Brad Bournival and Tim Gebhardt
COLUMBUS — It’s been like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer so far for Ohio State’s football team.
While offensive miscues and missteps turned up during the Buckeyes’ first two games, the one constant has been the defense.
It forced 13 straight three-and-outs against Akron, but might have saved the best for Saturday’s 58-7 thrashing of Northwestern.
The unit has given up one touchdown all year — against Washington, just three seconds before halftime. Against the Wildcats, it flexed even more.
“I think it’s intrinsic,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. “Guys jump up and down, and they get fired up with each other. I love the vicious collisions.”
Those collisions came more frequent than a moth drawn to a bug zapper as Ohio State punished Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher and the Wildcats’ spread offense.
At one point in the third quarter, Northwestern was gaining ground at an 18-inch per play average. By the time it was over, the Wildcats exhausted 66 plays and only picked up 120 yards.
That’s an average of 1.8 yards per play, but what was more impressive was the fact that the squad limited Northwestern to exactly zero yards rushing.
The last time that happened was against San Jose State on Oct. 12, 2002.
Not bad for a team that came in ranked third nationally in defense. Through four games, the Buckeyes are giving up 177.8 yards a game.
“We were flying around and making big plays,” defensive back Anderson Russell said. “We are a defense that wants to fly to the ball and hit people. That is what makes our defense what we are.”
That defense forced two picks and added a fumble return for a touchdown from defensive end Vernon Gholston.
“We played with a lot of intensity today,” Gholston said. “After four games we are starting to find what we are capable of. We are really starting to find out who we are.”
All backs not the Saine
Ohio State freshman running back Brandon Saine missed Saturday’s game after having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday morning. The 2006 Mr. Football out of Piqua High is listed as doubtful for next week.
“I would expect him to miss one more game,” Tressel said.
In his stead, Maurice Wells ran for 48 yards on 15 carries and scored twice. Ohio State feature back Chris Wells (100 yards, TD) rolled his ankle in the third quarter, but was relieved and is expected back next week against Minnesota.
Big Ray's back
Raymont Harris, a 1989 Admiral King graduate, was an honorary captain for the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Harris, who played running back for the Buckeyes from 1990-93, was named Ohio State’s most valuable player his senior year, rushing for 1,344 yards. He went on to play for four NFL teams, picking up 1,033 yards for the Bears in 1997.
He currently works as a home mortgage consultant in Columbus for Chase Bank.
Elyria grad Brett Daly has been a contributing factor to the Buckeyes’ success this year after all.
Daly, a 6-foot-6 senior defensive end who graduates in December, has been seeing regular duty on the extra point and field goal units all year. Saturday, Daly was inserted into the Buckeyes’ defensive lineup late against Northwestern.
Daly also was cited by Tressel for his outstanding work on the scout teams the past couple weeks. Daly was named the scout team “Player of the Week” for the week leading to last week’s trip to Washington.
“It was real nice to get on the field after all the hard work,” Daly said. “I’ve been getting in on field goals ever since the first game and it was real nice to get out there on defense and actually get to make a play.”
Daly was credited with a tackle-for-loss keeping Northwestern at negative rushing yardage for the afternoon. Ohio State may have played its best overall game in thrashing the Wildcats, 58-7.
“To get our offense rolling right from the start was big,” said Daly. “We started to do that against Washington but it was the second half. To keep it rolling right from the beginning this week was big for us. It shows we’re headed in the right direction.”
Hurtin' for certain
Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. Named as the 2005 recipient of the Mr. Football when he played for Akron Archbishop Hoban, Sutton was expected to play but couldn’t give it a go when the time arrived.
“Tyrell Sutton is really an important cog in what they do,” Tressel said. “Both emotionally and physically, but you can’t take away the fact that we still had a responsibility to beat the blockers.”
Sutton has 122 yards rushing this season on 27 carries with a touchdown in eight quarters of action.
Northwestern right guard, Joel Belding, a 2004 Cloverleaf graduate, made his second appearance at Ohio Stadium. The 6-3,
300-pound junior was a two-time All-Ohio selection and totaled 261 tackles, 23 sacks, while forcing nine fumbles in a star-studded career at defensive tackle with the Colts.
Belding had a blocking percentage of 96 and logged 117 pancakes on offense. He still holds the school’s shot put record at 54 feet, 4 inches.
Ohio State ranks second among all NCAA Division I programs with 82 consecutive seasons since last posting losing records in back-to-back seasons.
The Buckeyes have not been under .500 for two consecutive years since 1922-24. That impressive streak trails only Tennessee, which has not seen failure in back-to-back seasons since 1909-11 — a span of 95 consecutive years.
The Buckeyes now hold a 58-14-1 edge on Northwestern and are 32-8 in Columbus. The team’s last loss to the Wildcats came in overtime of 2004 by a score of 33-27. The Buckeyes have not lost to Northwestern at home since 1971, a streak of 15 games.
• Saturday marked the 12th time Ohio State has put up a 50 spot on Northwestern.
• The Bucks have scored a touchdown in 130 straight games and have broken the school record for regular-season wins in a row with 22. The last time Ohio State lost in the regular season was at Penn State
(17-10) on Oct. 8, 2005.
• Tressel is the third-winningest active FBS coach (201 wins) behind Florida State’s Bobby Bowden and Penn State’s Joe Paterno and is tied with Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer.
• Brian Robiskie’s three touchdowns in the first half marked the first time an Ohio State receiver struck thrice in a half since Joey Galloway put up the trifecta against Purdue in 1994.
Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher for his best imitation of former Cleveland Browns quarterback Charlie Frye. Bacher was
8-of-18 for 30 yards with an interception in the first half.
Ohio State sacked Bacher four times for losses of 33 yards before halftime including a Frye-like 17-yard loss at his own
5-yard line compliments of Vernon Gholston.
It didn’t get much better. Bacher was pulled after a 17-for-32 day with two picks, and his rushing total (including sacks) was a
minus-39 yards as Northwestern finished with zero yards rushing.
Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie for hardly breaking a sweat in catching three passes — all touchdowns — for 89 yards with only 48 seconds gone in the second quarter. It gives the Buckeye five TD receptions this season.
THE TURNIG POINT
Northwestern’s ill-advised choice of deferring to the second half after winning the coin toss. Stephen Simmons returned the second-half kickoff 99 yards for Northwestern’s only score — which might have been a boost in the first half. Ohio State led 45-0 when Simmons scored.
— Tim Gebhardt