The Buckeyes' starting quarterback was inconsistent in Ohio State's win over Akron.
By ROB TODOR
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
COLUMBUS -- Jim Tressel stopped short of criticizing Steve Bellisari's first performance of 2001, but added he expects an improvement from the senior co-captain.
Bellisari played all but a few snaps at quarterback in Ohio State's victory over Akron, part of which was by design, but some wasn't.
Bellisari finished 15-of-24 for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
But, he was also sacked twice, fumbled twice (losing one) and suffered through a stretch in the second and third quarters that looked not unlike 2000.
"We worked very hard on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week," said Tressel. "But we worked on the little things rather than schemes.
"We weren't perfect," he added. "We knew that going in, but we showed some flashes."
Good start: Early in the game, Bellisari did a good job utilizing a rolling pocket and throwing short and intermediate routes.
He found Jamar Martin, the fullback, three times for 23 yards, including a 10-yard TD pass that put the Buckeyes ahead 14-0 late in the first quarter.
That was two more receptions than Martin had all of last season.
But over the final three quarters, Bellisari lost that sharpness. He fumbled the ball twice, losing it once when he pulled away from the center snap too quickly. His other fumble came on a scramble near the shadow of the Buckeyes' goal line.
Inconsistent: Bellisari was also inconsistent throwing long. He did complete a 61-yard scoring pass to Chris Vance, but it should have been intercepted. He also missed some open receivers and could have easily been picked off a couple of more times. "I've got to work on the turnovers," said Bellisari. "I felt relaxed out there and I feel like a took a step forward today."
Tressel said he would discuss the fluke scoring play to Vance this week, but he wouldn't make a big deal out of it. "Those are parts of the game that happen," he said. "It's not the way we analyze it [performances]. Certainly, we did not play our finest game today.
"Steve made a lot of plays," Tressel continued. "He did the basic things, he threw well. He probably called half [of the plays in the] game at the line.
"If he tucks the ball away a couple of times we might be talking about an outstanding performance."
Back-up QB: Back-up quarterback Scott McMullen made two appearances, a three-series set in the second quarter and again in the third and fourth quarters after Bellisari suffered a twisted ankle.
In the first half, the Buckeyes went three-and-out twice with McMullen calling the signals and scored a touchdown, a 1-yard drive after Akron fumbled a punt.
On his first play of the third quarter, McMullen turned the ball over when he fumbled the snap.
In the fourth quarter, McMullen drove the Buckeyes from their 1 to the Akron 31, only to throw an interception which was returned for a touchdown.
Tressel said he thought McMullen looked "jittery" when he first entered the game, and the red-shirt junior from Granville admitted as much.
"Yeah, I guess so. A lot of it was it being the first game. A lot of people were nervous."