COLUMBUS - If Ohio State's 50-7 thrashing of San Jose State had a crucial moment, it came on linebacker Cie Grant's crushing sack on Spartan quarterback Scott Rislov with five minutes left in the first half and SJSU, trailing 17-7, in a first-and-goal at the 10. Freshman defensive end Mike Kudla picked up the fumble at the OSU 24 and returned it 17 yards.
“That was one of many momentum shifts in the game,” said Grant. “I was just proud to be a part of it.”
Eight plays later Buckeye freshman tailback Maurice Clarett rammed in from five yards for a 24-7 halftime lead.
NEARSIGHTED NUGENT: Like most athletes who claim to be “in the zone” during personal hot streaks, sophomore placekicker Mike Nugent is seeing some pretty wide goal posts these days, no matter where he's positioned for an attempt.
Nugent, who made his last field goal try last year, has opened this season with a 14-for-14 effort and needs one more to break the school record for consecutive field goals.
“They look the same width wherever I'm at on the field right now,” Nugent said of the goal posts, “and they honestly look closer. That's one thing about being comfortable. I feel like they are right in my face every time.”
WILL SMITH INJURED: Ohio State's victory yesterday may have come at a cost, as standout junior defensive end Will Smith left the game with a left knee sprain 7:31 before halftime. The severity of the injury was not known after the game, and coach Jim Tressel said Smith will be re-evaluated today.
PASS DEFENSE-LESS: As good as Ohio State has been against the run on defense through seven games (68.4 yards per game), the Buckeyes have been especially vulnerable to the pass. Opponents are completing 58 percent of their passes (174-302) and gaining 278 yards a game.
“On defense there's two things we want to do,” said Tressel, who downplayed the passing data, “keep them out of the end zone and stop the run. We obviously stopped the run today.”
SJSU had zero rushing yards.
Yesterday only a rash of San Jose State turnovers grounded the air success of Rislov, who broke a school single-game record for completions. Had Rislov (36 of 44, 265 yards, no interceptions) not exited late in the third quarter, he had a shot at the record for completions (43) against an OSU defense in a single game.
“Our pass defense is one place we've really struggled,” said linebacker Matt Wilhelm. “One thing we've been focusing on is ripping the ball out and putting ourselves in a position to make a big play on an interception to change the game.”
ON WISCONSIN: As many prognosticators felt before the season, Ohio State has remained perfect through seven games. But legitimate tests against the fifth-ranked Buckeyes - who have played five times at home and looked less than impressive in road wins at Cincinnati and Northwestern - have been minimal.
Put-up-or-shut-up time begins Saturday in the unfriendly confines of Wisconsin's always raucous Camp Randall Stadium in Madison against the Badgers (5-2, 0-2).