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Sept. 4, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A swarming defense helped No. 9 Ohio State overcome its offensive missteps.

Lydell Ross rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown, and the Buckeyes’ defenders stymied Cincinnati in a 27-6 win Saturday.

Ohio State used numerous combinations while trying to replace 13 starters from last year’s team that finished 11-2. The inexperience showed at times.

Justin Zwick, seeing his first substantial playing time at quarterback, threw two interceptions and had four fumbles in a rough outing. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Backup Troy Smith played far less but produced as much, leading the Buckeyes to scores in two of his three drives while throwing a touchdown pass.

Gino Guidugli — who almost engineered an upset of Ohio State during its national championship run two years ago — was harassed all day by the Buckeyes’ revamped defense. Ohio State played as if it barely missed three starting linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs.

Guidugli completed 17 of 36 passes for 162 yards. He wasn’t sacked but was fed a steady diet of blitzes that resulted in hurried throws. Cincinnati’s running game mustered just 76 yards.

Ross carried 17 times and scored on a 1-yard run. He gained just 14 yards on his first eight carries before a 68-yard sprint that set up one of Mike Nugent’s two field goals.

The game was a reunion for first-year Cincinnati coach Mark Dantonio, who had been Ohio State’s defensive coordinator the last three seasons. He got to see many of his former players at their best.

The Bearcats managed just 238 total yards, converted only five of 18 chances on third down and never put together an extended drive.

After a scoreless first quarter in which Ohio State rushed for a net of minus-1 yard, the Bearcats took a 3-0 lead after Zwick was stripped of the ball by Jamar Enzor, who also fell on it at the Buckeyes’ 32. Kevin Lovell eventually connected on a 27-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter. Moments later, Ross burst through a hole at his own 20 and found no one near him, bolting 68 yards.

Zwick completed passes for 14, 28 and 15 yards before finding a wide-open Ryan Hamby for a 17-yard score late in the second quarter to put the Buckeyes ahead 10-3.

Things could have been even worse for Zwick, one of Ohio State’s most highly touted quarterback recruits ever. He fumbled the ball another time and it bounced directly to teammate Bam Childress. On the touchdown drive, he threw a pass over the middle that appeared to go through the hands of two Cincinnati defenders before Childress grabbed it for 28 yards.

Zwick threw interceptions on Ohio State’s first two possessions of the second half.

After Lovell’s second field goal for the Bearcats, the Buckeyes marched 57 yards capped by Ross’ 1-yard run for a 17-6 lead. Zwick hit Childress on an 18-yard pass play that again went between two waiting defenders, then Ross rambled for 18 more yards to set up the score.

Smith led the Buckeyes to all their scoring in the fourth quarter, including a 23-yard fade pass to Santonio Holmes.

Big Ten officials used video replay at the game to review possession plays, ball position and ball placement, but the new system wasn’t needed to correct any calls nor did it cause any noticeable delays.