Fred Shavies, Jason David (right), Al Genatone and a fourth Washington State player tackle Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett in the first quarter. (AP/Jay LaPrete)
Jason David and Virgil Williams chase Ohio State tailback Lydell Ross in the second quarter. (AP/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel reacts angrily to the Cougar's lead in the second quarter. (AP/Terry Gilliam)
Colin Henderson gets taken down by Ohio State defenders Richard McNutt and Robert Reynolds in the fourth quarter. (AP/Chris Kasson)
Coach Mike Price yells from the sidelines as the Coug's first half lead slips away as Matt Kegel looks on. (AP/Jay LaPrete)
Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel keeps cool in a sea of Cougar defenders, including Virgil Williams, Mawuli Davi and Faafetai Tupai. (AP/Terry Gilliam)
And the vaunted Buckeyes opened up a second-half can of ground-it-out whip ass that propels them into the national title race and thrusts freshman back Maurice Clarett into the Heisman sweepstakes while Gesser's candidacy all but ends.
No. 6 Ohio State overcame a 7-6 halftime deficit to score 19 unanswered points in front of a national television audience and waltzed to a 25-7 victory over the No. 10 Cougars.
Clarett, running left, running right, and really running straight up the middle, rumbled for 230 yards and two TDs on 31 carries to pace the Buckeye comeback. He had 194 of those yards in the second half. The Cougars tried nine in the box, five down linemen and who knows what else, but all for naught in the effort to stop him.
"Some people look forward to Ohio State games the entire week," said Clarett. "I want to make sure people get their money's worth whether they're sitting in A deck or way up in C deck."
This was Ohio State football the way Woody Hayes wanted it to be -- devouring yards, and the clock, on the ground. In all, the Buckeyes had 292 ground hashes and threw but ten passes. The Cougars, conversely, managed only 40 yards on the ground.
Coupled with spirited throng of more than 104,000 whose vocal ways directly or indirectly led to a 12-point swing -- nine for the Buckeyes and three that should-have-been for the Cougars -- by fouling WSU's long-snapping game, OSU rolled while the Cougars melted in the noise and unremitting Ohio humidity.
The Cougar offense that opened the game with a textbook, 11-play/80-yard drive to paydirt sputtered most of the rest of the way and only collected 91 total yards in the final two quarters. And even when they did show later flashes, they couldn't capitalize -- spoiling one long drive with a muffed snap on a field goal attempt just before halftime and killing another in the fourth quarter with an interception near the goal line.
It was a dramatic turn of events. WSU actually had the Buckeyes where they wanted them in the first half --- trailing, trying to pass and doing it without the benefit of the notorious crowd which took a first-half rest after Mawuli Davis and Issac Brown sacked QB Craig Krenzel on back-to-back plays. In fact, the Buckeyes didn't convert on a third-down play until the third quarter, going 0-6 up to then.
And then the bottom fell out. Tackles were missed. The line of scrimmage was lost. A long snap sailed into the endzone. Passes weren't threaded. Hot reads weren't executed. The ground game was ground to a halt and the defense, seemingly on the field forever, grew weary.
Gesser looked every bit the Heisman contender in the first half, but was pressured mightily in the second half and concluded the day completing 25 of 44 passes for 251 yards, one TD and two INTs.
"Missed opportunities and missed tackles," said Mike Price afterward. "But I'm proud of the kids, they played their hearts out, just not very well all of the time. We had the opportunity to make the big play and didn't, and they did. We just didn't get it done."
The Cougars are now 2-1 and prepare to host Montana State next week.
Starting Cougar offense lineman Josh Parrish left the game with an injury in the first quarter and did not return.
There was a popular word in the Cougar locker room after the game: Execution. Consensus among players and coaches was that OSU did nothing that surprised them, the Cougars just didn't perform.
Clarett had two runs each of 44 yards. And his 230 total yards marked the sixth best single-game effort in Buckeye history and the second-best freshman output since Archie Griffin piled up 239 against North Carolina in 1972. Mind you, this is a school that has produced six Heisman Trophy-winning running backs.
The announced crowd of 104,551 was the largest in OSU history.