COLUMBUS For all of the gushing over the offense, over the electric Ted Ginn Jr., and all of the chatter about the multiple quarterbacks, Ohio State did it with defense yesterday, opening the season with a 34-14 win over Miami (Ohio).
The fact that the Buckeyes held the RedHawks scoreless until less than two and a half minutes remained in the game was the reason for the shrugs, the subdued celebration, and All-American linebacker A.J. Hawk shaking his head and wincing for a moment over the final score.
We didn t get a shutout, and we d love to have that shutout, Hawk said. As a defense, we wanted to make a statement about our aggressive play, and I think we did that. But the shutout, it would be nice to still have that.
There was good reason the Buckeyes wanted to say it with defense. There were some questions about the line and itseffectiveness, and how much Ohio State could force the issue. The Buckeyes blitzed and blitzed and blitzed, and had Miami quarterback Josh Betts in the middle of a collapsing house of cards all afternoon.
They rang his bell, they knocked the wind out of him and they stymied his every intention until the final two series when the OSU backups finally showed some vulnerability. The RedHawks managed only 48 rushing yards in 30 attempts, and Betts was sacked five times and hurried at least a dozen more.
We really focused on attacking the quarterback, Ohio State linebacker Anthony Schlegel said. We were blitzing somebody about half the time, and we really wanted to establish getting on people right away. We look to force people to change what they do, or rush them into mistakes, and we did that today.
Ohio State quarterback Justin Zwick alternated the pass and run, going 74 yards on 12 plays, capped by hitting Santonio Holmes, who stretched out and beat Miami s Darrell Hunter in the corner of the end zone, for a 20-yard touchdown.
Betts then picked at OSU with a trio of short passes to Central Catholic grad Ryne Robinson, but when Bobby Carpenter shot through from the outside to nail Betts for a 10-yard loss, the RedHawks were dazed. Miami sacrificed field position by punting away from Ginn, setting the Buckeyes up on their 34.
A pass to Holmes grabbed 23 yards, and a screen to Ginn went for 25 down to the Miami 5. Ohio State stuttered, however, and settled for a 20-yard Josh Huston field goal and a 10-0 edge with a minute left in the opening period.
You want touchdowns in those situations, Zwick said, When you get down to the red zone, you need to come away with those points.
The Buckeyes squandered a chance to stretch the lead early in the second quarter when Zwick forced a lob to Holmes, but Hunter came down with an interception in the end zone.
Instead of just throwing it through the goal post or up into the band, Justin tried to make something happen, OSU coach Jim Tressel said. And you don t want to do that.
Ohio State made it 13-0 with a 27-yard Huston field goal with just under three minutes left in the half.
Then with Miami punting from its own end zone with 1:39left in the half, the Buckeyes had an opportunity to open the game up, but a roughing penalty seemed to foil that. However, the Buckeyes defense swarmed in on Betts on the next play, and when he tried to push a throw to the outside, OSU safety Donte Whitner picked it off and went an unobstructed 26 yards for a touchdown and a 20-0 lead.
In the third quarter, Brandon Schnittker scored on a one-yard run, and redshirt freshman Todd Boeckman hit Ginn for 42 yards behind Miami s defense.
Miami scored twice in the final three minutes against the Ohio State subs, but Tressel was able to overlook that.
The defense created the play that made the difference, which was the interception for the touchdown just before the half, Tressel said. They held them at bay, and gave us great field position. The only thing I m disappointed in is that we didn t keep it a shutout.
Tressel and the Buckeyes did not disguise the fact they wanted to make a long-distance call to Texas and leave the Longhorns a message with a shutout. Texas visits Ohio Stadium next Saturday night.
Contact Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6510.