Top-Ranked Buckeyes Too Much For BG

Top-ranked Ohio State jumped out of Big Ten play for the final time in the 2006 regular season on Saturday. The Buckeyes, behind two touchdown runs from Antonio Pittman, cruised to a 35-7 win over visiting Bowling Green. Click this free link for more. (NOTE: Story updated at 8:30 p.m. with notes and quotes.)

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is a notoriously tough grader.

That was more than evident after Tressel's top-ranked Buckeyes made their final foray outside the Big Ten in the 2006 regular season a successful one with a 35-7 win over visiting Bowling Green before 105,057 Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

"I'm sure as a coach nothing's ever as good as you'd like it to be and I would categorize this just as that," said Tressel, whose Buckeyes improved to 6-0 on the year. "I thought we did some good things and made some progress in some areas.

"Our guys have a goal of being very, very good, so I think today was worthwhile, but not wonderful."

Ohio State jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter, scoring on three of its first four possessions. Bowling Green (3-3) trimmed the lead to 21-7 on its first possession of the second half, but OSU answered with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put it away.

Quarterback Troy Smith completed 17 of 20 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns and also carried seven times for 54 yards for the Buckeyes.

"There's always going to be some areas that you need to improve on," said Smith, who improved to 19-2 as a starter at OSU. "You can never be complacent in anything that you do. We can always improve, though."

Ted Ginn Jr. caught 10 passes for 122 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown grab. Roy Hall added four catches for 50 yards. Tight end Rory Nicol and freshman Ray Small also had TD catches for the Buckeyes.

Tailback Antonio Pittman added 61 yards on 13 carries for OSU.

"We didn't treat this week as a bye week," said OSU center Doug Datish. "We tried to tune some things up and smooth things out. I think that's what today was good for."

Defensive end Vernon Gholston led the OSU defensive effort, which held Bowling Green (3-3) to 339 yards total offense. Gholston had an interception and two tackles-for-loss, including a sack.

Quarterback Anthony Turner was 16 of 24 passing for 179 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the Falcons (3-3).

"I am very proud of my guys," said BGSU coach Gregg Brandon. "They stood in there toe to toe with one of the best teams in the nation. We just lost too many little battles but they are a very physical football team and hopefully this game will help us down the road.

"That is a pretty good football team. They have a lot of weapons and they got us today, just like they have gotten everyone else this season."

Ohio State opened the scoring on the game's first possession, moving 64 yards in nine plays. Smith completed all five of his pass attempts on this drive for 44 yards. Smith found Ginn for gains of 12 and 7 yards and Roy Hall for gains of 10 and 12 yards. Facing first-and-goal at the 7, Pittman went left for 4 yards. Then, on second-and-goal, Smith stood in with plenty of time and dumped the ball off to wide open tight end Rory Nicol in the left flat for the 3-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 11:09 left in the first quarter.

"I was the primary read on that play," said Nicol, who snagged his second career touchdown on the play. "We had a guy coming in behind me. Troy did a great job on that play. He did a good job with his eyes. He pulled that defender off and, in a split-second, hit me there. It worked out just the way we practiced it."

Bowling Green then drove 49 yards down to the OSU 33. But on third down there, OSU safety Brandon Mitchell smacked receiver Corey Partridge to break up a pass. Sean Ellis came on to attempt a 50-yard field goal, but OSU freshman Kurt Coleman came off the right edge and blocked the kick. The ball skitted to OSU's James Laurinaitis, who lateraled it to teammate Jamario O'Neal. O'Neal was able to return it 14 yards to the OSU 47.

"I came off the edge free," Coleman said. "We ran a little twist. They just set me up and I knew once I got off the line of scrimmage I would have a chance to make a play on the ball. I was just fortunate to be in that position. I think that helped us get the momentum back going our way."

There, the Buckeyes embarked on a nine-play, 53-yard scoring possession. Smith hit Ginn with a 13-yard pass for a first down at the BG 26. The Buckeyes then moved backwards as OSU tackle Alex Boone was flagged for holding and, after a pair of incompletions and a delay of game penalty, the Buckeyes faced third-and-25 at the BG 41.

But Smith made one of the signature plays of his season. He rolled right and was pressured. He eluded a defender and rolled back left. He then cut back to the right and was off to the races on a strong 34-yard run down to the BG 8.

"It felt all right running like that," Smith said. "I haven't run like that in a long time, and I had a lot of guys joking with me when I got to the sideline."

On first down, Pittman went left and bounced it outside to easily score the 8-yard touchdown and give the Buckeyes a 14-0 lead with 3:51 left in the first quarter.

OSU's opportunistic defense then came into play. BG faced third-and-11 on its own 19. Turner threw in the right flat to Bullock, who had the pass go off his hands and right to Gholston. Gholston had dropped into coverage and made the interception, returning it 8 yards to the BG 21 with 14:01 left in the first half.

"That's always been part of our game plan," Gholston said of his drop into coverage which led to his first career pick. "Maybe people didn't notice it before, but you never notice until you do something with the ball. I knew I could catch it and my thought process was to get a good return. Any time I can sacrifice rushing the passer to get an interception, that is a good thing."

The Buckeyes needed three plays to reach the end zone. They again overcame a holding penalty – this one on center Doug Datish. Smith found Ginn for 10 yards and Hall for 13 more, setting up Pittman's second 8-yard touchdown run of the game. On this one, Pittman bounced off a defender near the line of scrimmage and again bounced it out to the left to get into the end zone. The play staked OSU to a 21-0 lead with 12:13 left in the half.

Late in the half, Justin Zwick relieved Smith at quarterback. He helped lead the Buckeyes down to the BG 29. But on fourth-and-7 there, receiver Anthony Gonzalez dropped what would have been a first down pass.

Bowling Green then threatened just before the half. But Gholston sacked Turner on the final play of the half to snuff out the threat.

BG came out, undaunted, to start the second half and moved 85 yards in 15 plays to its first score. On fourth-and-6 at the OSU 21, Turner converted the first down with a 9-yard slant pass to Partridge. Then, Turner rolled to his left and hit Partridge in stride. Partridge made a one-handed grab in front of OSU's Antonio Smith for the 12-yard touchdown, trimming the OSU lead to 21-7 with 6:21 left in the third quarter.

"We should have gotten ourselves off the field a lot earlier than that," said OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who joined Laurinaitis in leading the Buckeyes with nine tackles. "We had a chance to stop them. That's what happens when you don't get it done."

The Buckeyes answered with a 14-play, 70-yard march. On this one, Smith had 15-yard tosses to Hall and Gonzalez. Facing third-and-4 at the BG 10, Smith threw a screen pass to freshman Ray Small in the right flat. Small picked up a block from Hall and made BG's Jahmal Brown miss on his way to the 10-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead with 14:03 left in the game. The play was Small's first career touchdown.

"It was great for me to get my shot," said Small, who notched his first career touchdown. "For me as a freshman to get into the end zone, that's all God-given. In practice, I just try to work hard, look up to Ted and do what he does. It was a real rush and real thrill. Hopefully, I can get more of those if I keep working hard."

Smith added, "Anytime a young guy can get a chance to play it is good and especially to see him get into the end zone. The line gave me time to make a play and throw the ball."

Ohio State then took over after a BG punt on its own 43-yard line. Smith wasted no time here. Ginn, split wide right, got behind BG's Antonio Smith on a fade. Smith hit him in stride with a deep ball at the 5 and Ginn rolled into the end zone for the 57-yard touchdown and a 35-7 lead with 12:13 left.

"He'll run past you with the blink of an eye," Smith said of Ginn. "The play call was just that, try to get a deep strike and try to get something going, try to get something generated. The guys up front did a great job with protection because that route had to -- it took a while for it to get developed. They did a great job with stopping the defense and I just try my best to get the ball out there to him because he's so talented and gifted with so much speed."

Ginn added, "It was just a play. They called the play in the huddle and we ran it and executed it."

BG threatened late after backup tailback Dan Macon ripped off a 54-yard run. But OSU turned BG away as redshirt freshman Andre Amos broke up a fourth-down pass by BG's Tyler Sheehan with 1:19 left at the OSU 15-yard line.

Also Notable

* A number of OSU players left the game with injuries. Right tackle Kirk Barton left after just the second play due to an apparent ankle injury. Defensive tackle David Patterson also left in the first half.

"I think Kirk will be just fine," Tressel said. "He had a little bit of a foot procedure this week and didn't get as much practice as he would have liked, and we were only going to play him two or three series anyway. He just kind of had a little pain in there, and we just thought that it would be better to let it settle down. But I think he'll be just fine.

"As far as David goes, I think David will be just fine. Probably for next week, quite honestly, it will be day-to-day. But in the long run, David will be just fine."

* Smith has now thrown for 15 touchdowns against two interceptions this season and has 39 touchdowns against nine interceptions in his OSU career.

* This was the first game played on a newly sodded field at Ohio Stadium. OSU paid more than $100,000 to replace the field after the Sept. 23 home game with Penn State.

"It was more durable than in the past games where I was slipping and falling," said defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, who joined Gholston in notching a sack for the Buckeyes. "It may take time to even it out but I felt good with it."

* Coleman's blocked field goal was OSU's first since Ashton Youboty blocked one and returned it for a touchdown in last year's home win over Michigan State.

* With a fourth-quarter scoring advantage of 14-0 Saturday, Ohio State now has outscored its opponents 76-16 in the final period.

* Ohio State went 4-for-5 in the red zone Saturday, scoring four touchdowns. For the season, Ohio State is 21 of 26 in the red zone.

* Ohio State has scored at least 24 points in 13-consecutive games and topped the 35 points in four contests this season.

* The Buckeyes have intercepted at least one opponent pass in all six games this season.

The Buckeyes now have 12 interceptions on the season. OSU has forced14 turnovers (12 interceptions and two fumble recoveries) this season. Ohio State has turned those 14 turnovers into 59 points this season.

* The OSU defense has now allowed its first six opponents averages of 300.6 yards and 9.3 points per game. Coming into the game, the defense ranked fifth nationally in scoring at 9.8 points per game.

* Ohio State now leads the all-time series with Bowling Green 4-0 with all of the games in Columbus. The Buckeyes won 17-6 in 1992, 44-13 in 1997 and 24-17 in 2003.

* This was the first time BGSU has ever played the nation's No. 1-ranked team.

* Ohio State's 13-game winning streak, dating to last year's loss at Penn State, is the nation's longest.

* OSU's record as the nation's No. 1 team is now 57-8-1.

* In the records department under Tressel, Ohio State is now 56-13 overall and 35-4 at home.

* The Buckeyes have now won nine straight home games and 31 of their last 33 home outings.

* OSU has now won 42 of its last 43 home nonconference games dating to a 1990 loss to USC. The lone loss was to Texas in 2005.

* OSU now holds a 22-1 all-time mark against Mid-American Conference opponents. The Buckeyes did not play any MAC opponents in the years between 1912-91 until a 1992 game against Bowling Green. The only loss to a MAC school came in 1894 at Akron (12-6).

OSU has played one MAC opponent each year since 1997. This marks the first time in recent years that OSU have played two MAC teams. The Buckeyes defeated Northern Illinois 35-12 on Sept. 2.

* Ohio State, 2-0 in Big Ten play, returns to conference action by visiting Michigan State next Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC regional coverage). The Spartans (3-3, 0-2) dropped their third straight game Saturday, falling 31-13 at No. 6 Michigan (6-0, 3-0).

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