Open Road Has Hit Back Under Tressel

Plenty has gone right for the Buckeyes under head coach Jim Tressel, but Ohio State only has a 4-3 record in its first Big Ten road contests since Tressel took over in 2001.

Jim Tressel's results at Ohio State speak for itself. Since coming to Columbus in 2001, the head coach has compiled a record of 77-17 with seven bowl appearances (five BCS games), five 10-win seasons, four Big Ten championships and a national championship.

Yet Tressel has a pedestrian history in Big Ten road openers. In Ohio State's first conference game away from Ohio Stadium, Tressel's teams are only 4-3.

The Buckeyes looked good in their 34-21 victory over Minnesota last week, but Tressel said he knows how hard it is to win away from home in the Big Ten. Each unit offense, defense and special teams has to play mistake-free football to win road conference games, according to Tressel.

"We have often believed that Big Ten championships are certainly won on the road," Tressel said. "There's no way you're going to win a championship if you can't go on the road and come up with a big victory."

The next step on that road is in Madison, Wis., where Ohio State suffered one of Tressel's three losses in 2003. In that game, not only did the Buckeyes lose their first road Big Ten game of the season, but also their 19-game winning streak.

None of Ohio State's players were a part of that 2003 team, nor have any of them played at Camp Randall Stadium. Yet the Buckeyes do have some history winning night games in conference play. Ohio State defeated Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State in primetime contests away from Ohio Stadium. "We know it's going be loud," senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie said. "We're excited for that. It makes it much more important for us to go back this week and really focus on doing the little things so we can be prepared."


Here is a look back at how Ohio State has fared in its first Big Ten road game under Tressel:

2001: Ohio State 27, Indiana 14: Freshman tailback Lydell Ross scored two touchdowns in a win over the Hoosiers. Ross carried 25 times for 124 yards and gave Tressel his first Big Ten victory.

"Obviously, it's great to get a Big Ten win," Tressel told Buckeye Sports Bulletin after the game. "A ballgame in the Big Ten is hard fought, especially on the road. We've been circling this one for a long time to make sure we got out on the road and made a good start."

The Hoosiers led 7-3 after the first quarter, but touchdown runs of 5 and 1 yard by Ross put Ohio State ahead for good, 17-10, at halftime.

2002: No. 5 Ohio State 27, Northwestern 16: The Buckeyes remained unbeaten through six games, but it was not a pretty win in Evanston, Ill.

Freshman Maurice Clarett lost three fumbles, and the Buckeyes allowed three long special teams returns. It was the second straight tight road game for Ohio State. OSU trailed Cincinnati at halftime, 12-7, before rallying with a late Craig Krenzel touchdown run for a 23-19 win.

"We've got to do better on the road," Tressel said. "There are certain things you have to do on the road if you want to have a chance to win. We have not done those things yet. There's no way we'll win our next away game if we keep making these same mistakes."

Despite the fumbles, Clarett still led the OSU offense with 140 yards on 29 carries and touchdown runs of 2 and 20 yards. Ross added a 3-yard touchdown scamper, and Mike Nugent made two field goals.

2003: No. 23 Wisconsin 17, No. 3 Ohio State 10: Ohio State's 19-game winning streak was snapped on a rainy night in Madison, Wis.

After the Buckeyes rallied to tie the game in the fourth quarter, like Ohio State had time and time again during its winning streak, Wisconsin turned the tables and handed OSU its first loss in 21 months.

Wisconsin backup quarterback Matt Schabert connected with receiver Lee Evans on a 79-yard touchdown to give the Badgers the victory. Schabert entered the game when starter Jim Sorgi had his neck wrenched in a pileup.

The Buckeyes struggled with their rushing attack. OSU's running backs managed only 69 yards and averaged just 2.7 yards per carry.

"In order to win on the road, you have to do a good job of running the football," Tressel said. "We did not get that done."

Nugent made a 24-yard field goal in the second quarter, but the Buckeyes trailed 7-3 at halftime. Michael Jenkins caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from Craig Krenzel, who was returning after missing two games with a hyper extended elbow, to tie the game.

2004: Northwestern 33, No. 7 Ohio State 27 (OT): An anemic rushing attack led to an historic victory for the Wildcats.

The Buckeyes were held to under 100 yards on the ground for the third consecutive game, and Northwestern recorded its first victory over Ohio State since 1971 and its first win over the Buckeyes in Evanston since 1958.

Ohio State rallied for 10 points in the last nine minutes of regulation to force overtime. Nugent kicked a 29-yard field goal with 8:46 remaining to cap a 16-play, 55-yard drive. Santonio Holmes later tied the game when he caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Justin Zwick with 1:54 remaining.

In overtime, the Buckeyes' magic ran out. The offense gained only 3 yards, and Nugent missed a 40-yard field goal. The Wildcats clinched the win by reaching the end zone on a 2-yard touchdown run by Noah Herron.

"We didn't do the things we always talk about that we need to do to be successful," Tressel said. "We didn't play flawlessly on special teams, we certainly didn't play that way on defense and I don't know that we were opportunistic on offense. We had a chance there at the end, but the way we played during a large portion of the game, I don't know that we should have."

2005: No. 16 Penn State 17, No. 6 Ohio State 10: Penn State's defense took away Ohio State's big-play ability and held the Buckeyes to only two red-zone trips.

Quarterback Troy Smith completed 13 of 25 passes for 139 yards and rushed for 15 yards on 19 carries. Smith had little help from his running game. Tailback Anthony Pittman was held to 58 yards.

Two turnovers turned the game against Ohio State. The first came in the second quarter when Smith threw an interception that set up a PSU touchdown. Then, late in the game with the Buckeyes attempting to mount a rally, Smith was blindsided by defensive end Tamba Hali. That caused the future Heisman winner to fumble. Penn State defensive tackle Scott Paxson recovered the ball and the Nittany Lions were able to kill the rest of the clock.

2006: No. 1 Ohio State 38, No. 13 Iowa 17: Facing a hostile crowd, the Buckeyes solidified their top ranking with a rout of the Hawkeyes.

Smith out dueled Iowa QB Drew Tate in a primetime showdown. Smith threw a career-high four touchdown passes, while Tate threw three interceptions.

"He's got a great grasp of what we would like to do and also what they're doing," Tressel said of his quarterback. "That's how you get good is an understanding of your own system and how people try to stop you. He was in command the whole game."

Smith took advantage of an impressive rushing performance by Pittman. The Akron native ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. Freshman Chris "Beanie" Wells added 78 yards on 14 carries.

The Buckeyes outgained Iowa 214-87 on the ground. Ohio State led 21-10 at halftime, cruised to victory in the second half and silenced a yellow-clad crowd at Kinnick Stadium.

2007: No. 8 Ohio State 30, Minnesota 7: A fast start, sluggish second quarter and impressive finish equaled a 30-7 victory for Ohio State in the Buckeyes' final game in the Metrodome.

The Buckeyes extended their school-record regular-season winning streak to 23 games. Wells led the way, running for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

What was a close game turned on a Malcolm Jenkins interception and an ensuing touchdown drive for the Buckeyes in the second quarter. With Ohio State ahead 14-7, Jenkins intercepted an Adam Weber pass that stopped a Minnesota drive at the OSU 22.

Ohio State then drove down the field, capped by a terrific touchdown reception by Brian Robiskie that gave the Buckeyes a 20-7 halftime lead. Quarterback Todd Boeckman threw a deep pass down the right hash to the end zone where Robiskie leapt over safety Jamal Harris and made a one-handed touchdown grab. The ensuing point-after attempt was blocked, but Ohio State took the momentum into halftime.

"(Robiskie) plays the ball in the air very, very well, and Todd loves to throw it up in the air to those guys," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "Sometimes he gets catches and sometimes he's gotten pass interference penalties. He's got a couple interceptions this year, but he has a lot of confidence those guys are going to go up there and get the ball."

A 43-yard field goal from Ryan Pretorius and a 19-yard touchdown reception by Brian Hartline capped the scoring in the second half.


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