COLUMBUS - Woody Hayes probably never envisioned an offense of 2.7 yards and a cloud of dust, so it's probably a good thing the former Ohio State coach didn't get to see the Buckeyes' ground game in the team's first three contests.
OSU had managed just 306 yards in that time, including a pitiful 44 yards on 32 rushes in a three-overtime victory over North Carolina State a week ago.
So imagine the smiles in the Ohio State locker room following the Buckeyes' 24-17 win over Bowling Green yesterday as OSU ground out 205 yards. Maurice Hall finished with 107 yards on 19 carries while Lydell Ross added 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 22 rushes.
“I thought we came along in some areas of the run game,” said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. “I think the fronts that we're going to face from here on out are going to be more difficult, but I do think we made some progress. It was good to see our guys up front having some success and feeling good about what they were doing.”
Senior tight end Ben Hartsock also thought the surge of the Buckeye offensive line was a key to OSU's success on the ground.
“I think we did a great job blocking up front today,” Hartsock said. “We did a nice job getting on our blocks. We did a nice job overpowering the opposing line.''
The Buckeyes' success running the football came as a disappointment to the Falcons, who spent the week preparing to stop the OSU ground attack.
“They did exactly what we expected,” said linebacker Mitch Hewitt. “The bottom line is that we didn't do what we had to do as a defense: make plays and make tackles.”
Linebacker Ted Piepkow said the difference in size between the Buckeyes' line and the two running backs - Ross stands 6-0, while Hall is listed at 5-10 - also posed a problem for the Falcons' defense.
“I think those tailbacks, sitting behind those big bodies up front, well, we didn't know where they were going to go,” Piepkow said. “That's what hurt us. We knew they were going to come at us, especially with their starting quarterback out. But we weren't successful enough to get the job done.”
Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon wasn't as harsh in grading his defense.
“Our defense, I thought, played lights-out,” he said. “They hung in there and hung in there with them. Ohio State is a good rushing football team, and it was just a matter of time before that [offense] got cranked up. I was just hoping that it wouldn't be today.”
NO RECOVERY: It looked as if Bowling Green was about to receive its biggest break when OSU's Ross fumbled on the Falcons' 47-yard line with 1:12 to play.
But Ross was credited with a fumble recovery, and instead of BG taking over at midfield with more than a minute to play, Ohio State was able to milk 30 more seconds off the clock. When Bowling Green finally got the ball, the Falcons had just 42 seconds to cover 76 yards.
Several members of the Falcon defense weren't so sure Ross had recovered the ball, though.
“From where I was, it looked like we had the ball,” Hewitt said. “I saw someone wearing a white jersey with the ball.”
“I was standing right outside the pile, and it looked like we had the ball,” said linebacker Daniel Sayles. “Jason Morton had it at first, and he handed it to William Teague at the end.”
Piepkow wasn't directly involved with the play, but he said Teague was certain BG had recovered.
“I'm not going to call Will Teague a liar,” Piepkow said. “I believe we had that football.”
THREE-DOT DATA: Ohio State has won 10 consecutive games, including each of the last three weeks, with the scoring margin being seven or fewer points ... The Buckeyes are 17-1 all-time against current MAC teams with the lone loss coming in 1894 to Akron ... Maurice Hall posted his first 100-yard rushing game while Lydell Ross' 94 yards were a season best ... OSU linebacker A.J. Hawk had an interception for the second straight week ... Buckeye split end Michael Jenkins has caught a pass in 30 straight games ... BG's Josh Harris became the second QB in as many weeks to attempt 50-plus passes against OSU. North Carolina State's Philip Rivers had 52 attempts and 315 yards. Harris turned 54 attempts into 326 yards ...His 33 completions were a career high ... In three career starts against Big Ten teams, Harris is 85 of 141 (.603) for 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns ... Junior WR Cole Magner of BG set career highs with 13 catches and 168 yards.