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Published: 4/24/2005

Pittman springs to forefront

BY RON MUSSELMAN
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
OSU running back Antonio Pittman tries to shed linebacker
Chad Hoobler. Pittman rushed for 57 yards in the fi rst half. OSU running back Antonio Pittman tries to shed linebacker Chad Hoobler. Pittman rushed for 57 yards in the fi rst half.
JAY LAPRETE / AP Enlarge

COLUMBUS - Ohio State's spring game was played in winter-like conditions yesterday.

But neither the rain, snow, wind or frigid temperature could slow down sophomore tailback Antonio Pittman.

Pittman rushed for 57 yards on 14 carries in the first half, then watched from the sideline as the Gray beat the Scarlet 19-6 before 22,649 fans at Ohio Stadium.

"I think Antonio Pittman looked sharp, and he has all spring," coach Jim Tressel said. "I am encouraged by his progress and his play."

With Lydell Ross, Maurice Hall and Branden Joe gone, Pittman is the Buckeyes' No. 1 tailback, but redshirt freshman Eric Haw is a close second on the depth chart.

Haw was the star of the second half.

He gained 79 of his game-high 86 yards after the intermission, when he had 11 of his 16 carries. He also caught two passes for four yards and scored the Scarlet's lone touchdown on a nifty 10-yard run in the fourth quarter.

"Eric Haw may have been a little nervous at the beginning, but he was very strong in the second half," Tressel said. "He did some nice things."

Pittman averaged 4.1 yards per carry; Haw 5.4. Fullback Brandon Schnittker was at 5.8, with 58 yards on 10 carries.

"I think I did a pretty good job today," Pittman said. "I was happy with my half of work."

A year ago as a freshman, Pittman had a breakout day in the spring game, rushing for 105 yards on 21 carries.

He was OSU's second-leading rusher in the regular season. He gained 381 yards, averaged 5.3 yards and scored one touchdown.

His best game was a 20-carry, 144-yard effort against Indiana that included a 28-yard touchdown run.

However, Pittman's poor work habits landed him in the doghouse with the coaching staff and he managed just 63 more yards the rest of the season.

"I am bigger and faster and strong this year," Pittman said. "I'm also smarter."

Highly-touted freshman Maurice Wells from Florida is expected to join the tailback mix in August.

QBS STRUGGLE: Quarterbacks Troy Smith and Todd Boeckman each threw touchdown passes for the Gray team.

However, Smith, Justin Zwick and third-stringer Boeckman struggled to complete passes in the inclement weather.

Smith completed 4 of 9 passes for 48 yards and an interception.

Boeckman, a redshirt freshman who played for both teams, was 4 of 12 for 18 yards. And Zwick, scheduled to start the opener against Miami (Ohio) while Smith serves the final game of a two-game suspension for accepting money from a booster, was 11 of 27 for 104 yards.

Smith and Zwick were each sacked twice.

"Today, we had an opportunity where our quarterbacks had situations to learn from," Tressel said. "There were some plays where I thought we could do better, but we also made some nice plays as well."

Boeckman tossed a six-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez in the second quarter, while Smith connected on a 12-yard scoring strike with Marcel Frost in the third.

"I thought I did all right today, but I still have a lot to work on," Boeckman said. "Justin and Troy are great quarterbacks. I've just got to keep pushing them and hope I get better in the process."

QUICK HITS: Several key players were held out of the game due to injuries, including flanker Santonio Holmes, split end Roy Hall, linebackers Anthony Schlegel and Mike D'Andrea, tight end Ryan Hamby, defensive end Mike Kudla and tackle Tim Schafer. ... Fullback Steve Fender, a redshirt sophomore walk-on from St. Francis de Sales, sat out spring drills. He is recovering from a knee injury. ... Redshirt freshman Jonathan Skeete kicked field goals of 43 and 22 yards. ... Linebacker Marcus Freeman led the Gray squad with 7 1/2 tackles, while linebacker Ryan Lukens led the Scarlet with seven stops. He also added a sack.



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