The redshirt freshman tossed four touchdown passes in the victory.
By GARY HOUSTEAU
VINDICATOR SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
COLUMBUS -- The defending national champions of college football were rather offensive in their 2003 debut as the Scarlet squad defeated the Gray 37-29 in front of 57,200 fans in Ohio Stadium to cap the spring season for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
"You couldn't have had a better day for a spring football game," said coach Jim Tressel. "The sun was shining and there were a lot of people here and our guys enjoy it when there are a lot of folks around. A lot of our former players were honorary coaches and it was exciting to have them back on the sideline. It was just a great day."
The offensive outburst may have been expected considering the Buckeyes return 11 offensive starters.
But there were a few surprises.
Scarlet quarterback Justin Zwick threw four touchdown passes in relief of Fiesta Bowl MVP, Craig Krenzel, who made a cameo first-quarter appearance.
"It was just fun being out there with the guys, and playing in Ohio Stadium can never be bad," Zwick said. "I just wanted to come out and help the team win the game. Receivers make plays and that's what happened. Bam [Childress] turns that into a touchdown on that 5-yard pass. You don't expect that as a quarterback but you're going to take it no matter what."
Childress caught two of redshirt freshman's passes for scores covering 27 and 54 yards, finishing with 109 yards receiving. He also had a 94-yard kickoff return.
"Bam did an excellent job," Tressel said. "He's got great jitterbug ability and sometimes because he can fake people out and juke them out, he counted on that too much. I really saw Bam grow a lot with his ability to move up the field running routes and work hard on his stride length."
After a scoreless first quarter, Josh Huston kicked a 21-yard field goal to give Gray a 3-0 lead. Minutes later, redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes returned a punt 79 yards to give the Gray a 10-0 lead.
"It was just my opportunity to step up and getting my first chance to play in the spring game, I just had to make a big play for my coaches," Holmes said.
On the ensuing kickoff, Childress broke away from a few would-be tacklers before racing down the right sideline to narrow the margin to 10-7.
"That was nothing but my blockers," he said. "I just did my part at the end breaking a few tackles. I told them to hold their blocks and we'd take it to the house and that's what happened."
Huston added a 34-yard field goal as Gray took a 13-7 halftime lead.
Childress fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and Thomas Matthews recovered at the Scarlet 21. On Scarlet's first play, freshman Troy Smith hit Chris Gamble on touchdown pass to take a 20-7 lead.
Then Zwick went to work.
First he hit redshirt freshman Roy Hall for a 14-yard score to make it 20-14. He then found tight end Ryan Hamby down the middle of the field for a 25-yard scoring strike to give the Scarlet a 21-20 lead at the end of the third period.
Huston kicked a 26-yard field goal to give the Gray a 23-21 lead, but Childress' two touchdown passes put the game away.
"He's a very explosive player." Zwick said of Childress. "If you give him a little bit of room, he'll make plays.
"He's slippery as heck and you give him a chance, he can do big things with the ball."
Holmes, who had four catches for 65 yards, closed out the scoring for the Gray squad with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Smith to cut the lead to 29-23 with 13 seconds left.
The Scarlet's Ashton Youboty returned the blocked PAT attempt for a defensive PAT to provide the final margin of victory.
Gray--FG Huston 21, 5:49
Gray--Holmes 79 punt return (Huston kick), 3:15
Scarlet--Childress 94 kickoff return (Nugent kick), 3:40
Gray--FG Huston 34, :00
Gray --Gamble 19 pass from McMullen (Huston kick), 11:47
Scarlet--Hall 14 pass from Zwick (Nugent kick), 5:40
Scarlet--Hamby 25 pass from Zwick (Nugent kick), 4:14
Gray--FG Huston 26, 8:40
Scarlet--Childress 27 pass from Zwick (Nugent kick), 6:13
Scarlet--Childress 54 pass from Zwick (Nugent kick), 3:32
Gray--Holmes 23 pass from Smith (kick blocked), :13
Scarlet--Youboty point-after kick return, :13
Time of Possession18:4641:14
RUSHING--Scarlet, Ross 4-5, Schnittker 1-3, Zwick 3-3, Parker 2-1, Otis 2-(minus 4). Gray, Smith 12-21, Hollins 1-11, Hall 6-6, Team 2-(minus 2), McMullen 3-(minus 8).
PASSING--Scarlet, Zwick 17-29-0-217, Krenzel 3-7-1-30, Otis 1-3-1-22. Gray Smith 18-36-1-215, McMullen 8-12-1-82, Trombitas 1-1-0-4.
RECEIVING--Scarlet, Hamby 6-77, Chattams 5-39, Childress 4-109, Hall 2-16, Jenkins 1-21, Caldwell 1-4, Ross 1-3, Parker 1-0. Gray, Carter 6-85, Hartsock 5-36, Holmes 4-65, Gamble 3-42, Hollins 2-29, White 2-24, Hall 2-(minus 3), Allen 1-21, Bishop 1-7, Staubs 1-(minus 5).