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Smith, Ginn lead Buckeyes



Published: Sat, September 2, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



By JOE SCALZO

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

COLUMBUS -- As the Ohio State football team gathered in front of the band to sing Carmen Ohio following Saturday's 35-12 win over Northern Illinois, senior center Doug Datish stood in the front row, pretending (not very well, mind you) to sing.

As one of the captains, it's unthinkable (repeat, unthinkable!) that Datish could have done it on purpose, so after the game he was asked if a day's worth of making line calls made his throat hoarse.

"Uh, yeah, my throat hurts," he said, laughing. "I had to yell and make the calls, so I was trying not to say anything too [loud]."

Truth is, Datish, who prefers to lead by example, will have to use his vocal chords a little more than usual this season. After splitting time at guard and tackle the past two years, Datish switched to center this year to replace Nick Mangold, a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets in April. Before each play, Datish is responsible for communicating with the other linemen and making the protection call.

Made the right calls

"With the offensive line, most sacks are the result of missed assignments," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, whose team was ranked No. 1 by several preseason polls. "I don't think we had any missed assignments today and that starts with Doug."

This isn't the most exciting way to start a story about Ohio State football, but to understand why the Buckeyes were able to score touchdowns on their first four possessions, you've got to start with the line. Basically, it dominated Northern Illinois, giving senior quarterback (and Heisman Trophy candidate) Troy Smith plenty of time to throw and junior running back Antonio Pittman plenty of room to run.

"I can't speak enough about the offensive line," said Smith, who completed 18-of-25 passes for 297 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. "Without them, the game doesn't get played the way it needs to be played."

First two touchdowns

Smith's first two touchdowns went to junior wideout (and Heisman candidate) Ted Ginn Jr., who caught four passes for 123 yards. On the second TD, Smith had extra time in the pocket, floating a 58-yard pass to Ginn, who had cruised pass the Husky defense.

"I've played people of similar speed, but he was fast," said NIU senior cornerback Adriel Hansbro. "We made a lot of mistakes, things we can't do, let alone against a No. 1 team."

Pittman, who split time with heralded freshman Chris Wells, had 19 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown, passing the 100-yard mark for the ninth time in his career. Wells added 52 yards on 10 carries and both backs scored touchdowns, although Wells did have a costly fumble near the goal line in the third quarter.

"I was hoping to give Ohio State a better test than we did today," said Huskies coach Joe Novak. "[Their] offense is going to score a lot of points.

"I voted for them as No. 1 in the preseason and I'll vote for them as No. 1 again."

Wolfe leads Huskies

Northern Illinois, the preseason favorite to win the Mid-American Conference, gained 343 yards against a Buckeye defense that lost nine starters to graduation and the NFL. Senior Garrett Wolfe, one of the top running backs in the country, accounted for 285 of those yards, topping 100 yards in running and receiving.

"He is amazing," said OSU senior safety Brandon Mitchell of Wolfe. "With a field that was wet and tough to run on, he made some great cuts and moves.

"He made plays that average running backs wouldn't make."

scalzo@vindy.com




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