COLUMBUS - Give Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel credit for knowing when to leave well enough alone.
It's obvious that Tressel has altered his thinking about the Buckeyes offense. The transformation has been startling.
Tressel finally figured out how to get the most out of junior quarterback Troy Smith:
Let Troy be Troy.
Trust between Tressel and his starting quarterback means everything. In becoming the offensive leader and a first-rate playmaker, Smith has rewarded Tressel's trust.
In Ohio State's 40-2 annhilation of
Illinois yesterday at Ohio Stadium, Smith was as complete a quarterback as he's ever been.
He passed for a career-best 298 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 13 of 21 passes and averaged 22.9 yards per completion. He gained 55 yards on seven carries. He didn't turn the ball over.
Smith has now passed for 200 or more yards in four straight games. He directs a surging attack that has amassed at least 449 yards of total offense in three straight games and has scored 40 or more points in three straight games for the first time at Ohio State in a decade.
"I think it's becoming more of a complete quarterback,'' said Smith, who improved to 10-2 as a starter.
Tressel's about-face in his offensive philosophy couldn't be any more shocking if Mr. Conservative changed his sideline attire from his traditional sweater vest to a throwback jersey.
He's added Jay-Z to his iPod to go along with Barry Manilow.
Regarding the 7-2 Buckeyes latest outburst, which included 526 total yards and touchdowns on all three drives in the third quarter, including a 73-yard bomb from Smith to Ted Ginn Jr., Tressel quipped, "We're not opposed to scoring, contrary to popular opinion.''
When Smith wasn't faking out defenders and bolting into open spaces, he was completing passes to eight different receivers.
"He's more calm, cool and relaxed,'' said junior wideout Santonio Holmes, who had three receptions for 59 yards and two scores. "He gets the job done.''
Smith was cold in the first half against Illinois. He completed just 5 of 13 and missed several open receivers.
A few weeks ago, Tressel may have been tempted to make a quarterback change.
But Tressel has developed better patience. He's learned to ride out Smith's cold streaks. He no longer plays musical quarterbacks between Smith and Justin Zwick.
"I thought we came back and did a better job in the second half, obviously made a lot of big plays,'' Tressel said.
Smith was in a zone in the second half. His three third-quarter touchdown drives ignited the Buckeyes.
In fact, following a second-quarter incompletion, Smith completed his last 10 passes. He was 8 of 8 in the second half for 193 yards and all three scores.
Smith gives all credit to Tressel, who encouraged him to attend mandatory film study following his first start of the season against San Diego State.
"You come in and watch film, and this helped tremendously,'' Smith said. "I think I owe it pretty much to that right now, because that's helping me become more of a complete quarterback.''
So give Tressel major props for settling on Smith and supporting him in good times and bad. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you never make.