game was to get Todd and Robby a chance to play as full a game as we could get," Tressel said. "Troy and Justin have had a lot of reps since they've been here. Todd and Robby have not. I thought Todd did some real good things. There were a couple of interceptions and there are some things they have to get better at."
Boeckman added, "I thought we had a great spring with Troy and Justin and Robby and myself. We're just going to keep pushing each other and hopefully somebody will step out there."
Tailback Maurice Wells had 33 yards on 10 carries for the Gray. Roy Hall led all Gray receivers with five catches for 66 yards, while Brian Robiskie added three catches for 59 yards.
"I thought Kurt Coleman's interception was very athletic," Tressel said. "I thought the receivers did some things with Hartline and Robiskie. A couple of the guys stood out at times. It looks like we sprayed the ball around on offense. It was a scripted thing where we were only able to do certain things on both sides of the ball. It will be interesting to review the film.
"I have thought over the spring we have improved as a running back group. (Defensive end) Lawrence Wilson always seems to show up to me. (Linebacker) Chad Hoobler made some plays out there in space."
Defensively, early enrolling linebacker Ross Homan had eight tackles with a tackle-for-loss for the Scarlet.
"I think Ross Homan is going to be very good," Tressel said. "He has been showing that since he's been here."
Scarlet defensive end Jay Richardson had four tackles, including two sacks. Coleman and Jamario O'Neal each had interceptions for the Scarlet.
Linebacker Marcus Freeman led the Gray with 10 tackles, while cornerback Malcolm Jenkins had seven. Safety Brandon Mitchell and linebacker James Laurinaitis each had six stops and Laurinaitis also had an interception.
The Scarlet opened the scoring with a nine-play, 80-yard march. On the first play, Smith threw down the middle to tight end Rory Nicol for a 23-yard gain. He then found Nicol for 10 more, Brian Hartline for 14 yards and Anthony Gonzalez for 18 yards on a crossing pattern. Smith scrambled for 7 yards, helping the Scarlet to a first-and-goal at the 4. Smith, wearing a black jersey for no contact, said he was a victim of a quick whistle on that play.
"I know if I hadn't had the black jersey on I would have had a touchdown on that play," Smith joked.
On first down there, Haw went left behind linemen Tim Schafer and Kyle Mitchum and plowed in for the 4-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 7:13 left in the first quarter.
"It was a good mixture of the run and the pass," Haw said. "The O-line was run blocking and pass blocking pretty well. Troy was reading the coverages and was just moving the ball. We knew we had to jump out to a quick start.
"On the touchdown, the linemen were down blocking and doubling the (defensive) tackle. If you get movement on the tackle, the play will usually go right up the gut. They double-team the D-tackle and work up to the linebackers. It felt good to score."
Smith said he wanted to go back in the game before Tressel gave him the hook.
"We were getting ready for the next season, but Coach Tressel came over and said, ‘He's done,' " Smith said. "Coach Bolls said, ‘He's done? What do you mean he's done?' "
Zwick then had an opportunity with the Gray, but sacks by Vernon Gholston (beating Alex Boone) and Jay Richardson (beating Josh Kerr) stopped that possession.
Early in the second quarter, Scarlet punter A.J. Trapasso watched as teammate Zach Willis downed a 48-yard punt at the Gray 1-yard line. On first down there, Gray defensive tackle Todd Denlinger slammed his way past Scarlet center Jimmy Cordle and swarmed Maurice Wells 3 yards deep in the end zone for an easy safety and a 9-0 lead with 7:15 left in the second quarter.
"Todd Denlinger has been excellent," Tressel said. "We think he is going to help us. He has quickness and his motor doesn't stop. He's 290 pounds, but he doesn't look like it."
Schoenhoft then led the Scarlet on an 11-play, 45-yard march. He connected with Hartline for two passes for 22 yards and also had a pair of nice runs. But on fourth-and-4 at the 20, Ryan Pretorius drilled a 38-yard field goal for a 12-0 lead with 2:26 left.
The Scarlet then attempted an onside kick, but Andre Amos recovered it at the Scarlet 48. Boeckman piloted the Gray on an 11-play drive, highlighted by a 26-yard deep out to Roy Hall. A 9-yard pass to Hall gave the Gray a first-and-goal at the 7. But Boeckman threw a pair of incomplete passes before he scrambled for 6 yards down to the 1. He called timeout with four seconds left as the Gray planned its final play.
Boeckman then tried to sneak it over from the 1 on the final play of the half. It appeared that he may have broken the plane of the goal line, but the officials did not see it that way. Scarlet's Homan, John Kerr, Curtis Terry and Richardson all had a hand in shoving him back as the their team's 12-0 lead stood at the half.
"We got a good push and I thought I was in the end zone," Boeckman said. "I thought I got it over, but it's the ref's call and you have to go with that."
Gray's Laurinaitis intercepted a Schoenhoft pass late in the third quarter.
"On the play side, it was one of those plays where you can't take your eyes off of that side," Schoenhoft said. "James made a great play and read my eyes. I asked him in the locker room about it and he said, ‘I read your eyes.' He's a great player. He said before he was going to make a pick on me and it came true. If he hadn't made that play, I think Hartline may have been up there for six points."
But the Scarlet's Coleman, an early enrolling freshman, then intercepted a Boeckman pass early in the fourth quarter. On the play, Coleman made a nifty diving grab to take away a potential touchdown.
"Guys were giving me a hard time because they said it looked like I was trying to keep my feet inbounds," Coleman said. "But I was just trying to get up in the air and get the ball. It was a hard throw."
The Gray threatened midway through the fourth quarter. But Boeckman was sacked by the Scarlet's Homan on fourth down at the 20 with 6:06 left.
O'Neal intercepted a Boeckman pass with 1:23 left.
The crowd figure eclipsed the previous unofficial spring game mark of 56,000, set in 2003 after the national championship. Last year, with terrible weather, OSU sold 33,000 tickets and had only 22,649 in attendance. With the weather as nice as it was, OSU announced a walk-up crowd of 23,600.