Smith Likely Locks Down Heisman With Win

Coming into Saturday's one versus two showdown with Michigan, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was the Heisman Trophy front runner. Well, after throwing for 316 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan, Smith has likely cemented OSU's seventh Heisman Trophy. Read all about his latest command performance.

Ohio State and quarterback Troy Smith may not know yet who they will play on Jan. 8.

But, after Smith's command performance against Michigan on Saturday, Smith and OSU coach Jim Tressel know where they will be on Dec. 9.

Smith, OSU's starting quarterback, came into the showdown with Michigan as the front runner in the Heisman Trophy race. He went out and completed 29 of 41 passes for a season-high 316 yards and four touchdowns against one interception in his team's dramatic 42-39 win. The victory completes a 12-0 season and puts the Buckeyes in the BCS national championship game, set for Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

And, for Smith, it likely means he will be the recipient of the 72nd Heisman Trophy when it is presented by the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City on Dec. 9.

"Well, I would think he clinched the Heisman Trophy," Tressel said of Smith following the win. "I don't think there'd be any question about that. I think he's the best player in college football."

If chosen to win the Heisman Trophy, Smith would become the sixth Buckeye to win the coveted award and would bring home the school's seventh Heisman. All of the school's previous Heisman winners – Les Horvath, Vic Janowicz, Hopalong Cassady, two-time winner Archie Griffin and Eddie George – have joined program pioneer Chic Harley in having their uniform numbers retired.

So it also seems likely that Smith's No. 10 – the same number worn by past All-American quarterbacks like Art Schlichter and Rex Kern – will one day be retired.

But, as always, Smith deflected talk that he alone had secured the Heisman.

"I think the Heisman Trophy is a team award," he said. "If we go into a situation, I don't care who you are, you can be hands-down the most electrifying player in college football and lose two or three games and you're out of that. It's a team award first and foremost because our team is 12-0. I owe them everything in the world.

"If it wasn't for them in these situations, I wouldn't even be here for any of the accolade that I do receive and all the credit in the world goes to my team and my coaching staff."

Likewise, Smith, who improved to 25-2 as OSU's starting quarterback, also became the first OSU quarterback since Tippy Dye in 1934-36 to pilot the Buckeyes to three straight wins over Michigan.

"I've said it time and time again," said Smith, who improved to 10-1 against ranked opponents. "It's not me beating Michigan. It's the team that is lined up and took the field every year that I got to start as quarterback that beat Michigan. They're also 3-0. We all have three sets of golden pants that means the world.

"You know, that first one, when I first got them, just a little small, little, like a Christmas tree ornament, and it didn't mean that much to me at first, but now it means the world because you have to go through situations and games like that today to earn those golden pants and the teams that I've been able to play, we've been privileged to play with, deserve that, just that, to be 3-0."

Smith talked about the pain and sacrifice he and his teammates endured to complete their perfect regular season.

"You wouldn't be able to understand it unless you ran the gases that we ran, ran the hills that we've ran, pushed the sleds that we've pushed or played powerball with us," Smith said. "We've got a game called powerball, too, we play a lot. When that heat and that sun is beating down on your back in the summer, the commitment and the focus -- focus was the key word for us today, and everybody focused in.

"Words can't express how I feel right now. I'll probably be wearing this smile for the rest of this week. I love every single one of my teammates with the deepest passion you can probably have for another person. Our staff did a great job today putting us in the right calls and the right situations. You've got to fight though, persevere, and the 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes did just that. We're outright Big Ten champs, baby!"

Smith was the player chosen to address the crowd at the pregame Skull Session at St. John Arena.

"Hello, I'm No. 10, Troy Smith," he said to a rousing ovation.

Smith was then the last player introduced before the game. He and Tressel shared a long hug and then he was embraced by his family and his former Cleveland Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr.

"For me, I was overwhelmed just by the fans' support, being my last game in the Horseshoe, it meant pretty much everything to me," he said. "Some things didn't go the way we wanted them to offensively and constantly I was reminded by teammates that we follow you. We pretty much react to the way you react. And that meant everything in the world to me because no one on the sideline was going to let me get into a situation to where I was going to be down for a second.

"It had the implications of a huge game and that's as far as seniors, and our team, but the national championship is something aside, something different than this. This is the Ohio State-Michigan game, the biggest game in college football, and today the best team won."

Smith had several different touchdown throws against Michigan. He found Roy Hall on a simple out pass for a 1-yard score early. Then, he hit Ted Ginn Jr. for a 39-yard TD on a post route. He found Anthony Gonzalez for an 8-yard TD on a simple slant. Finally, he hooked up with Brian Robiskie for a key 13-yard score that gave OSU an 11-point lead at 42-31 with 5:38 left.

Smith was asked about the last touchdown drive that may have clinched the win for the Buckeyes.

"Every time we get the ball, we want to score a touchdown," he said. "There's not a situation or a time during the game where we have possession of the ball that we don't want to put points on the board. Robiskie just made a great catch. It was an adjustment that he made that not too many people could make.

"The offensive line did a great job of holding those guys which they had been battling with the whole game and Robiskie came back and made a Division I college athlete play on the ball, and I have them to thank for everything."

On that final drive, Smith took several vicious shots from Michigan defenders, including a helmet-to-helmet hit by UM's Shawn Crable. But each time he got up and kept playing.

"For me, I live and I play through everybody else," he said. "I come back to the huddle, when I stare at 10 guys in the huddle, eyes wide open, alert, and ready to dominate the opposing team, I come to the sideline and there's 105 plus guys, eyes wide open and ready to do everything and anything they can in support of our team.

"So there's no way that I can get into a situation where I feel as if my legs hurt, my knee is hurt, my elbow is hurt, and limp up or act like something is wrong with my body, because I've been in situations where I've seen scout team players constantly beat their bodies up, play and play and play after play, so I could never shortchange any of my teammates."

Smith was asked about the pass-heavy game plan. After all, his 29 pass completions are the most by a Buckeye QB in the series vs. Michigan.

"I can't buy into the plays that are called," he said. "We try to run them to the best of our abilities and if it's a pass, we have to complete a pass. If it's a run, we have to get four plus yards. So that's the way I look at it and hopefully that's the way the team looks at it. Some games you run a little bit more than you pass, it doesn't matter, as long as you get the win."

Smith watched as Michigan's Chad Henne drove his team down the field for a quick 7-0 lead.

"The first thing that goes through my mind is it's going to be a long day," Smith said. "We're going to have to step up and do some things. If you get in a situation where a team is not going to back down, you better bring your lunch pail. They came and played every play.

"I wouldn't have it any other way. I want to play somebody who will step up to the forefront, stick their chest out and give you their best."

Smith endured a rough third quarter, misfiring on a number of passes. He also threw an interception and he and center Doug Datish failed to connect on a couple of snaps.

"I wasn't moreso down in the dumps," he said. "I was pissed. I just felt as if we weren't playing to our ability. I knew we could do better than we were doing. That fire turned into points and plus plays for us."

Smith was asked if the death of former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler factored in the game.

"Not really, but you have to understand about football icons and he was just that," Smith said. "You have to understand this rivalry and what he meant to it. I'm sure it weighed on Michigan's heart.

"Our situation is different here. We have a great in Woody (Hayes) and hopefully we have one up and coming with Coach Tress."

Winning the outright Big Ten title was Smith's main objective.

"For five years, I came and sat in our team meeting room, through the countless hours of meetings and gazing at different signs in the meeting room, you always look at a sign in the corner that says outright Big Ten champions," he said. "The last one was in 1984, the year I was born. This means everything in the world to me. Outright means it's only you – you don't share it with anybody else.

"This group of guys I am with is so special and they deserve everything they get."

Now, he will lead the Buckeyes into the national title game as OSU chases its sixth consensus national title and second in five years.

"That means everything, man," he said. "There are a lot of teams that come through here and write down their goals. Only a select few get to say they get to the national championship game. We are part of that group. I am sure our bowl preparation will be superb because the staff we have is superb."

Offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said Smith executed OSU's pass-heavy game plan to a T.

"When you've got a guy like Troy, who is a legitimate Heisman guy, you have to use him in a game like this," Bollman said. "No one had really run the ball on them this year. It wasn't like we were going to come out there and ram it down their throats. That would have been foolish. We just tried to run our offense. Whatever we do, we'd like to be doing it well."

Ginn believes his teammate will bring home the Heisman.

"I think he has the Heisman for sure now," Ginn said. "He deservers it for all the work he has done, coming in everyday and being a leader. Like Troy said, ‘It is a team award,' but I think since they have to give it to one guy, it should go to him."

The Smith File

There were a ton of notables surrounding Smith's performance Saturday – as well as for the season and his career. They include:

* He matched a career-best with four touchdown passes. Both the attempts and completions were career highs. It was his fourth time this season he threw four TDs in a game (Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern) and the second-consecutive game Smith has tossed four TDs. He now has 16 career games with two or more TD throws.

* Smith is the first Ohio State player to throw four TD passes against Michigan in the 103 meetings in the series. Joe Germaine passed for three TDs in the 31-16 victory over Michigan Nov. 21, 1998 in Ohio Stadium.

* Smith's 316 yards passing against Michigan are the most since Germaine passed for 330 yards in the 1998 game.

* Smith's four TD passes pushed him to 30 for the season to establish an Ohio State single-season record. Smith surpassed former Buckeye QB Bobby Hoying and his 29 TD throws in 1995. Smith has thrown a touchdown pass in 11 of 12 games this season. He did not throw for a TD at Illinois.

* With 316 yards passing, Smith now has three 300-yard passing games in his career (300 vs. Michigan in 2005 and 342 vs. Notre Dame in 2006 Fiesta Bowl).

* Smith now has 2,507 yards passing in 2006, which ranks fourth all-time at Ohio State for a single season. Art Schlichter threw for 2,551 in 1981. Germaine holds the all-time single-season mark with 3,330 in 1998.

* Smith's total offense for 2006 stands at 2,740, which ranks fourth behind his 2,893 total offense in 2005.

* Smith now has 6,882 yards in total offense for his career to rank third all-time. Smith trails Bobby Hoying (1992-95) who had 7,151 to rank second. Schlichter is the school's all-time leader in total offense with 8,850 yards.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories