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So far, 'O' in OSU is for offense



Published: Tue, October 24, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



On the other hand, the Buckeyes' defense is allowing fewer than nine points per game.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

COLUMBUS -- During the 2005 football season, the Ohio State football team's defense, led by linebackers A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter, generated most of the excitement and attention.

But with Heisman Trophy favorite Troy Smith guiding this year's offense and the Buckeyes averaging nearly 35 points per game, the emphasis has shifted.

"Last year, the big story was the defense," said wingback Anthony Gonzalez who caught four passes for 69 yards in Saturday's 44-3 romp over Indiana at Ohio Stadium. "This year, I feel we're pretty solid on both sides."

Perhaps the only surprise in the win over the Hoosiers is that tight ends caught three touchdown passes.

Rare

Asked how often that happen in the house where Woody Hayes once coached, Rory Nicol, who caught one from Smith and one from flanker Ted Ginn Jr., said, "I'm going to venture to say that in [Jim] Tressel's era, never."

Freshman tight end Jake Ballard also caught a touchdown pass as did Gonzalez and Ginn.

Nicol said the tight ends aren't concerned that they are often afterthoughts in offensive coordinator Jim Bollman's plays.

"I'm not really a primary receiver in our offense [because] we just have so many good guys," Nicol said. "That's the reality, we are so dangerous outside that sometimes our numbers aren't called.

"They're two of the best in the country," said Nicol of Ginn and Gonzalez. "Why change anything we do because it hasn't been stopped yet?

"So until it's stopped, until we're not successful, until Anthony Gonzalez can't run a route, until Teddy Ginn can't catch a ball, we're not going to change. Why should we?"

At the same time, Nicol was pumped after scoring twice.

"I felt like I was in high school again -- I was jacked to get involved in the offense again," Nicol said. "I was just as excited that Jake got the score. It's his first collegiate catch. I was excited for us as a group."

Spread it around

In all, Smith's 15 completions went to eight different receivers, something that doesn't always happen and cause frustration.

"Anytime you can get into a situation where you can spread the ball out and try to keep everyone happy, you have to do just that," Smith said. "So keeping them happy and the offensive line happy and the staff happy and the fans ... it's a great thing."

Smith also managed to credit the defense which is allowing fewer than nine points per game.

"Our staff defensively does a great job preparing," Smith said. "It's tough to score against us. I'm not surprised at all because I was one of the biggest ones campaigning for the defense that you don't have to worry about them because they are going to show up to play."

Asked if he is surprised at how dominant the Buckeyes have been, senior defensive end Joel Penton responded, "No, we knew we had a lot of talent coming in. We've just been excited to see how well it would pan out. So far it's gone well."

Cornerback Antonio Smith, who led the Buckeyes with 12 tackles, said the Buckeyes need to work harder in practice as their Nov. 18 date with Michigan nears.

Swarming works

"We haven't been tested that much deep but it's probably because we did a great job of swarming to the ball," Smith said. "When you get 11 guys running to the ball, it leads to turnovers and big plays, and it keeps people off the scoreboard.

Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said, "We're doing pretty [well] but you can always do better. There are always things to improve on ... more turnovers, try to eliminate big plays, do a better job of wrapping up a scrambling QB."

williams@vindy.com




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