Five Questions: Ohio State at Washington

This week's edition of The Five Questions wonders which quarterback will fare better in his first big spotlight and if the Buckeyes can shake those slow start blues and hang onto the ball a little better. For information on those topics and more, read on.

1. Will the Buckeyes be able to slow down run/pass threat Jake Locker?

There does not seem to be much doubt that the key to stopping the Huskies is keeping their quarterback under control.

Through two games, the redshirt freshman has been a sensation in the Pacific Northwest as he has thrown for 335 yards and run for another 167. He has accounted for four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing), completed 61.4 percent of his passes and thrown one interception in 44 pass attempts.

The way the way the 6-3, 225-pounder moves is what has garnered the most attention, but he is more than a one-trick Husky.

"They've created a whole new world with the speed of the quarterback," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said Tuesday, before adding, "He does a great job throwing the football. I don't (want) anyone to be misled (into thinking) that he simply is a guy that can fly around the field. He's a guy in my mind that can throw the football well. He's got excellent command for a young guy. You can see he knows exactly what they're planning to do."

Doug Worthington, a defensive tackle who has made the switch from end, said the Buckeyes likely would use third-string quarterback Antonio Henton to mimic Locker's athletic ability.

Worthington said while he won't have to take a different approach to defending a running quarterback, the same is not true of the ends.

"They have to be able to play the dive and play the quarterback," he said.

Defensive backs Kurt Coleman and Malcolm Jenkins both said discipline would be key for them.

"Any time you get a quarterback that has some speed and can run, it makes year ears go up and be aware of it because it adds another dimension to the game because when all else fails he can run the ball," Jenkins said.

"You have to leverage the ball a lot better," Coleman added. "We have to stay in our lanes, and we definitely have to fly around like we did against Akron.

2. How will Todd Boeckman fare in his first start on the road?

Of course, the Buckeyes have their own first-year starter in junior Boeckman. He will be the fourth Buckeye quarterback to make a first road start under Tressel, and the first three were all winners.

The most recent was Troy Smith in 2004. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 138 yards including the game-winning 58-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. in the final minutes as Ohio State beat Michigan State in East Lansing, 32-19. Prior to Smith, Justin Zwick completed 10 of 21 passes for 73 yards in a 22-14 win at N.C. State that same season.

The most famous, though, is the first: Craig Krenzel, a week after relieving Scott McMullen in a home loss to Illinois, returned to his home state and guided the Buckeyes to an upset of Michigan in the Big House in 2001. Krenzel completed 11 of 18 passes for 118 yards. He threw one interception.

Interestingly, Smith's hookup with Ginn was the only OSU touchdown pass in that trio of contests. Krenzel threw the only interception, and the average total of pass attempts was 20.

"They're all cheering for you when you're at home and it's loud and so forth, but it's kind of like a friendly loud," Tressel said. "On the road it's not the same situation. You don't have all of the same comfort levels. But I think our guys have always enjoyed going to the great environments."

The last Buckeye to lose his first road start was Steve Bellisari in 1999. Facing LaVar Arrington and second-ranked Penn State, the lefty sophomore had a rough day to say the least. Aside form completing just 7 of 21 passes for 78 yards, he threw and interception and was sacked eight times, including 2.5 by Arrington.

3. Is this the week the Buckeyes start running it like Ohio State?

Although the 171.5 yards per game have not been far off what last year's Buckeyes posted in the rushing column, no one has seemed satisfied with the performance of the Ohio State running game thus far.

Conventional wisdom was that Ohio State could push around little brothers YSU and Akron, but that was not really the case.

The Penguins and Zips both overloaded the box with defenders and got creative with their schemes.

Don't expect that from Washington. "Akron ran that 3-3 and there's just guys coming from all different directions. Youngstown State just flat out blitzed a lot," Person said.

"(Washington's) defense plays a lot like ours. They're just going to be tough, right at ya. I'll be looking forward to that."

Cordle concurred, adding, "This week you can really test how good we are going to be as an O-line because (they run) a 4-3 with big D-linemen. Washington thinks those guys can control the game and they can sit back and play and just let those guys control the O-line, which is going to be the challenge for this game. We'll get a good gauge of how good we are this week against Washington."

The Huskies have allowed a total of 111 yards rushing in their first two games with opponents averaging 1.8 yards per carry. Last week they held Boise State star Ian Johnson to 81 yards on 22 carries, ending his streak of 100-yard games at seven.

4. Can the Buckeyes get off to a faster start?

Ohio State has been more effective in the second half of each of its first two contests, but center Jim Cordle said that has not been much of a concern.

"Early on in both games the cohesion wasn't there," he said. "One guy would slip off (his block) or something, but as the game went we really got it together. That's going to be the key: Carryover from the second half of Akron, right from the get-go at Washington."

Right guard Ben Person, the other new starter on the offensive line along with Cordle, said getting off to a faster start has not been a topic of discussion this week.

"We want to get it going quicker but it's not been a point of emphasis," Person said.

He added that he sees the chemistry up front improving every play.

"I think that's part of the reason we played a little better in the second half than the first half. It takes time," Person said. "Defensive lines learn to work together sooner than offensive lines, especially when there's new guys in there, especially with a new center."

The Buckeyes have scored 10 more points in the second half (34) than in the first (24), and have 219 of their 343 rushing yards have come after intermission.

"Hopefully we can get on top of then early and kind of control the crowd," Cordle said.

5. Will the Buckeyes finally end up on the sunny side of the turnover battle again?

It seems improbable that a coach with the conservative reputation of Jim Tressel would oversee a team with such turnover problems, but the fact is his team has finished the last four games with a negative turnover ratio. The ugly numbers: one takeaway, 11 giveaways. To be fair, those struggles came on the heels of 10 games in a row with a positive or even ratio, but consider this: In Tressel's 78 games at the OSU helm, his team is plus-14 in turnovers, but that figure drops to plus-1 when taking the 2002 national championship team out of the equation.

The moral of the story? The Buckeyes better protect the ball better than they did last week, and it would probably not hurt to become better at thieving it.

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