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Published: Thursday, 10/12/2006

Ohio State, Michigan State QBs are mutual friends

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

COLUMBUS Troy Smith and Drew Stanton met at the back of the line. About six years ago, the two were high school football players invited to a prestigious camp for quarterbacks.

But the pair were clearly not the guys everyone came to see.

We were the last two invited, I think, and we kind of hooked up together, said Stanton, who will lead Michigan State against Smith and the top-ranked Buckeyes on Saturday.

We were there, but everyone was talking about some of the other guys. I don t think they were expecting much from us, so we were way under the radar. But Troy and I struck up a friendship at that camp, and it s lasted through the years.

Stanton (6-3, 230) led Farmington Hills Harrison to back-to-back Michigan state championships, completing 234 of 357 career passes (.655) for 5,293 yards and 58 touchdowns.

Smith (6-1, 215) had much more modest numbers, playing his first two years at Lakewood St. Edward before transferring to Cleveland Glenville as a senior. At Glenville he threw for 969 yards and 12 touchdowns while leading his team to the state playoffs.

Stanton said that with the spotlight on several quarterbacks who were regarded as the real studs in the group, he and Smith had their competitive fires stoked by the lack of attention they received. The fact that both went on to lengthy tenures in the Big Ten tells him that most of the experts were probably wrong about them.

I think we reacted to that whole thing like any athlete would react, Stanton said. We were just more determined to show people that we could play the position and play it pretty well. Over the last couple of seasons, Troy has certainly shown what kind of quality college quarterback he is, and I think I ve probably done pretty decent, too.

Smith said he and Stanton have maintained close contact over the years, despite the considerable amount of bad blood between their two schools. While jointly facing some adversity, they formed a bond at that quarterback camp, and it has lasted.

He was my roommate at the Elite Eleven camp, and night in and night out, he was the guy I was looking at, Smith said about Stanton. It was a great experience for both of us, and it has definitely paid off. I talk to him all the time.

MOVING THE CHAINS: When Ohio State needs a first down, junior wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is frequently the way to get there. Gonzalez, the Buckeyes second-leading receiver with 27 catches this season, has caught 24 of those for first downs. With one more catch, Gonzalez will equal his output from last season. With at least six games to play, Gonzalez has already bettered his yardage total (404 to 373) and touchdown total (4 to 3) from 2005.

UNDER FIRE: Michigan State coach John L. Smith, feeling the heat this season at 3-3 after going 5-7 in 2004 and 5-6 last season, got a rousing endorsement from Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who will oppose Smith this Saturday when the Buckeyes meet the Spartans.

The thing that no one will ever convince me of is that John L. Smith is not a winner, Tressel said. The guy has won 131 games or something like that. There s not that many people that have coached this game that have won that many games, and in the number of different venues that he s been in.

Smith is 21-21 at Michigan State, after going 8-5 in his first season in 2003 after losing to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. The Spartans finished 5-7 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. Smith came to East Lansing from Louisville, where he guided the Cardinals to bowl games in each of his five seasons. He is 131-81 overall in a career that also includes stops at Idaho and Utah State.

Tressel s Youngstown State team beat Smith s Idaho team in the 1993 Division I-AA playoffs, 35-16.

LAST WIN: Michigan State has not beaten the Buckeyes since 1999 when the Spartans took a 23-7 win in East Lansing. The year before, Michigan State stunned then-No. 1 Ohio State by a 28-24 score in Ohio Stadium, costing the Buckeyes a shot at an unbeaten season and a national championship. The Spartans have a history of giving OSU trouble when the Buckeyes are No. 1, also bumping off top-ranked Ohio State in 1974 with a 16-13 win in East Lansing.

PATTERSON/SURGERY: Senior defensive tackle David Patterson had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday, according to published reports. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said that same day that Patterson would miss this weekend s game at Michigan State after being injured last Saturday against Bowling Green, but Tressel made no mention of surgery. Patterson s injury has been diagnosed as a sprained knee ligament, and he is expected to miss one or two games.

Contact Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6510.



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