Sunday Morning QB: Youth Served Vs. BGSU

We are back with this week's edition of Sunday Morning Quarterback. We recap Ohio State's 35-7 win over Bowling Green with a look at some of the positives and negatives from this nonconference triumph. Plus, we recap the week that was in the Big Ten and college football world at-large.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

We start with a look at OSU's 35-7 win over Bowling Green:

* There was a lot to like about Ohio State's win over Bowling Green. The Buckeyes scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions on offense and, defensively, other than a break here and there, OSU slammed the door on the Falcons a number of times.

I know OSU coach Jim Tressel was initially not all that excited about the outcome. He saw some missed opportunities that could have helped the Buckeyes to truly bury Bowling Green.

But in my mind, Bowling Green was better than the 3-2 record they showed coming in. Quarterback Anthony Turner, just a sophomore, missed BG's two previous losses. I don't think he would have helped the cause that much in the season opening 35-14 loss to Wisconsin. But, without Turner, BG self-destructed and turned the ball over six times in a 38-3 home loss to Kent State.

BG has good coaches and a few players who appear like they can play a little, so a 28-point win over that team and that program is nothing to sneeze at, at least from where I sit.

The fact is when you get up on a team 21-0 so quickly your thoughts sometimes drift back to the wars of the Big Ten, which resume next Saturday at Michigan State. You allow yourself to cut a corner here or there. And the Buckeyes began substituting liberally as well, giving BG's front line players more of a chance to make plays.

I can hear Lou Holtz – who I think has come into his own as a studio analyst for ESPN with each passing week – when he might say, "There is a reason those guys are your second-team players. As of now, they are not as good as your first-team players. Maybe some day they will be, but for now you have to coach ‘em up and hope they can get the job done when you put them in there."

OSU sustained injury losses on both lines when RT Kirk Barton and DT David Patterson each left the game early. Barton's foot injury should not keep him out of next week's game at MSU, Tressel said. Patterson's situation is more tenuous, it seemed, and Tressel said he would be "day to day" for the time being.

Perhaps Patterson, himself, put it best when he said: "I am just thankful to get to play another game at Ohio State because it's my senior year. Any chance I can get to play I will take."

The flip side of this is how many snaps some of the younger players got in this game. That time is invaluable.

Sophomore tight end Rory Nicol, who opened the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown catch from Troy Smith, summed the day's events up when he said, "Any time you get a win … I've always been a guy who feels like you don't get very many chances to play, so when you get a win you need to be grateful and enjoy it. There are probably some things we could have done better. But for right now we're 6-0 and it's a great day to be a Buckeye."

Sophomore middle linebacker James Laurinaitis continued his strong play as he matched cornerback Malcolm Jenkins for the team high in tackles with nine.

"I think we had some missed tackles we could improve on," said Laurinaitis, who was added to the Butkus Award watch list this week. "We didn't do the fundamentals exactly perfect. You have to improve your fundamentals every week. That's the stuff that will show when you play a great team. This was a great game to test our focus."

It was also another big day for sophomore defensive end Vernon Gholston, who tallied an interception and a sack. He has been a big part of an OSU defense that lowered its points allowed per game average to a stellar 9.3 after this win.

"Back in the spring, we thought we would have a chance to be pretty good as a defense," he said. "We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go."

* Offensively, you could call Ohio State's attack against Bowling Green as vanilla. The Buckeyes ran more two-tight end sets than they had probably the other five games combined. They also did a good job in setting up the bubble screen, which Ray Small was able to take 11 yards for his first collegiate touchdown in the second half.

And, for good measure, they flashed a bomb with Troy Smith completing a 57-yard strike to Ted Ginn Jr. for another score.

"We tried to do some different things and break some tendencies," center Doug Datish admitted. "We learned you have to go out there and play hard every time. Any time you play against a team that gives you different looks, that makes you better."

Nicol said BG's varying defenses and late pre-play shifts gave the Buckeyes a lot to consider.

"They ended up doing some things schematically that we might not have expected," he said. "They are a solid team. They played physical and came in and fought hard. We knew that they wouldn't come in here and bow down to us. The offensive line and sidelines did a great job adapting to the changes."

* Each week, Smith seems to outdo himself with a highlight reel play. There was the scrambling touchdown toss to Brian Robiskie against Penn State and then at Iowa he had the touchdown to Anthony Gonzalez (OK, Gonzalez was the bigger part of that one) and the rope to Robiskie for his career-high fourth TD pass in that game.

But it was shades of 2004 all over again as Smith made a huge play with his feet against Bowling Green. Facing a third-and-25 predicament, Smith avoided several tacklers on his way to an amazing 34-yard run.

The fabulous run – Smith's longest since a 46-yard scamper against Michigan in 2004 --came on what appeared to be a busted play as Datish bounced the snap back to Smith.

"I feel like on that long run, I was probably to blame," Datish said. "That was a real low snap, so, usually when that happens, Troy is thinking about running on that anyway. I should get the credit for that. I was locked up on a guy and I was just trying to kill him because I was angry about the snap."

We are starting to see more of the elusive Troy Smith we saw a lot last year. He had a key 17-yard run last week against Iowa and then 54 yards on seven carries against BG. He is definitely not going to match the 611 yards and 11 touchdowns he had on the ground last year, but Smith now has 78 yards on 29 carries this season.

* As noted, there were a number of young guys who made meaningful contributions on Saturday. Small, a true freshman, got into the end zone for the first time – a fact that delighted his former Cleveland Glenville teammate and mentor Ginn.

"He's my little brother," Ginn said. "I'm so happy for him. The first time he stepped on the field here, I was so pumped for him. I hope he can keep it going every game. I wish the best for him, just the same as Robiskie when he scored his first touchdown."

Ginn and Smith both said that Small predicted he would get into the end zone against the Falcons.

"He said this week, ‘I'm going to score,' and he did," Ginn said.

Ginn was asked if he had ever made a similar prediction.

"Yeah, my freshman year against Michigan State," he said.

"I said I was going to get three touchdowns, and it worked," Ginn said with a laugh as he left the interview area.

Small said following in Ginn's footsteps seems to be working for him.

"In practice, I just try to work hard and look up to Ted. I just try to do what he does," he said. "In the summer, during camp, I was messing up and not knowing the plays, but the coaches believed in me. I think now I'm getting up to speed."

True freshman defensive back Kurt Coleman came up with a big play against BG, blocking an early field goal try. He and Small share uniform No. 4 and he said it's not uncommon for them to go head-to-head in practice.

"I think he's the quickest guy on the team," Coleman said. "He still has a lot to learn at the wide receiver spot. But as you can see, he's a great player and he's just as good a guy off the field. We usually have a battle going on in practice."

Coleman has spent much of his time at corner, but he repped quite a bit this week at safety after the Buckeyes loss starter Anderson Russell to a torn ACL in last week's game at Iowa.

"The coaches told me they needed me to switch positions and I would do anything the team needs," Coleman said. "It was good playing Bowling Green because I was able to get in reps before Michigan State next week."

Coleman said he is content to do whatever is asked of him.

"Right now, I'm just enjoying the ride," he said. "It's all new experiences and I'm trying to follow behind Troy and Ted and the captains. I'm just glad to be a part of this."

Another young guy who saw time against BG was redshirt freshman Todd Denlinger, who repped at defensive tackle after Patterson went down.

"I've learned so much from watching the other linemen – watching their footwork and hands," Denlinger said. "I've done a 180 with my footwork and hands and learning that has really helped me."

With starters Patterson and Quinn Pitcock leaving after this season, Denlinger seems to be first in line to fill a DT spot in 2007.

"Hopefully I can step up and be the guy next year," he said.

* Perhaps the one disappointing thing that did not happen in the BG game was the use (or lack thereof) of freshman tailback Chris Wells.

Wells had 14 carries for a career-best 78 yards against Iowa a week earlier, serving as one of the key components in an offense that held the ball for over 40 minutes. This game would have been a good opportunity to get Wells some more seasoning in preparation for the Big Ten stretch run.

But Wells ended the game with 6 yards on five carries. Maurice Wells, running third team at tailback, had seven carries and got 18 yards. Starter Antonio Pittman had 13 carries for 61 yards.

Maybe it was not a day for running the ball and, in OSU's defense, there are so many play makers in this offense that it is easy for one more regular contributors to get lost in the shuffle each week.

* One of the more interesting plays was Coleman's blocked field goal. He came off the right edge and blocked Sean Ellis' 50-yard attempt. The ball skitted left to Laurinaitis. He took just a few steps before lateraling the ball to Jamario O'Neal. O'Neal then did his best Ginn impersonation going all the way around to the other side of the field on his 14-yard return.

"You want one of those faster guys to take it back," Laurinaitis said of his decision to lateral the ball. "I know I'm not going to take it back. I've had four opportunities (with interceptions) and I have failed at every one of them.

"I may as well try and get it into a faster guy's hands and make something happen. We were just playing football. Jamario was calling for it. There weren't any BG guys around so I thought it was a safe play. We'll see if it was the right play, according to the coaches."

Headlines from around the Big Ten:

* No. 6 Michigan continued to fire on all cylinders with its 31-13 win over Michigan State. RB Mike Hart had 122 yards on 22 carries and QB Chad Henne threw three touchdown passes. Two of those TDs went to Mario Manningham, who now has eight TD grabs in his last four games.

UM is 6-0 for the first time since 1997. The Wolverines still have two more high hurdles the next two weeks as they visit Penn State for a night game and then return home to face Iowa Oct. 21.

MSU's losing streak extended to three games with Ohio State coming to East Lansing next Saturday. QB Drew Stanton threw for 252 yards, but had no touchdowns and threw a pair of costly interceptions. MSU missed injured RB Javon Ringer, finishing with just 60 yards rushing against the stingy UM defense.

Consecutive losses to Notre Dame, Illinois and now Michigan will only intensify the heat under MSU coach John L. Smith.

* No. 19 Iowa rebounded from its loss to Ohio State by blasting Purdue 47-17. Drew Tate threw for two touchdowns and 253 of the Hawkeyes' season-high 539 total yards. Damian Sims ran for a pair of scores as well for Iowa.

* Penn State survived a wild 28-27 overtime game at Minnesota. Minnesota scored first in the overtime but kicker Jason Giannini missed his PAT kick. PSU's Tony Hunt, who rushed for 144 yards and two scores, then scored a touchdown and Kevin Kelly's extra point was the difference for the Nittany Lions.

The loss spoiled a 347-yard, two-touchdown effort by Minnesota quarterback Bryan Cupito. PSU's Anthony Morelli threw for 284 yards and two scores.

* Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, a 242-pound redshirt freshman, did his best Ron Dayne impersonation in his team's 41-9 win over Northwestern. Hill had 35 carries for 249 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown, as the host Badgers barreled over the reeling Wildcats, who dropped their third straight game.

* One week after shocking Michigan State, Illinois got shocked itself. The Illini blew a 25-7 lead and watched as Indiana kicker Austin Starr booted a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give his team a 34-32 win, spoiling the Illini homecoming.

Juice Williams threw for 190 yards and two TDs for Illinois, but Indiana QB Kellen Lewis got the win after he threw for 250 yards and also rushed for 44 and scored a touchdown.

Headlines from around the country:

* Just days after Tommy Tuberville questioned the BCS selection process and lobbied for a playoff, the Auburn coach need not concern himself with such matters for the rest of this season.

The upset of the week was at Auburn, where the second-ranked Tigers were dealt a 27-10 shiner by Arkansas. Darren McFadden ran for 145 yards and a touchdown, and Felix Jones had 104 yards and a score.

The ranks of the unbeaten were trimmed from 13 down to nine as Auburn, Wake Forest, Georgia and Oregon all tasted defeat for the first time. The remaining unbeatens are Ohio State, USC, West Virginia, Michigan, Louisville, Florida, Boise State, Missouri and Rutgers.

* Cal QB Nate Longshore threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a score in the No. 16 Golden Bears' 45-24 win over 11th-ranked Oregon.

* No. 18 Georgia Tech continued to roll as Tashard Choice rushed for a career-high 138 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-23 win over Maryland.

* No. 10 Georgia, which had only allowed 34 points all season, lost 51-33 to 13th-ranked Tennessee. The Bulldogs were giving up a nation's-best 6.8 points per game entering the match-up.

* No. 3 USC survived another tough scrape with a 26-20 win over visiting Washington. John David Booty threw for 243 yards and a touchdown and Mario Danelo kicked four field goals as the Trojans extended their home winning streak to 29.

The game ended in controversial fashion as UW drove to the USC 15-yard line and had a first down with two seconds left. But when the officials started the play clock and game clock, the Huskies were unable to get a play off in time.

* Fourth-ranked West Virginia extended the nation's second-longest winning streak to 12 games with a 42-14 victory over Mississippi State. Steve Slaton ran for 185 yards and a score for the Mountaineers, who have won 30 of their last 34 regular-season games.

* Fifth-ranked Florida beat No. 9 LSU 23-10 to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1996 -- the school's lone national championship season. The Gators extended their home winning streak to 13 games and won their 18th straight homecoming game.

* In the Red River Shootout in Dallas, No. 7 Texas beat 14th-ranked Oklahoma 28-10 for its 17th consecutive conference win. The Longhorns trailed their Big 12 rival 10-7 at halftime before Colt McCoy threw two touchdown passes in the third quarter.

* No. 15 Clemson rallied from 14 points down in the fourth quarter for a 27-17 victory over previously unbeaten Wake Forest. Defensive lineman Gaines Adams scored on a 66-yard fumble return to spark the comeback.

* Texas Tech's Graham Harrell completed 39-of-55 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns, but had four costly turnovers in a 38-21 loss to No. 23 Missouri. Harrell, saw his two interceptions returned for TDs and lost two fumbles.

* Denis Hopovac's fifth field goal of the game in an NCAA record-tying seventh overtime gave North Texas a 25-22 victory over Florida International.

* New Hampshire's David Ball broke Jerry Rice's Division I career record with his 51st touchdown reception, helping UNH beat Richmond 27-17. Rice set the record playing for Division I-AA Mississippi Valley State from 1981-84.

* No. 12 Notre Dame sent Stanford to its sixth straight loss and worst start in over 20 years with a 31-10 win over the Cardinals. Stanford also lost its first six games in 1983, en route to a 1-10 season.

* Colorado matched its longest skid in school history with its 10th straight defeat, a 34-31 triple overtime loss to Baylor. The Buffs need a win next week against Texas Tech to avoid breaking the mark first set in 1963-64.

* Heisman Watch: Troy Smith (191 yards, 3 TDs) is still my top pick here. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson saw his team suffer its second loss, which may damage his chances. Northern Illinois' Garrett Wolfe, coming off a 353-yard game against Ball State, will be on display tonight against Miami (Ohio). Notre Dame's Brady Quinn, West Virginia's Steve Slaton, Florida's Chris Leak (so-so day against LSU) and Michigan's Mario Manningham are also in the hunt.

* My new top 15: My teams I moved up were Michigan and Florida. A lot of teams went the other way (or off the list completely). Here's my new list: Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida, West Virginia, Louisville, Texas, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Clemson, Iowa, California, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Georgia.

* Games To Watch: Virginia Tech-Boston College (Thursday), Pittsburgh-Central Florida (Friday), Michigan-Penn State, Ohio State-Michigan State, Rutgers-Navy, Missouri-Texas A&M, UCLA-Oregon, Florida-Auburn, Arizona State-USC.

We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Sept. 2, Northern Illinois (3-2), at Miami (Ohio), Oct. 8; at Western Michigan, Oct. 14.

Sept. 9, at Texas (5-1), beat Oklahoma 28-10, Oct. 7; vs. Baylor, Oct. 14.

Sept. 16, Cincinnati (3-3), beat Akron 20-14, Oct. 7; at Louisville, Oct. 14.

Sept. 23, Penn State (4-2), beat Minnesota 28-27 (OT), Oct. 7; vs. Michigan, Oct. 14.

Sept. 30, at Iowa (5-1), beat Purdue 47-17, Oct. 7; at Northwestern, Oct. 14.

Oct. 7, Bowling Green (3-3), lost to Ohio State 35-7, Oct. 7; vs. Eastern Michigan, Oct. 14.

Oct. 14, (3:30 p.m., ABC) at Michigan State (3-3), lost to Michigan 31-13, Oct. 7; vs. Ohio State, Oct. 14.

Oct. 21, (noon, TV TBA) Indiana (3-3), beat Illinois 34-32, Oct. 7; vs. Iowa, Oct. 14.

Oct. 28, (3:30 p.m., ABC or ESPN) Minnesota (2-4), lost to Penn State 28-27 (OT), Oct. 7; at Wisconsin, Oct. 14.

Nov. 4, at Illinois (2-4), lost to Indiana 34-32, Oct. 7; vs. Ohio U., Oct. 14.

Nov. 11, at Northwestern (2-4), lost to Wisconsin 41-9, Oct. 7; vs. Purdue, Oct. 14.

Nov. 18, (3:30 p.m., ABC) Michigan (6-0), beat Michigan State 31-13, Oct. 7; at Penn State, Oct. 14.

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan (6-0, 3-0)

Ohio State (6-0, 2-0)

Iowa (5-1, 2-1)

Wisconsin (5-1, 2-1)

Penn State (4-2, 2-1)

Purdue (4-2, 1-1)

Indiana (3-3, 1-2)

Illinois (2-4, 1-2)

Michigan State (3-3, 0-2)

Minnesota (2-4, 0-3)

Northwestern (2-4, 0-3)

Oct. 7 Results

Indiana 34, Illinois 32

Iowa 47, Purdue 17

Penn State 28, Minnesota 27, OT

Wisconsin 41, Northwestern 9

Ohio State 35, Bowling Green 7

Michigan 31, Michigan State 13

Oct. 14 Games

Minnesota at Wisconsin, noon (ESPN)

Iowa at Indiana, noon (ESPN2)

Purdue at Northwestern, noon (ESPN-Plus)

Ohio State at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)

Ohio U. at Illinois, 7 p.m. (ESPN360)

Michigan at Penn State, 8 p.m. (ABC)


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