LOS ANGELES Minus his best running back, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel played the cards he had in his hand against top-ranked Southern California last night, frequently shuffling his quarterbacks to try and spark the Buckeyes offense.
It was an interesting approach, but it had virtually no impact on the Trojans, who overwhelmed No. 5 Ohio State 35-3.
USC left the game an impressive lock at No. 1, while the Buckeyes no doubt sunk any chance they had of making a third straight national championship game at season s end.
Penalties, turnovers, sacks, and field-position blunders just compounded the Buckeyes nightmarish performance. Ohio State scored first, but was hardly heard from again as USC completely dominated the game.
We played against a great football team, and when you turn it over and have penalties to stop drives and not take control in any fashion that team is going to make it hard on you, Tressel said.
With Heisman Trophy candidate running back Chris Beanie Wells still sidelined with the injured right foot he suffered in the first game of the season, Tressel went with a rotation of senior Todd Boeckman and freshman Terrelle Pryor at quarterback in an attempt to give the offense some diversity, sometimes running them in and out play-by-play.
We knew we were facing an outstanding defense, Tressel said. We needed to be as competitive as we could be, with or without Beanie.
Boeckman had three turnovers, including an interception USC linebacker Rey Maualuga returned for a touchdown in the first half as the Buckeyes dug themselves a 21-3 halftime hole. Pryor was Ohio State s leading rusher on the night and showed flashes of the raw talent that made him the nation s most-coveted recruit last year.
He did expand on what they are able to do and made some plays out there, USC coach Pete Carroll said. He s going to be a big time player for them.
But in front of a capacity crowd of 93,607 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, it hardly mattered. Ohio State put on a clumsy and mistake-riddled performance.
After an early exchange of punts, Ohio State took its second possession from its 19 and ran 17 plays before settling for a 29-yard field goal by Ryan Pretorius and a 3-0 lead with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Ohio State had a first-and-10 at the 19, but two procedure penalties cost a decent shot at a touchdown. Depsite the first penalty, Ohio State was first and goal from the 6, but Pryor and Boeckman both got stopped in the backfield on successive plays. Pryor had a 15-yard completion to Dane Sanzenbacher midway through the drive.
USC answered right back, moving 74 yards quickly down the field through the air. The Trojans scored on a 35-yard pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez to fullback Stanley Havili who was wide open down the USC sideline against the coverage of Ohio State s Marcus Freeman. USC led 7-3 in the final minute of the first quarter.
After stopping the Buckeyes without a first down, USC breezed down the field for a 14-3 lead. Tailback Joe McKnight had a 24-yard burst to the OSU 26, and a roughing the passer penalty on the Buckeyes Lawrence Wilson got the Trojans inside the 10. Sanchez hit tight end Blake Ayles from one yard out for the score.
Ohio State used a creative shuffle with Pryor and Boeckman to push its next possession deep in USC territory, but a pair of holding penalties killed the drive, the second one waving off a 21-yard touchdown pass from Boeckman to Brian Robiskie. The Buckeyes settled for a 46-yard field goal try by Pretorius that went wide to the right with 6:34 left in the half.
The Buckeyes were pushing near midfield with just under three minutes left in the half when Boeckman s poor throw was picked off by Maualuga, who rolled 48 yards down the sideline for a TD putting the Trojans on top 21-3.
Give a lot of credit to them they put a lot of pressure on us, Boeckman said. It s a tough loss, and we didn t play to the best of our ability.
The rout was on in high gear.
USC s complete domination was displayed in the third quarter stats the Trojans had 125 yards to OSU s two.
There s no way we can not be as productive as we need to be, and win games like this, Tressel said. We fought hard, but I don t know that we did the best we could do.
Two third-quarter TD passes by Sanchez pushed the score to 35-3.
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