Wells And Pittman Represent 'Akron's Finest'

Both Chris Wells and Antonio Pittman took turns breaking down Michigan's highly-touted defense against the run by breaking off long runs in different halves during OSU's 42-39 offensive-oriented victory. The two Akron area standouts have become one of the finest one-two punches in the country and they both had memorable performances in the biggest game of the season and possibly their careers.

Two of the biggest offensive plays of the game for Ohio State came on the ground against Michigan resulting in touchdown runs of 52 yards by Chris Wells in the first half and 56 yards by Antonio Pittman in second half.

No one was supposed to be able to do that against the vaunted Wolverine defense.

"Pittman and Wells are good, and those guys blocking for them did a great job," said Jim Tressel when he was asked about their respective long runs in the game at the post-game press conference. "I think in Beanie's (Chris Wells) run, he broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage (actually made Shawn Crable miss in the backfield) and everything else was blocked and he was gone. And he didn't stumble like he did last week. And in Pitt's (run), he hit a crease and I don't know if anyone even got a glove on him. So those guys have got a gear and our guys know how to block."

Kirk Barton is one of those guys that blocked well for Pittman and Wells throughout the game. Pittman totaled 139 rushing yards on the day on 18 carries while Wells ran for 56 yards on just five totes.

"They're both great backs and I'm glad they're on my squad," Kirk Barton said. "We broke their hearts with those long runs because nobody had run on them all year, allegedly, and then we show up and block them a little bit and then we get about 200 yards (187 net) rushing on them."

Both Wells and Pittman were barely touched, if touched at all, on their long touchdown runs.

"We just executed," Barton said. "They might have taken a bad angle, we'll look at it on film, but basically we blocked them all up and they were off to the races."

Wells touchdown run put the Buckeyes up 14-7 near the beginning of the second quarter.

"The offensive line did a great job blocking and I just ran through the big hole," said Wells who had to perform some magic of his own in the backfield with an instinctive spin move before he was able to run through that gaping hole. "As soon as I got the ball I seen a guy in my face and I knew, like a running back, I had to elude the tackler."

After eluding Crable in the backfield, Wells wasn't touched until he was tripped up at the goal line.

"It was great," said Wells of his sprint to the endzone. "This is a game that everybody is going to remember forever and I got a chance to get into the endzone today."

Wells knew he was headed for paydirt almost immediately on the long touchdown scamper.

"When I broke the first tackle I knew I was gone," said Wells who looked as if he was shot out of a cannon when he got into the open field. "I felt fast."

That run, as much as any other, proved that the Michigan defense wasn't as invincible as they were portrayed to be coming into the game. Prior to the Ohio State game, Michigan was third in the nation in total defense and first in the Big Ten giving up an average of 231.4 yards a game. But Michigan led the entire country in rushing defense, allowing just 29.9 yards a contest.

"I think it did (break their hearts)," said Wells commenting on the statement he was told that Barton had made previously. "I think it opened their eyes and told them that they could be run on."

Pittman concurred with his good friend and backfield mate's sentiments about the Michigan defense.

"I think that might have hurt them a little bit. That hasn't been done on them all year," he said. "And for two runs to get broken on them big like that probably had them questioning themselves."

On Pittman's long touchdown run, he just followed his blocking and found instant daylight.

"(Steve) Rhering came around, pulled around for me, and those guys up front took care of business," said Pittman whose third quarter jaunt to the endzone gave Ohio State a 35-24 advantage and swung the momentum back in their favor. "They cleared everybody out and it was just daylight that I had to run through. I had to split the defenders and I was off to the races. I knew once I got past the linebackers I wasn't going down."

Pittman clearly aimed credit for the success of the running game in particular and the production of the offense in general on the performance of the guys blocking up front.

"I give it all to the offensive line, they had a great performance for me," Pittman said. "It's a good way to send the seniors off, they worked hard for me. Those guys up front worked hard for me and Ted and Troy and everybody else on this team. We worked hard as a team and got a good victory."

Wells dished out similar accolades toward the offensive line for the Ohio State offense being able to run the ball against Michigan.

"I feel as if we have the best offensive line in the country and we can run on any team," Wells said. "The offensive line did a tremendous job blocking. A tremendous job."

You can credit Wells and the offensive line for being mostly responsible for the 39-yard touchdown catch by Ted Ginn Jr. on a short-yardage play that followed the Wells touchdown in the second period. Everybody carried out their duties on the play-action fake, including Troy Smith, to perfection.

"You know that was a play that we had been working on for a while and Beanie, when Beanie comes in, he's our short-yardage back, and it was only a second-and-one but we thought maybe we could bait them into thinking we were just going to get the first down," Tressel said. "And (we had) great execution. The offensive line did a great job of protecting and Beanie did a good job of jumping up there and Troy kept his head down and Teddy's fast."

It looked as if the Michigan defense completely fell for the run on that play; hook, line and sinker.

"We've went over that for the past two weeks," Wells said. "Everybody knew me as, basically, the short yardage back and they bit on the fake."

The evolution and the maturation process for Wells has been nothing short of tremendous when you consider the adversity that Wells has had to fight through, already being labeled as a chronic fumbler by some. The TV cameras actually caught him counseling Troy Smith on the sideline after a turnover at one point during the game.

"I just told Troy, I guess I would know better than anybody on the team, you're as good as your next play," Wells said. "You can't dwell on a turnover."

Pittman, who lives with Wells off campus, has been a mentor to Wells in both good times and bad. He was there for Wells after he fumbled away the football in the Illinois game and was benched for the remainder of that contest.

"My role was just (to tell him) don't worry about it, it happens," Pittman said. "Everybody fumbles. Nobody's perfect. It's a part of football. It happens, get over it. And he put it behind him."

Other than for possibly their respective shoe collections, the fact that there's absolutely no envy or jealousy between Wells, who came to Ohio State regarded as the number one running back in the country last spring, and Pittman is further example of Wells maturity.

"First off we're from the same area and we knew each other for a long time and we're on the same team," Wells said. "So you just have to support each other and pick one another up."

Their relationship is obviously one of mutual respect.

"Pitt, to me, is just a tremendous leader," Wells said. "The big word you can use for Pitt is a ‘team' player. I'm coming in and taking some carries from him and he doesn't care. As long as the team is doing positive."

The two obviously have one agenda.

"Whatever I can help him with I'm willing to share with him and whatever he can help me with, I'm eager to learn," Pittman said. "Me and him had a good relationship before football and we're going to have one after football. We're here to help each other."

That being said, Pittman almost had to answer Wells' long touchdown run with one of his own.

"It's a challenge, that's what we have," Pittman said. "We always want to push each other to the limit. When I do something big, it makes him more eager to do something and vice-versa. That's what makes us better players."

And with both Pittman and Wells scoring on long touchdown runs in one of the most important games in the history of this illustrious rivalry, it will forever be one of Pittman's proudest moments as a Buckeye.

"It's huge," Pittman said. "Those runs will probably be shown forever now, it's a part of history."

Pittman was only able to watch the history being made four years ago in Ohio Stadium against Michigan, that win propelled Ohio State to the national championship game as well, and now he was a major part of it.

"I came up here in 2002, the year they won the national championship, and watched everybody rush the field and players get picked up in the air, and it happened again and I was the player being picked up in the air," Pittman said. "That was a great feeling and I'll never forget it."

And now Pittman's name, as well as his good friend's from Akron, will forever be carved in the annals of Ohio State football, in a more permanent version of the words that were shaven into the back of Wells' head that you could clearly see during the players walk through to the stadium. Words that Wells chose to describe this terrific tandem in the Ohio State backfield.

"It's ‘Akron's finest,' I had to get that on there," said Wells who had it done on Thursday before the game. "I just got it but it stands for the both of us. It represents both of us."

And both of them couldn't possibly represent Akron or the Ohio State running game in this championship offense any better.

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