Smith, Gonzalez Help Power Offense At MSU

It was another banner day for the Ohio State offense, which was led by senior quarterback Troy Smith (234 yards, two touchdowns) and junior Anthony Gonzalez (seven catches, 118 yards, one TD) in its 38-7 win at Michigan State.

For Ohio State, Saturday's 38-7 win at Michigan State was another command performance for senior quarterback Troy Smith.

Smith enjoyed his fourth 200-yard game of the season, completing 15 of 22 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns on a blustery day in East Lansing.

"He's 15 for 22 and two touchdowns on a nasty, windy day," summed up OSU coach Jim Tressel. "It was hard to say … which way the wind was going. I'm sure it was treacherous to throw the ball in and tough to kick into. For him to be as accurate as he was, that was pretty good. His efficiency gave us a chance to keep the football and mount some drives.

"He comes up with some key plays on third down. We were 10 of 16. That's the answer right there. That gives you a chance."

Smith did a lot of his best business on Saturday with junior wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzalez came up just shy of the showing he had earlier this year, when he tallied eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. In this game, though, he was quite a factor. He had seven grabs for 118 yards and a score.

Gonzalez also delivered a key block to spring Ted Ginn Jr. on his 60-yard punt return for a touchdown and, for good measure, also had a 29-yard run on a reverse.

And, according to Tressel, it was Gonzalez who suggested the play OSU used when he came free to catch a 12-yard touchdown pass from Smith.

"Gonzo is such a heady player out there," Tressel said. "His awareness level of the whole picture is outstanding. The one touchdown he caught in the back of the end zone, where we had a little play action and we rubbed some receivers, we called that during the timeout and he called it.

"We had a different one in mind and Gonzo said, ‘Hey, why don't we do this one?' I never was up for a Rhodes scholarship. I figured I would go with Gonzo's choice, and that was his call. He studies the heck out of the film. He's very aware when he's on the field of play."

Smith credited Gonzalez for coming up with the call and then making the catch.

"That's why we call him the Wizard," said Smith, who is now 20-2 as OSU's starting quarterback. "If you give him a chance, he's going to see things and do things that mesmerize you. He's a great player who is going to continue to grow as a receiver and as a man."

The play was Gonzalez's fifth touchdown catch of the year and 10th of his career. Thirty-one of his 34 catches this season have been for either first downs or touchdowns and he has already eclipsed the 28 catches he made a year ago.

On the play, Smith lofted the ball just over the outstretched arms of MSU's Otis Wiley. Gonzalez went up, made the catch and got at least one foot inbounds in the back of the end zone for the score.

"He put it only in a spot where only I could get it," Gonzalez said. "That's what is rewarding about playing with the best player in the country. I was just running around looking for something. I was looking for a hole, an opening, anything, really."

That touchdown catch all but sealed MSU's fate as the Buckeyes moved up 24-0 with just 39 seconds left in the first half.

"I don't know if it was over, necessarily," Gonzalez said. "But any time you get into the end zone, that's a good thing, obviously. To be able to contribute positively in that regard, I was excited about that."

Gonzalez's later run on his reverse helped set up Smith's 7-yard touchdown toss to Brian Robiskie, which staked OSU to a 31-7 advantage. On that play, Smith stayed alive and spun out of a sack attempt by MSU defensive lineman Ervin Baldwin.

"I guess that's just determination," Smith said. "Robo believed in me and he kept going. He could cut his route off earlier, but he kept coming and he kept coming. It was a play where persevering and staying alive through all of that resulted in a touchdown."

Against MSU, the Buckeyes were 5 for 5 in the red zone with four touchdowns and one field goal. On the year, OSU is now 26 of 31 in the red zone with 21 touchdowns and five field goals.

Tressel talked about Smith's cool demeanor and how it serves him well when the Buckeyes get inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

"Troy has a lot of poise," Tressel said. "The whole deal with the red zone is it has a little bit more pressure to it. The defensive backs don't have to back up. Everyone is closer to you in the red zone and there is usually more blitzing going on. All the stuff flying around him doesn't bother him. He's still got his eyes up and his feet under him. He's reading what's going on and he has a lot of confidence in his receivers. He just has an ability to remain calm in a fiery situation."

The game was played in some tough conditions with temperatures in the mid-40s and winds gusting to 20 mph at times.

"A couple passes I threw early, the wind took them because I was lazy on my followthrough," said Smith, who now has 17 touchdowns and two interceptions on the year. "I know I'll hear about it tomorrow from my staff and my quarterback coach.

"I don't want to say it was a factor, but it was something that was definitely there. It was something you had to battle through. You have to go through things like that. It was Big Ten football down to the bone."

Smith looked after his friend, MSU quarterback Drew Stanton, when he was knocked from the game after a hit by OSU linebacker Marcus Freeman near the OSU sideline.

"He had a rocky day, but Drew is an optimist," Smith said. "He's always positive. After the game, he had a smile on his face just like he did when I met him in 2001. He's a good guy."

Smith and the Buckeyes were jazzed to have huge fan support at Spartan Stadium. By halftime, many of the MSU faithful had beaten a retreat to higher ground. But the OSU fans – maybe as many as 10,000 – stayed put and roared their support throughout.

"I think we have the best fans in college football," Smith said. "They will follow us everywhere. They will follow us to the Moon. You need stuff like that and you need people like that around you to have a championship caliber team."

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