Five Answers: Ohio State at USC

Not much went the way the Buckeyes probably would have liked it to Saturday night at the L.A. Coliseum. We examine how Ohio State tried to change things up, the state of the Buckeye passing game and more in this week's Five Answers.

1. What new wrinkles are in store?

Rather than alternate starting quarterback Todd Boeckman and freshman super sub Terrelle Pryor by series, Jim Tressel opted to switch the two in and out for each other on nearly a play-by-play basis.

"We knew we were facing an outstanding defense and that we needed to be able to get a handle on what they were doing," Tressel said. "We thought that it was possible that it was going to be something that could work for us. I guess we'll have to go back and evaluate to see if it did or if it can."

Top-ranked USC did not do anything too crazy, but three of the Trojans' touchdowns were thanks to some sleight of hand.

On the first, fullback Stanley Havili slipped out of the backfield and outran OSU linebacker Marcus Freeman down the sideline, where Mark Sanchez found him for a 35-yard touchdown pass.

Score No. 2 was thanks to a brilliant play-action fake by Sanchez before a 1-yard touchdown toss to Blake Ayles, and one of Sanchez's two second-half touchdown passes to Damian Williams was made easier when another Trojan receiver picked an Ohio State defender.


2. Which team will adjust quicker (and better)?

No obvious adjustments had an effect on this game. Ohio State was able to keep the Trojans from teeing off on Pryor by asking him to throw nine times.

Although the Buckeye offense ground to a halt in the second half, USC did not appear to do much to change its approach. If anything, the Trojans merely took an even more aggressive mindset when Ohio State was put in a position to have to throw to get back into the game.

At times, Ohio State had some success with screen passes and draws to use the defense's aggressiveness against it, but the Buckeyes could never put together enough good plays in a row to sustain much after the middle of the second quarter.


3. What of Beanie?

Chris Wells, the Buckeyes' star tailback, did not play. Tressel declared him out the night before the game.

Wells was at the game in his jersey and warmup pants but no pads.

In his stead, Boom Herron started the game and ran for 51 yards on 11 carries.

Pryor provided an extra running threat and scampered for 40 yards on 11 totes, a figure that includes a 6-yard loss from a sack on Ohio State's last offensive play of the night.


4. Can the Ohio State passing game get in sync?

For a second straight week, the OSU air attack had no rhythm, and uncomfortable quarterbacks seemed to be a large part of the problem.

Ohio State allowed five sacks, with Boeckman absorbing four of those blows.

On his first interception of the night, he looked off balance and threw across his body with a defender in his face, meaning the throw lacked the zip it needed to get beyond Trojan linebacker Rey Maualuga, who stepped in front of Brian Hartline and raced 48 yards for a touchdown that made it 21-3, Trojans.

Hartline, who caught three passes for 19 yards, said the pressure was quite debilitating.

"Me and (Brian Robiskie) felt like we were running open the whole game," Hartline said. "They were around us, but we felt like we were taking advantage of opportunities but the ball couldn't get in the air. That was very frustrating in that sense."

Hartline's 16-yard reception in the second quarter was Ohio State's longest play from scrimmage.


5. Will an unknown star emerge?

Not really.

If Ohio State had a candidate, it would have to be Chimdi Chekwa, who made an athletic interception in the closing seconds of the first half to deny a USC scoring opportunity, but Chekwa is no Chimdi-come-lately. He performed admirably as Ohio State's nickel back throughout the 2007 season and was even the Big Ten defensive player of the week after a strong midseason showing against Purdue.

With the Trojans boasting of a roster full of nationally recognized recruits, few truly fly under the radar. Few Ohio State fans probably would have expected a Buckeye defeat had they been told before the game that USC's leading receiver would be its fullback, though. Havili finished with five grabs for 49 yards, including the first-quarter TD grab that provided all the points the Trojans needed.


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