Defense Regains Scarlet Jerseys

Upsets are common when the Ohio State offense and defense mix it up for a jersey scrimmage, but that was not the case Saturday morning at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

The defense, boasting a few more veterans and a boatload of talent, took advantage of a banged-up offensive line and a trio of inexperienced quarterbacks to regain the coveted scarlet jerseys.

As is typical, the affair came down to the last play. With his team trailing 48-44, quarterback Todd Boeckman lined up the No. 1 offense at the 15-yard line for one last chance to save the jerseys for his side. However, after finding no one open, the junior from St. Henry, Ohio, was flushed and then run down by defensive end Lawrence Wilson, setting the final margin at 50-44 in favor of the defense.

"It's competition – that's what's fun," head coach Jim Tressel said afterwards. "(The defense was) very interested in getting their jerseys back and now they get to wear them at least until that first week of preseason when the next jersey scrimmage occurs, but our guys like to compete."

The end was a fitting one on a day all three quarterbacks vying to replace Troy Smith were often harassed by a bevy of talented young defenders.

Unofficially, the trio of Boeckman, sophomore Robby Schoenhoft and redshirt freshman Antonio Henton combined to throw four interceptions and complete just 16 of 45 passes for 191 yards.

Sophomore cornerback Donald Washington snagged two interceptions, while sophomore linebacker Austin Spitler and redshirt freshman safety Grant Schwartz each had one.

Spitler, one of eight linebackers fighting for playing time on the No. 1 unit, combined with redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dexter Larimore for a sack, while sophomore safety Kurt Coleman and junior linebacker James Laurinaitis combined for another. Reshirt freshman safety Tyler Moeller added a solo sack as the defense kept up the pressure all day.

Tressel said he thought his line, which was missing starters Steve Rehring and Kirk Barton reserves Jon Skinner and Kyle Mitchum, "did some decent things," but he predictably came back to the quarterback play.

"When you throw four interceptions, you don't have a chance anyway in a scrimmage like this or in a game, but it will be interesting [to watch the film]. I think like most things, nothing's as good as it seems and nothing might be quite as bad." The final score was not indicative of how the scrimmage went. The defense took a commanding lead of 31-8 before the offense was allowed to start several straight possessions in enemy territory.

That led to directly to three straight field goals – two by Aaron Pettrey and one by Ryan Pretorius – that cut into the deficit.

At that point, Henton and Robiskie hooked up for by far the day's best play for the offense. Facing a third-and-two inside his own 40, Henton eluded a blitzing Moeller and tossed a rainbow down the left sideline to Robiskie, who outjumped Washington for the ball inside the 10 before being brought down inside the 5 for a gain of 60.

That led to short touchdown run by Maurice Wells that finally made the game just one score again at 33-27.

Wells, the only scholarship tailback healthy, carried a game-high 21 times for 51 yards and two short touchdown runs.

K.C. Christian, one of the walk-ons sharing time with Wells in the backfield, had nine carries and gained a game-high 56 yards.

Robiskie was one of four players to catch a pair of passes and he had a game-high 74 yards receiving.

Henton (5 of 10, 108 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions) had the best day statistically of the quarterbacks, thanks mostly to two big plays. Aside from the long toss to Robiskie, he also hooked up with Christian on a nicely improvised rollout that gained 33 yards.

Schoenhoft was picked off twice and completed just five of his 18 pass attempts for 34 yards.

Tressel would not name Boeckman (6-17, 49 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) his firm starter, but did say he would start if there were a game this week and that there would be opportunities for the others.

The offense won the jersey scrimmage held eight days earlier at Ohio Stadium, while last season the defense – despite having to replace nine starters – was victorious in both the spring and fall jersey scrimmages.

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