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Published: Sunday, 9/24/2006

Shaky Smith good enough for Buckeyes

COLUMBUS - Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith had experienced just two losses in 18 previous starts.

One was against Penn State a year ago, the other against Purdue in 2004.

Smith was at his all-time worst against the Nittany Lions last October, getting sacked five times while throwing for a paltry 139 yards and one interception.

Obviously, he had redemption on his mind yesterday when the 24th-ranked Nittany Lions dropped by the Horseshoe to face the top-ranked Buckeyes.

Smith struggled again, slipping and sliding all over the soggy turf.

He completed just 12 of 22 passes for 115 yards in the Buckeyes' 28-6 victory. He had a handful of passes tipped or batted down and was twice picked off, ending his streak of 152 passes without an interception.

Smith was shaky.

His Heisman hopes were dealt a bit of a blow.

But he still used his swift feet and strong arm to pull off a sparkling play early in the fourth quarter that awoke Ohio State's offense from its game-long slumber.

Smith, his team clinging to a precarious 7-3 lead, took the snap from center Doug Datish on a 2nd-and-9 play from the 37.

Smith rolled right. With Penn State's Tim Shaw in hot pursuit, Smith reversed his field, rolled back to the left, set his feet, and delivered a perfect strike to receiver Brian Robiskie in the end zone.

That toss put Ohio State up 14-3 and essentially sealed Penn State's fate.

"We practice scrambling drills like that all the time," Smith said. "The line gave me enough time to reverse field and put the ball in the air, and Robo just went up and made a great catch.

"You need moments like that when you're down and out when things aren't going the way you want them to go."

Smith, who benefited from two defensive scores in the final three minutes yesterday, could only smile when reminded that he hasn't lost a game since last year's 17-10 setback in Happy Valley.

He is 11-0 since then, including 4-0 this season.

Smith has beaten Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas, and now Penn State during that impressive stretch.

He praised the Nittany Lions defense, which limited him to only 133 yards of total offense.

All but one of his 18 yards rushing came on a second-quarter scramble that was Smith's longest run of the season.

"It was a tough game, through and through, for all four quarters," Smith said. "It was a fight, it was a battle. Offensively, things aren't going to go the way you want them to go all the time.

"I think the mark of a championship caliber team is to keep plugging away, and keep going."

Smith, who had thrown for 200 or more yards in nine of his last 10 games, helped add to Penn State's miseries at Ohio Stadium.

Since joining the Big Ten in 1993, the Nittany Lions are 0-7. They haven't won here since 1978, when Art Schlichter was the Buckeyes' quarterback.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who spent part of the game in the locker room with the flu, didn't feel any better after watching Smith scramble for what seemed like an eternity, before finding Robiskie, who went up over Lions cornerback Tony Davis to pull in the ball.

"You can't give up big plays in a game like this," Paterno said. "Smith made a super play when he got away from our guy and threw that pass right on the button."

Smith hasn't had to use his legs much this season.

But yesterday, he proved he can still run with the best of them, even while the offense is hemorrhaging.



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