Smith Back On Target In Win At NU

Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith improved to 24-2 as a starter with Saturday's 54-10 win at Northwestern. Smith threw for 185 yards and matched his career high with four touchdowns. Afterwards, Smith assessed his performance and looked ahead to the showdown with Michigan.

Ohio State defensive tackle David Patterson was going through his usual postgame salutations following his team's 54-10 win at Northwestern.

Patterson praised Northwestern for its effort, his defensive teammates for forcing five turnovers and then dropped some roses at the feet of OSU quarterback Troy Smith.

"I enjoy standing on the sideline and watching the best player in college football," Patterson said.

Smith did little to hurt his Heisman Trophy hopes with Saturday's game at Northwestern. Playing on a cold and windy day at Ryan Field, Smith completed 12 of 19 passes for 185 yards. He matched his career-high with four touchdowns and threw just his fourth interception of the year.

"He was in control and command and that is what we like," said OSU coach Jim Tressel. "He knew what was going on the whole time. He had the one throw that was probably a poor call, asking him to throw a home run into the wind. That call was probably on me. He is very aware of what is going on, but sometimes it looks like he ad-libs, but he is only ad-libbing because he knows what (the defense) is doing and he knows where to find someone."

With two wins over Michigan already to his credit, Smith will try to become the first OSU quarterback since Tippy Dye in the 1930s to lead his team to three straight wins over Michigan when the nation's top two teams collide on Saturday in Columbus.

That game could go a long way toward determing whether Smith, currently considered the front runner in the Heisman race, will come away with college football's most coveted individual award when the winner is named Dec. 9 in New York City.

On the year, Smith has now thrown for 2,191 yards with 26 touchdowns against four interceptions. In his career, Smith has now thrown for 5,369 yards with 50 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

His single-season touchdown mark is second in OSU annals to the 29 thrown by Bobby Hoying in 1995. He now stands tied with Art Schlichter – who also wore No. 10 – in third place on the school's career TD list at 50, trailing just Hoying (57) and Joe Germaine (56).

Smith seems to be locked in a battle with Notre Dame's Brady Quinn for the Heisman. Quinn threw for 207 yards and four touchdowns in his team's win at Air Force on Saturday. For the year, he has thrown for 2,579 yards and 25 TDs against four interceptions.

Following the win at Northwestern, Smith was asked to assess how he has played this year.

"I think I've played all right," he said. "There are a lot of things you guys don't see that we could do a lot better. You want to be the best that ever played the game. Decision making as a quarterback is everything. Every time you drop back with the ball, the decision making is the process that makes you the player you want to be."

Smith was also pressed for a grade for his play against NU.

"I try not to grade myself unless I'm asked the question," he said. "I would probably give myself a strong B."

But wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., a close friend and longtime teammate of Smith's back to their high school days at Cleveland Glenville, was having none of that.

"Troy is always going to be an A-plus for me," Ginn said. "There are a lot of things a quarterback goes through with checkdowns and blitzes. For us to come out of this game with just the two turnovers as a team, that's a credit to him as the quarterback because he's our leader."

Against Northwestern, Smith had touchdown tosses of 14 and 9 yards to Brian Hartline and a 6-yarder to Anthony Gonzalez. Seemingly, on each he used his poise to buy time, look over his receivers and find the one who was wide open.

But the piece de resistance was his 34-yard touchdown pass to Ginn with a scant three seconds left in the first half.

Leading 27-3, the Buckeyes faced a third-and-20 predicament at the NU 34. There were just 10 seconds left on the clock and most figured Smith would take something underneath to set up a field goal.

But he and Ginn went for the jugular instead. Ginn, locked in man coverage down the left sideline, put his head down and tried to outsprint the NU defender. Smith bought some time and then threw a perfect pass. Ginn turned in time to haul it in at the 3 and carried the defender with him into the end zone for one more amazing TD hook-up between the two.

"On that (pass to Ginn), all of the respect goes to the guys up front for making all of that possible," Smith said. "Ted made a great play on the ball. What more can you ask from a guy? He fought off a defender and made a great play on the ball."

Ginn added, "They were playing a lot more man coverage and we just wanted to take advantage of it."

That play marked the 13th time that Smith and Ginn have hooked up for a touchdown play.

There is one team, though, that Smith and Ginn have yet to victimize for a touchdown hook-up. And it's the one they will play next Saturday.

Smith was asked if it was appropriate that it will be 11-0 Ohio State against 11-0 Michigan this Saturday.

"I think so," he said. "Through the years I've followed it, I've never known both teams to be undefeated. It's bigger than the things I've known in the past. I'm actually a part of it. That really blows my mind.

"Going out there on the field and getting the chance to wear the Scarlet and Gray – these are my last couple of times – so it means the world."

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