No. 3 Ohio State showed it was immune to the virulent upset virus that has infected college football this season and dominated Kent State 48-3 yesterday. Only a self-imposed mercy rule prevented the Buckeyes (7-0) from making it much, much worse.
The Ohio State starting offensive unit did not play a single snap in the second half after the Buckeyes had crafted a 35-0 halftime advantage with a scoring variety pack - touchdowns via rushing, passing, and on a punt return and an interception return. The edge was still there, despite the fact Ohio State stepped out of Big Ten play in the midst of the conference race.
"The coaches didn't bring up all those upsets, but it's more of a given since everybody knows about it and there's been so much talk on that subject," Ohio State freshman receiver Dane Sanzenbacher from Central Catholic said.
"They never really had to hit on that point - it's obvious - an upset can happen any time if you let yourself go to sleep on a team, and we weren't going to do that."
The Buckeyes won their 25th straight regular season game, and Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was able to put some of his most-prized horses in the barn by halftime. Linebacker James Laurinaitis, running back Chris Wells, and quarterback Todd Boeckman all sat out the final two quarters, but Kent State (3-4) still struggled with the physical matchups at most positions on the field.
"This is probably the first game where we've just been mis-matched," Kent State senior long snapper and St. Francis grad Matt Muller said. "It's a tough environment, and Ohio State is obviously a very strong team, especially in this stadium. Not many teams come in here and outplay them."
Ohio State's first scoring drive was indicative of its offensive approach for most of the season - nothing too flashy, just methodical movement of the football. Boeckman hit Sanzenbacher for 15 yards on the first play and mixed three runs in with four short passing plays to find the end zone.
The score came on a 14-yard pass over the middle to Brian Hartline, and with the first of six extra point kicks by Ryan Pretorius, Ohio State led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
The first quarter ended with that score, but also with the Golden Flashes stalling out near midfield. Hartline then took a Kent State punt at the Ohio State 10-yard line and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
"There were some things we needed to see this week as we got ready for this game and the last five Big Ten games that follow, and I think we saw them," Hartline said.
Ohio State had the advantage in the field position battle again on its next possession, taking over at the 50. After Boeckman hit Brian Robiskie over the middle for a 24-yard gain to boost the drive, Chris Wells plowed over the right side behind a surging Ohio State line for a seven-yard touchdown run and a 21-0 advantage.
When Kent State backup quarterback Anthony Magazu attempted to throw a quick outside pass to Phil Garner a bit later, Ohio State defensive back Donald Washington stepped in to intercept the pass, stumbled but regained his stride, and streaked 70 yards for another Ohio State touchdown and a 28-0 lead.
"When you get those kinds of returns - like a 90-yard punt return and an interception return for a touchdown - it's going to be hard to have anyone beat you," Tressel said. "That interception return really was a back-breaker for Kent."
The Buckeyes added one more score before halftime as Boeckman hit Maurice Wells with a flair pass as Wells rolled out of the backfield, and a 15-yard touchdown resulted, good for a 35-0 advantage at the half.
"They are big, they are fast, and they are really strong," Kent State coach Doug Martin said. "We made mistakes we could not make if we wanted to be in this football game. Give Ohio State all the credit in the world because they are a very good football team."
In the second half, Tressel sent everybody with a red jersey out there, and that allowed backup quarterback Rob Schoenhoft to complete a scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown run with more than nine minutes left in the third quarter. Ryan Pretorius added a 49-yard field goal later in the period to make it 45-0 and a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter that opened the lead to 48-0. Kent State got a 34-yard field goal from Nate Reed with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Buckeyes have allowed just 46 points in seven games. With their effort yesterday, they enhanced their position as the No. 1 team nationally in scoring defense - surrendering just 6.57 points per game.
"No one is going to come in here and score 30 points on Ohio State," Martin said. "This is one of the best defenses I have ever seen."
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