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Hoosiers' improved QB draws OSU's attention



Published: Fri, October 20, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis must play the game of his life for Indiana.

COLUMBUS (AP) -- If Indiana has any chance to upset top-ranked Ohio State, quarterback Kellen Lewis must have the game of his life.

That's not saying all that much, since the redshirt freshman is just 19.

Lewis, out of Jacksonville, Fla., already has led three game-winning fourth-quarter drives this season and has brought the Hoosiers back from deficits of 14 points or more on three occasions. Indiana (4-3, 2-1 Big Ten) has won its last two games, including a big upset of then-No. 15 Iowa last week.

"He's reduced the negative plays, the mistakes," coach Terry Hoeppner said of the comparisons between Lewis in August and what he's done so far this season. "All of a sudden the things that were a blur to him, you feel as if they have slowed down."

What he'll face Saturday, however, will test any rookie's resolve. He'll only be facing one of the nation's stingiest defenses, before around 105,000 partisan fans who will be cheering for the No. 1 team in the land. Gulp.

Paying attention

To make Lewis' job even harder, the Hoosiers have the Buckeyes attention.

That came with last week's 31-28 upset over the Hawkeyes.

"They seem like they're very well coached, a hardworking team that's going to fight to the end of the game," Ohio State linebacker Curtis Terry said. "They won a couple of games at the end on field goals and they beat a very good Iowa team. So obviously they can play and they can sneak up on you if you're not prepared."

The Buckeyes are preparing to harass Lewis all day. They'll likely stack blitzers against him and bull rush the Hoosiers line, hoping to hurry him into making errors in judgment.

"You can see he's a redshirted kid who has learned his lessons well," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "And every game, as I listen to the defensive staff, you can see him getting better and better."

Lewis has completed 53 percent of his passes for 1,138 yards and five touchdowns with three interceptions.

He also has scrambled for 193 yards and three scores.

"They've got a good freshman quarterback," Ohio State defensive end Jay Richardson said. "He's got a very impressive arm, even more so than his legs. He's good at scrambling out of the pocket, they run a lot of bootlegs with him."

Smith comparisons

Some have even compared him to Ohio State's own Heisman Trophy contender, Troy Smith. That might be a bit premature.

Smith, who graduated from college this spring and is pursuing a second degree, has had a highlight-reel of a season. In last week's victory at Michigan State, he was spun around by a tackler who remained latched onto his legs while he tossed a touchdown pass. Against Penn State, Smith reversed field while escaping two defenders and launched a 55-yard bomb that Brian Robiskie caught for a touchdown.

Smith, the same height (6-foot-1) but 40 pounds heavier than Lewis at 215, has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,495 yards and 17 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

Richardson was asked if Lewis was "Troy-like."

"He's similar to Troy in that he can use his legs and he has a good arm," Richardson said. "From game to game you can see him making his reads a lot faster and he seems a lot more confident. He's more deliberate in his actions."

Check out more on the Buckeyes' game this weekend/C5.




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