The Ohio State junior had his latest clutch game on Saturday against Iowa with five receptions, 77 yards and two touchdowns in the Buckeyes' 38-17 win. He now owns seasonal totals of 24 catches, 373 yards and four touchdowns.
"Thank you, I guess," Gonzalez said when asked for his reaction to such talk. "That's not… I appreciate that and you can say that. I think we have the best quarterback in the country and a lot of people feel that way. But, I'm not sure if we are the best, but that's very humbling to hear something like that."
Ginn is the bigger star between the two, but neither player really cares about the spotlight. It's no act when Ginn and Gonzalez talk about putting the team first.
"Well, that's the beauty of our receiving corps. There's no egos and no one needs the ball X amount of times," Gonzalez said. "No one is saying, ‘I didn't get this that and the other.' Everybody is concerned with winning the football game and if you're in our locker room, everybody is happy. Everybody is thrilled. That's the fun part. That's why I feel so passionate about this team is because we are just that."
Ginn had seven receptions for 69 yards against Iowa, pushing his yearly totals to 23 catches, 337 yards and five touchdowns.
When talking to Gonzalez, you always know you are going to hear his interesting and thoughtful takes on a number of subjects. Reporters kept asking about the receivers, but he felt the running game was the key to victory at Iowa.
Junior tailback Antonio Pittman had 25 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown. He already has 567 rushing yards (5.9 per carry) and five touchdowns on the season.
But Saturday will be remembered as the coming-out-party for freshman sensation Chris Wells. The 6-2, 235-pound bruiser carried 14 times for 78 yards, both career highs.
"Well, I hope our versatility makes us more difficult to prepare for," Gonzalez said. "The fact that we can throw Pit out there who will get his 100-some yards each week, and then you've got a guy like Beanie who is a big guy and moves the sticks and does a great job for us. And that's part of being a complete offense is that balance. And at this point, I feel that we have pretty good balance. There's still a lot of room to grow and that's the challenge of the next few weeks: to get better each day."
Gonzalez was asked to recall his spectacular 30-yard score in the third quarter that gave top-ranked OSU a commanding 28-10 lead over then-No. 13 Iowa. But in true form, he deflected the credit elsewhere.
"It was just one of those things where we thought we could exploit their coverage based on the fact that we knew it would be a linebacker covering me on that particular route," Gonzalez said. "At that point it's just, as a receiver, you better get open if there is a linebacker covering you, particularly a Mike linebacker. And then after the catch, it was great to see all the blocking. Brian Hartline made an amazing block (taking out two Iowa defenders) and Ted said he knocked down a guy. So, in that regard, it's going to be really fun to watch, only to see the blocks. The blocks made the play. That's a fact."
Gonzalez also scored two touchdowns against Iowa last season, not-so-coincidently on the exact same plays that were used this year.
"Well, here's something interesting: The two plays I scored on were the same two plays I scored on last year against Iowa," Gonzalez said. "But reverse the field position. The long one last year was the short one this year, and the short one last year was the long one this year."
But how could the Buckeyes be so sure that the Hawkeyes would always cover Gonzalez with a linebacker in the slot in three and four receiver sets? Especially after he burned them last year?
"That's just their scheme and they don't really change for anybody," Gonzalez said. "Pick a film, throw it in and you are going to see the same thing."
The crowd at Iowa was impressive and extremely loud at times. But the hostile environment didn't rattle the battle-tested Buckeyes.
"It looked nice. All the yellow with the towels looked really nice," Gonzalez deadpanned, while drawing laughter from a few reporters. "But to be honest it wasn't as loud as I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to be like deafening. Penn State loud. But obviously Penn State has, what, 30,000 more people? (Closer to 40,000). But they are right on top of you here and they definitely have some interesting comments for you behind the bench."
They probably weren't calling him clutch, but they should have been. When Gonzalez isn't catching touchdown passes, he's usually hauling in receptions that result in a first down.
Head coach Jim Tressel was asked why Gonzalez racks up so many first down catches.
"Anthony Gonzalez? We don't throw to him unless it's going to be a first down," he joked.
Beanie Breaks Out
As for Wells, the only thing better than his talent might be his personality. He was elated in the interview room following the game, and rightfully so. He will always remember his coming-out-party, even if he doesn't classify it as such.
"It was great," Wells said. "I don't know about coming-out-party or not, what I did is just go out and play football."
Wells was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation last year, but the freshman had to wait his turn this year until Tressel decided to unleash him on the Hawkeyes.
"It was kind of difficult at first, but the coaches told me to be patient and my time would come," Wells said.
Wells was not expecting to get so many carries in the prime time showdown in Iowa City. He didn't know he was going to be such a big part of the game plan.
"No, I really didn't at all," he said. "I knew all of us would play, but I didn't know I was going to get more opportunities this week."
And you have to appreciate the relationship between fellow Akron natives Pittman and Wells. Listen to what Wells has to say about the situation:
"He is like my brother for real. When I say my brother I mean my real brother. He tells me what I'm doing wrong and he tells me when I'm doing something right. We're brothers."
As the nation found out on Saturday, OSU doesn't just have one of the best WR corps in the country, it also could lay claim to one of the best running back tandems. But just how good can the Pittman-Wells combination be? Could it be up there with some of the best in recent memory – even the likes of Auburn's Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams in 2003-04?
"I think we can be the best," Wells said. "We're both confident and we have the ability."
And Wells is already learning from Pittman. He doesn't get too far in an interview without mentioning the offensive line.
"The O-line played great," Wells said. "They did a great job out there. They are tremendous blockers and they didn't give up at all. They kept on pushing, kept on pushing."
Wells thinks it's a luxury to play with quarterback Troy Smith, the early front-runner for the Heisman. Having a veteran QB makes it easier for the younger players on the offense.
"Oh, that helps a whole lot," Wells said. "Troy is so confident out there and tells guys what to do. It's great playing with him and you can see what he's doing for our team."
Tressel was obviously pleased to see Wells step up in a big game and thinks he will continue to form a powerful one-two punch with Pittman.
"I think if you can bring a lot of energy and hard running and pass pro and receiving and the whole deal, the more you can play the better it is," Tressel said. "I think it's huge to have multiple people at that very important position."
Jim Bollman carries many different hats – offensive coordinator (even though Tressel calls the plays), offensive line coach and running game coordinator. But it's his latter responsibility that is important on game days. When Tressel wants a running play, Bollman is the one that gives him one or two to choose from.
And after piling up 214 rushing yards against Iowa, the usually stoic Bollman was a happy man.
"I think we ran the ball the way we wanted to run the ball most of the time," he said. "A couple times I was a little concerned, but most of the time I thought it was pretty good."
Bollman hadn't watched the film yet of course, but was asked if he noticed any negatives in the offense's performance.
"I don't know that we had as many big plays as we would have liked," he said. "We didn't hit any deep balls. But we were playing a good team and we won. And we didn't have any turnovers. We were lucky the very first play of the game that Teddy's fumble that got bopped out of there and we recovered. Any time that we can score 38 points on a Big Ten team, it's good."
In addition to having no turnovers, the Buckeyes also did a good job of turning red zone opportunities into touchdowns.
"One of the things that I enjoy is when we do get opportunities, we get them in the end zone," Bollman said. "I think there were many parts of the game where we had some consistency. We had a minimum of mistakes, especially in that kind of crowd."