5 Answers: New Mexico State at Ohio State

This week we wondered how the visitors would handle Ohio Stadium, how the Buckeyes would stay focused, how a two-quarterback system might help New Mexico State, what role special teams would play and how healthy the Buckeyes would emerge.

1. Can New Mexico State handle the Ohio Stadium atmosphere and crowd?

The Aggies showed no signs of being intimidated by the 104,719 on hand for Ohio State's 45-0 win.

Not that this was the most intimidating collection of Ohio Stadium partisans that ever assembled in the old Horseshoe (many student seats were empty at the start of the game), but the visitors were flagged for only two penalties and did not make any obvious mental mistakes.

"Ohio State was my dream school coming out of high school so I'm pretty glad I made it to the Horseshoe," said New Mexico State linebacker Ross Conner. "I'm very happy we came here."


2. Will the Buckeyes keep their focus and continue improving this week?

How much Ohio State improved could be up for debate despite the gaudy yardage and points totals, but there seemed little doubt the Buckeyes took their opponent as seriously as they needed to.

"We really learned our lesson against Purdue," senior linebacker and captain Austin Spitler said, referring to a 26-18 loss at Purdue two weeks ago. "Coming into the game we knew we can't underestimate anybody and so we went out there like we were fighting for the Big Ten championship.

He was happy with the work his teammates did during the week.

"Oh, it was unbelievable," Spitler said. "Our coaches really were hard on us about focusing this week and not looking past it. I thought it showed today."


3. Can New Mexico State keep the Ohio State defense off balance with its two quarterbacks?

Although Ohio native Trevor Walls was listed atop the depth chart all week, Jeff Fleming started and played the entire first half for the Aggies, showing off some nifty moves in the running game but little as a passing threat.

Walls entered in third quarter and on his second play from scrimmage lost a fumble that was recovered in the end zone by Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle for a touchdown.

Spitler said the Buckeyes prepared for both quarterbacks during the week but were not surprised Fleming got more snaps.

"We knew when they put (Fleming) in there he was more of an athletic guy, maybe not so much of a pocket passer, so they would run some QB powers and stuff with him and he can scramble," Spitler said. "Then they had (Walls), who can just sit back there and is more of a pocket passer. It was kind of a windy day so we expected (Fleming) to be in there running the ball."

New Mexico State head coach DeWayne Walker said he chose Fleming early because he had a better chance to get himself out of trouble. "He's more athletic. He's more mobile. Their defensive line, they're pretty athletic and mobile, too. We just felt that Jeff could get himself out of trouble more so than Trevor."

Fleming ended up the team's leading rusher with 31 yards on seven carries. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 22 yards.

Though it was not the day he probably hoped for, Walls was still happy to get a chance to play at Ohio Stadium.

"It was a dream come true," the Waverly native said after going 0 for 2 passing and losing a net of 17 yards on three carries. "I have always been a Buckeye fan. It was enjoyable being around friends and family. There were probably 200 people from my hometown here."


4. Which team will get the better of special teams?

After a slow start, Ohio State used some special teams trickery to build momentum.

In the second quarter with the Buckeyes leading 7-0, kicker Aaron Pettrey recovered his own dribbler after it went the required 10 yards to become a live ball. That set up another Ohio State touchdown and seemed to get the Buckeyes into a better rhythm.

On the down side, Pettrey badly missed a pair of 52-yard field goals and later suffered an injury to his kicking leg while covering a kickoff.

In his place, Devin Barclay made a 29-yard field goal and missed from 36.


5. How healthy will the Buckeyes be at and after game time?

Tressel said he was not sure of the severity of Pettrey's injury nor one that helped encourage the coaching staff to sit quarterback Terrelle Pryor for all of the second half.

"Based upon what I saw right in front of me, it looked like he got banged pretty good," Tressel said of Pettrey. "The various bumps and bruises that any of these guys have, Terrelle included, I don't even see when those happen, but when you see the ones right in front of you there and you have to kind of get helped up and so forth, plus it's on his kicking leg, so I'm just guessing, again, without having any medical information."

Pryor said he felt a pop in his leg when tackled from behind on a carry in the second quarter.

"But it's not a big deal," the quarterback said. "It popped back a little bit when he grabbed my neck. It's adversity and something you've got to handle. You see what type of team you are when you have some adversity and we have a lot of adversity this year. I'm sure it's a little bump on my leg and I'll be fine."

On the plus side, both Brandon Saine and Dan Herron, the team's top two running backs entering the season but both coming off injuries, were able to play, and previously ailing offensive linemen Jim Cordle (ankle) and Andy Miller (flu) were able to play extensive minutes.

The special teams got a boost with the return of freshman Jonathan Newsome, who missed three games with a knee injury, and injured defensive lineman Dexter Larimore and offensive lineman Justin Boren are both expected to be able to play next week when the Buckeyes travel to Penn State.


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