COLUMBUS - What has been obvious to Ohio State players, coaches, fans, alumni and media members who cover the Buckeyes should now be obvious to the rest of the country.
Ohio State sophomore Chris Gamble is a playmaker. All he does is make big plays.
Gamble scored Ohio State's lone touchdown in the Buckeyes' 13-7 victory over Penn State yesterday at Ohio Stadium.
As a cornerback.
Gamble also played wide receiver, returned kicks and rarely left the field as he became Ohio State's first player to play both ways extensively in a game since Paul Warfield in the 1960s.
“My coaches told me this guy is extraordinary - he deserves to start [on defense]. He deserves to be seen by the entire country as a two-way starter,” OSU coach Jim Tressel said.
The national perception of Gamble should be that he's an up-and-coming two-way force in the mold of Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson.
“That's a compliment,” said Gamble, already a starting wide receiver who learned on Friday night that he would start at cornerback. “When I hear talk like that, it motivates me to play better and be like them.”
As a wide receiver Gamble caught only one pass yesterday, but he was effective in his role as a decoy in the passing game and a blocker for the Buckeyes' ground attack that ate a chunk of the clock late in the contest.
Gamble made his greatest impact on defense. He returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown to open the second half, nearly intercepted another pass deep in Penn State territory in the fourth quarter and literally dared Penn State quarterback Zack Mills to challenge his side of the field.
He even made a great defensive play on offense, chasing and catching Penn State defensive back Anwar Phillips after a 58-yard fumble return in the first quarter.
“I could have come up with a couple more interceptions, but I started cramping up,” said Gamble.
Penn State entered yesterday's game averaging 243 yards passing, but Mills threw for a season-low 98 yards with three interceptions. Gamble locked down leading receiver Bryant Johnson, limiting him to one catch for six yards.
“I saw [Johnson] on TV a lot. He's been catching a lot of balls,” Gamble said. “I want to play the best players and not let them catch the ball.”
Gamble leads OSU with three interceptions. Offensively, he is second on the team with 21 catches for 336 yards. He also ran 43 yards for a touchdown on a reverse against Indiana.
“That's why we put Chris in there. He's a great player,” Tressel said. “There are a lot of talented players, but they don't have a feel for the game like Chris. I'm sure we could line him up at tailback and he'd read the blocks, we could line him up at quarterback and he'd read the coverages. He knows what's going on on the football field.”
Gamble was Ohio State's most dangerous weapon on a day when freshman running back Maurice Clarett was limited to four carries because of a shoulder injury.
Ohio State's best offense was its defense and return teams. Any time Gamble touched the ball the record crowd held its breath because of his ability to go all the way. He returned five punts for 60 yards along with the interception return for a touchdown.
“This game took me back to high school,” said Gamble, a two-way high school star from Sunrise, Fla. “It felt like I was back in high school because I was playing both ways.”