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Published: Tuesday, 11/14/2006

OSU very fit with Gonzalez as second fiddle

COLUMBUS - Ohio State's Anthony Gonzalez has played second fiddle to Ted Ginn Jr. the last three years.

All the glitz and glamour surrounds Ginn, but it's Gonzalez who continues to grind out the yards.

He often is the one making the clutch catch over the middle, or hauling in the tough first-down reception in traffic.

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DAVE ZAPOTOSKY / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge

Gonzo & Ginn.

It's not the name of a Cleveland law firm.

Instead, it's been a great one-two receiving punch for the Buckeyes.

Ginn leads No. 1 Ohio State in receptions (51), yards (677) and touchdowns (eight).

Gonzalez trails by just a fly pattern, with 45 catches for 673 yards and seven touchdowns. He is averaging 15 yards per catch to Ginn's 13.3.

Ginn is one of the most dangerous and exciting players in college football with his breakaway speed and return skills.

Gonzalez has blossomed into one of the country's top receivers.

Both have had measurable success against No. 2 Michigan, which will be in town Saturday for the showdown at the Shoe.

Until this year, Gonzalez's career had been defined by one leaping, twisting catch he made last season against the Wolverines.

His father, Eduardo, played for Michigan.

Gonzalez's 26-yard reception from quarterback Troy Smith helped set up the winning score - a three-yard run by Antonio Pittman with 24 seconds left - in Ohio State's 25-21 victory in Ann Arbor.

"One of the things I remember is him jumping up and soaring through the air," Smith said yesterday.

"They usually say white guys can't jump, but he really took that and ran with it.

"Gonzo is probably one of the best athletes we have on the team. He's arguably the fastest, arguably has the best hands, and is arguably the smartest guy.

"The list goes on and on."

Gonzalez, a junior who came to Ohio State as a defensive back, doesn't get nostalgic about his catch, even though everybody else in his family has a picture of it plastered on their refrigerators or walls.

"If everybody says it was a great catch, that's OK," Gonzalez said. "It's not something I think about much.

"I saw it today only because we were watching film of the game. It's the first time I've seen it in five or six months. I don't pay attention to it, to be honest with you."

Ginn had nine catches for 89 yards in that game, including three on the final, frantic drive, which covered 88 yards.

Combined, Ginn and Gonzalez have 20 receptions for 328 yards in a pair of victories over the Wolverines the last two years.

Ginn has 14 receptions for 176 yards and seven punt returns for 97 more. His 82-yard return for a touchdown as a freshman in 2004 helped the Buckeyes cruise to a 37-21 home victory over Michigan.

Gonzalez, meanwhile, has six catches for 152 yards against the maize and blue, including four for 75 a year ago.

Ginn isn't surprised that the Wolverines bounced back from last year's abysmal 7-5 record, or that they have the nation's third-ranked defense.

"I knew they were going to be the team they are right now," he said. "They always strive to be the best.

"It's going to be a great game. We got to come out and play hard and play fast."

Gonzalez knows all about Michigan's tradition. As a youngster, he and his family used to trek to the Big House annually for the Ohio State-Michigan game.

"My father graduated from Michigan and played there as a reserve tailback," Gonzalez said. "I grew up a Michigan fan. I went to a lot of Ohio State-Michigan games, but all of them were in Ann Arbor. I never went to one in Columbus.

"But when it came to the recruiting process, Ohio State showed a lot more interest than Michigan, so I went to Ohio State. It's a decision I'm perfectly happy with now."

Ginn, who has battled a broken toe this season, leads the Buckeyes in all-purpose yards with 1,202. And he has caught a pass in 30 consecutive games.

But Gonzalez has become the Buckeyes' money receiver. Thirty-nine of his 45 catches have resulted in first downs.

Ginn is expected to head to the NFL at the end of the year.

Gonzalez, who eventually hopes to attend law school at Stanford, plans to return for his senior season.

He is in no hurry to make the leap to the pros.

That gives Gonzalez two more chances to add to his legacy against Michigan.

Contact Blade columnist

Ron Musselman at:

mussel@theblade.com

or 419-724-6474.



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