Nov. 4, 2003

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Transcript of Press Luncheon
Windows A/V Press Luncheon
Depth Chart
Top 25 Polls

Ohio State and Michigan State, two teams still very much in the thick of the Big Ten title hunt, square off Saturday in sold-out Ohio Stadium. A capacity crowd of more than 104,000 is expected to be on hand to witness the first meeting between the two schools since the 2000 season.

Ohio State enters this week’s contest with an 8-1 record for all games and a 4-1 mark in Big Ten play. Jim Tressel’s Buckeyes are coming off a hard-earned 21-20 win at Penn State in which they overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit and the loss of starting quarterback Craig Krenzel, who suffered a mild concussion in the second quarter and did not return after intermission.

With Krenzel watching from the sidelines, super-sub Scott McMullen stepped in and directed the Buckeyes to their third-consecutive victory by completing 12-of-17 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns. The Buckeyes scored the game winner with 1:35 to play on a 5-yard scoring strike from McMullen to split end Michael Jenkins. McMullen completed all seven of his passes on the final drive.

Michigan State, under the first-year direction of head coach John L. Smith, is 7-2 on the year and tied with Ohio State for second in the Big Ten behind league-leader Michigan (5-1) who is idle this week. The Spartans are coming off a 27-20 loss to Michigan in which they trailed 20-3 in the third quarter and 27-10 in the fourth. After closing the gap to 27-20 late in the game, the Spartans had a chance to tie but could not come up with one last touchdown.

The Buckeyes are 6-0 at home this year and 14-0 over the past two seasons. The Spartans are 3-0 on the road thus far in 2003, including a 2-0 mark in the conference.

This week’s game, which will kickoff at 12:10 p.m. EST, will be regionally telecast by ABC-TV and broadcast statewide by WBNS Radio, the flagship station for the Ohio State radio network.

Ohio State holds down the No. 6 spot in this week’s ESPN/USA TODAY poll and is seventh in the Associated Press voting. The Buckeyes were sixth in last week’s BCS standings. Ohio State is the Big Ten’s highest-ranked team and is 3-1 this season against teams ranked in the Top 25.

With the win over Penn State, the Buckeyes have now won 22 of their last 23 starts, including 13 of the last 14 Big Ten contests, and are riding the crest of a modest three-game winning streak. Ohio State enters this week’s home game against Michigan State with a 14-game winning streak in Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes lead the nation in rushing defense, allowing 49.44 yards per game, and are third in total defense at 255.56 yards per game. OSU is also seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing 14.44 points per game. Teams are averaging 1.5 yards per rush and 3.7 yards per play against the OSU defense, which is led by All-America candidates Will Smith at end and Chris Gamble at cornerback and super soph A.J. Hawk at linebacker.

In its last three games, the Buckeye defense has given up a total of 91 yards on the ground, including just 33 this past week at Penn State. The Nittany Lions’ running attack netted 14 yards in the first half and 19 in the second. The Ohio State offense, meanwhile, is coming off a 301-yard effort at Penn State that follows a season-high 603 yards the week before at Indiana. The Buckeyes are averaging 316.9 yards and 24.1 points per game. Most of that yardage has come through the air (191.3 ypg.), but Ohio State has rushed for 376 yards the past two weeks. Tailback Lydell Ross, healthy for the first time this season, has 277 yards and four touchdowns the past two weeks and has energized the running attack. Krenzel and McMullen have combined to complete 58 percent of their passes for 1,698 yards and 11 touchdowns. Split end Michael Jenkins has been on the receiving end of 33 of those passes, including five touchdown receptions.

The Ohio State offense is 27-of-33 in the red zone this year, scoring 20 touchdowns (11 rushing and nine passing) and seven (of nine) field goals.

Led by All-America kicker Mike Nugent and punter B.J.Sander, the Buckeyes have excelled in special teams play. Sander continues to kick the cover off the ball, averaging 43.4 yards per kick.

Saturday’s game with Michigan State begins a tough stretch drive for the Buckeyes who host Purdue next week and then close out the season at Michigan. Ohio State’s three remaining opponents have a combined record of 21-6 heading into this week.

Following the win at Penn State, Ohio State has moved up a notch to sixth place in the ESPN/USA TODAY Poll. The Buckeyes are seventh in this week’s Associated Press balloting. The Buckeyes were sixth in each of the first two BCS rankings and are expected to be no lower than that this week. OSU is 3-1 against ranked teams this year (1-0 against Top 10 teams) and 8-1 since the beginning of the 2002 campaign. The Buckeyes’ highest ranking this year was second (they opened the season in the No. 2 spot).

Ohio State senior punter B.J. Sander was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week Monday after his performance at Penn State last week. Sander punted six times for an average of 46.3 yards a kick. Three if his efforts pinned the Nittany Lions inside their own 20 and another went for 62 yards. Sander averages 43.4 yards a kick this season after 52 attempts. He has 24 punts inside the opponent’s 20 yard line this year.

COACH Jim Tressel
Jim Tressel is in his third year as head coach at Ohio State. His record with the Buckeyes is a glittering 29-6 for all games and 17-4 in Big Ten play and includes a Big Ten co-championship and a consensus national title, both last year. He is 18-2 in games played in Ohio Stadium and 11-3 against teams ranked in the Top 25.

After guiding the Buckeyes to the summit of college football in 2002 with a perfect 14-0 record, the 50-year-old Tressel was named National Coach of the Year by the Football Writers Association of America, the American Football Coaches Association and The Sporting News. He also received the Bobby Dodd and Paul “Bear” Bryant National Coach of the Year awards and was honored by the Pigskin Club of Washington D.C. and the Columbus Touchdown Club.

Tressel, who prior to coming to Ohio State spent 15 years as the head coach at Youngstown State where his teams won four Division 1-AA national championships, has an overall record of 164-63-2 as a head coach.

Tressel is just the fourth coach to lead Ohio State to an unbeaten, untied season, joining John Wilce in 1916 (7-0), Carroll Widdoes in 1944 (9-0) and Woody Hayes in 1954 (10-0) and 1968 (10-0). With five wins to start the 2003 season, Tressel directed the Buckeyes to 19 consecutive wins, the second longest winning streak in school history. Heading into this week’s game with Michigan State, the Buckeyes have won 22 of their last 23 starts.

This is Tressel’s second stop at Ohio State. He was an assistant coach under Earle Bruce from 1983 to 1985, serving as quarterbacks and receivers coach the first year before taking on the added responsibility of the running backs the next two years. During those three years, the Buckeyes played in the Fiesta, Rose and Citrus bowls and posted a combined record of 27-9.

Tressel is the son of the late Lee Tressel, a coaching legend at Baldwin-Wallace College in northern Ohio. His brother, Dick Tressel, who currently serves on the Ohio State football operations staff, is also a former head coach, spending 22 years at Hamline University in suburban Minneapolis. As a family, the Tressels have won 443 games. Jim’s nephew, Mike Tressel (Dick’s son), is a graduate assistant for the Buckeyes.

There is an old sports adage that says “good teams win the close ones.” In his two-plus years at Ohio State, Coach Jim Tressel has demonstrated an ability to win the close ones, including three overtime decisions. In 2001, Tressel’s first year at Ohio State, the Buckeyes won two games by a touchdown or less (Minnesota and Michigan). In posting a perfect 14-0 record in 2002, the Buckeyes won seven games by that same margin, including overtime wins at Illinois and in the national championship game. So far this year, the Buckeyes are 4-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including a 44-38 triple-overtime win over N.C. State and a 21-20 squeaker at Penn State in their most recent outing. The latter victory gives the Buckeyes an overall record of 13-5 in nail-biters since Tressel took over at the start of the 2001 campaign.

This will be the 34th meeting between the two schools, with all but one of those games coming since 1951. Ohio State leads the series 21-12 and has won 11 of the 18 games played in Columbus.

The two teams have not played since 2000 in Columbus, with the Buckeyes recording a 27-13 victory in that game. That win snapped a two-game losing streak at the hands of the Spartans, who defeated the Buckeyes in both 1998 and 1999. MSU’s 28-24 win in ’98 knocked the Buckeyes out of the No. 1 spot and cost OSU a shot at the national championship.

Prior to 1998, Ohio State had won five in a row and 13 of 15 from the Spartans, including eight straight from 1975 to 1984.

In 1994, OSU tailback Eddie George rushed for 219 yards in a 23-7 win over the Spartans in East Lansing. The 1980 Buckeyes rolled up 603 yards against the Spartans.

Michigan State’s Jim Miller threw for 360 yards against OSU in a losing effort in 1993.

The Buckeyes jumped off to a quick 7-0 start, scoring on their first drive behind the running of junior tailback Lydell Ross. Ross set the tone early by bolting 31 yards up the left sideline on the Buckeyes’ second play from scrimmage. He capped off the 14-play, 74-yard drive with a 1-yard run.

But the Nittany Lions took a 17-7 lead with just over four minutes to play in the first half and appeared to have momentum on their side heading into the locker room. Additionally, OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel suffered a mild concussion just before the half and would be ruled out for the rest of the game.

Enter quarterback Scott McMullen, like Krenzel a fifth-year senior.

With the Buckeyes’ Big Ten and national title hopes resting squarely on the slender shoulders of the 6-3 McMullen, the free-spirited signal caller directed the Buckeyes on a masterful 80-yard scoring drive to open the second half. A 4-yard McMullen to Michael Jenkins TD pass capped off the 12-play drive, which also included a 38-yard completion to flanker Santonio Holmes. The Buckeyes were back in the game.

Penn State upped its lead to 20-14 early in the fourth quarter on a 48-yard field goal by David Kimball that cleared the cross bar with room to spare.

That’s where it stood with 5:55 to play when the Buckeyes took over for the last time at their own 28-yard line. McMullen again answered the challenge, moving the Buckeyes to the Penn State 5-yard line with 1:39 to play. On the next play, the 11th play of the drive, he hit Jenkins on a fade route in the right corner of the end zone and the game was tied. Kicker Mike Nugent gave the Buckeyes the lead for good.

Penn State had one more chance, but Kimball was short and right from 60 yards away on what would have been the game winner.

The win was the Buckeyes first in State College since 1995, snapping a string of seven-consecutive victories by the home team.

McMullen completed 12-of-17 passes for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He hit all seven of his passes on the winning drive — two to Holmes, Hartsock and Jenkins and one to Ross. Holmes and Hartsock each had five catches.

Ross led the OSU ground attack with 110 yards on a career-high 24 carries, his second-consecutive 100-yard game. The Buckeyes had 301 yards in total offense and had scoring drives of 74, 80 and 72 yards.

The OSU defense recorded a season-best 10 tackles-for-loss, including three by All-America defensive end Will Smith. Cornerback Dustin Fox and safety Nate Salley each had nine tackles to pace the Buckeyes.

Senior defensive end Will Smith has been named as one of 12 semi-finalists for the Rotary Lombardi Award. The Lombardi is presented annually to the outstanding player who plays within five yards of the ball. Ohio State has had four previous Lombardi winners — Jim Stillwagon (1970), John Hicks (1973), Chris Spielman (1987) and Orlando Pace (1995 & ’96).

Smith, who is in his third year as a starter, leads the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss (16.5) and is second in sacks (9.5). In his last four games, he has 9.5 TFL and 6 sacks. The 6-4, 265-pound Smith is also on the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end in the country.

In Saturday’s win at Penn State, Smith had three tackles-for-loss, including a sack.

In 1968, ’69 and ’70, fiery Rex Kern led the Buckeyes to a combined record of 27-2, two Big Ten titles and a national championship. But Kern, who had more than his fair shares of bumps and bruises, could not always answer the bell. When he couldn’t, classmate Ron Maciejowski took over and performed so well that he earned the moniker of “super sub.” Move over Mace! As the saying goes, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” Scott McMullen is apparently cut from the same cloth as Maciejowski. In Saturday’s win at Penn State, McMullen came off the bench in relief of injured starter Craig Krenzel and directed the Buckeyes to a thrilling 21-20 victory. McMullen completed 12-of-17 passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns, all in the second half, rallying his team from a 17-7 deficit.

On the game-winning drive, McMullen, a 6-3 senior from nearby Granville, marched the Buckeyes 72 yards in 11 plays, capping off the march with a 5-yard scoring strike to split end Michael Jenkins. McMullen hit all seven of his pass attempts on the drive.

Earlier, his 4-yard TD pass to Jenkins cut the Penn State lead to 20-14.

McMullen is now 3-0 on the year in relief of Krenzel. He started the Bowling Green and Northwestern games while Krenzel was nursing a sore elbow.

On the season, McMullen has completed 43-of-64 passes for 507 yards and two touchdowns. He is completing 67 percent of his passes and has been intercepted just twice.

“Scott knows our offense and we have every confidence in him,” said head coach Jim Tressel following the Penn State game. “When he is out there, we don’t have to change a thing.”

Junior tailback Lydell Ross has rushed for 277 yards on 47 carries the past two weeks, for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. Ross rushed for a career-high 167 yards at Indiana and followed that up with 110 yards at Penn State, where he carried the ball a career-high 24 times. He also has rushed for four touchdowns in the last two games. Ross has 518 yards on the year, giving him 1,556 for his career. He has rushed for nine touchdowns this year and now has 22 career rushing TDs. As a true freshman in 2001, Ross ran for 419 yards and six touchdowns. He finished last year with 619 yards and six scores. The 21-pound Ross also has eight receptions this year.

Flanker Santonio Holmes is fast becoming a favorite target of Ohio State quarterbacks Craig Krenzel and Scott McMullen. Holmes, a redshirt freshman from Belle Glade, Fla., has 11 receptions for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns the past two weeks. He had six receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns at Indiana after taking over for injured starter Drew Carter. This past week at Penn State, he responded with five catches for 78 yards in his first start. Two of those catches came on the Buckeyes’ game winning drive late in the fourth quarter. On the year now, the speedy Holmes has 14 receptions for 283 yards and a pair of touchdowns and is averaging 20.2 yards per catch.

Senior tight end Ben Hartsock had five receptions at Penn State and is the Buckeyes’ second-leading receiver with 27 catches. The 6-4, 264-pound Hartsock had 25-career receptions heading into this year. In the triple overtime victory over North Carolina State earlier this year, he had a career-high seven grabs.

“In order for us to be a good team, our seniors have to play the best football of their careers and Ben is certainly doing that,” praised head coach Jim Tressel. “In addition to making big catches for us, Ben is one of the best blocking tight ends in college football. He grades out to a winning performance almost every game.”

Hartsock has been selected by the Ohio State coaching staff as offensive lineman of the week on three different occasions this year. He was the offensive player of the game following the Buckeyes’ 20-0 win over Northwestern.

He is also a nominee for Academic All-American.

Flanker Drew Carter, who injured his right knee in the first half of the Indiana game, will undergo surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Carter, a senior from Solon, Ohio, was in the midst of his best year with 25 receptions for 410 yards and a touchdown. Carter, however, did accompany the team to Penn State and served as honorary captain. In his last two games, substitute quarterback Scott McMullen has completed 17-of-22 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. McMullen completed all five of his passes at Indiana two weeks ago and his last seven at Penn State this past weekend. Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk continues to draw rave reviews. Prior to Saturday’s game against Penn State, ABC analyst Ed Cunningham called Hawk “The best linebacker I have seen this year.” Hawk has the numbers to support that statement. He leads the Buckeyes in solos (38), assists (39) and total tackles (77) and is second in tackles-for-loss (11) and sacks (4). Free safety Nate Salley matched his career high with nine tackles at Penn State, including seven solos, tying cornerback Dustin Fox for the team lead. Fox also picked off his third interception of the year and broke up two other passes. Punter B.J. Sander averaged 46.3 yards on six kicks at Penn State, including a 62 yarder. That average could have been better, but Sander downed three punts inside the PSU 20-yard line. Chris Gamble started both ways at Penn State, the first time he has done so this year. Gamble’s first two-way start last year also was against the Nittany Lions. In Saturday’s game, Gamble had two receptions and carried the ball once from scrimmage on offense. He had one tackle and a pass broken up on defense.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel, the Buckeyes’ co-MVP last year and the offensive MVP of the Fiesta Bowl, is 21-2 as a starter. He has four 200-yard passing games this year, including 273 yards in OSU’s triple-overtime win over North Carolina State and 272 yards at Indiana. In the win over N.C. State, he threw touchdown passes in each of the three overtime periods – and did it with a sore throwing arm that subsequently forced him to miss two games. A molecular genetics major, he recently was named winner of a National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholarship and is a nominee for the NCAA’s prestigious Top VIII Award.

Split end Michael Jenkins is one of the nation’s top receivers. The 6-5 senior, who had a pair of touchdown receptions in Saturday’s 21-20 win over Penn State — including the game winner, currently paces the Buckeye in receptions (33) receiving yardage (433) and touchdown receptions (5). He has caught passes in 35 consecutive games and is the fourth leading receiver in Ohio State history both in number of catches (143) and receiving yards (2,497). Jenkins, who had seven receptions for 124 yards and the winning TD against North Carolina State earlier this year, also returns punts and had a 54-yard TD runback against Iowa. It was his first punt return of the year.

Alex Stepanovich, who is in his second year as a starter, is one of the top offensive linemen in the Big Ten. Stepanovich began the year at center, but after sitting out three games because of a sprained ankle, has started the past three games at right guard. He was selected by the OSU coaches as the offensive lineman of the week following the Washington game.

Junior Chris Gamble started on both sides of the ball at Penn State, getting the nod at cornerback and flanker for the first time this year. Expect him to do more of the same down the stretch for the Buckeyes. One of the best all-around players in college football, Gamble also returns kickoffs and is on the punt return team. The 6-3 junior is expected to be a candidate for all the player of the year awards, as well as the Thorpe award as the top defensive back in college football. He is considered the top “shutdown corner” in college football.

Mike Nugent is coming off a spectacular sophomore year in which he set nine school kicking records, led the team in scoring and won first-team All-America honors. Nugent finished second in the voting for the Lou Groza award last year and should be a finalist again this year. Nugent has made 9-of-11 attempts this year, including a career-long 53-yard shot in the win over Iowa. He is 34 of 39 since the beginning of last year.

The Buckeyes also boast three of the top defensive linemen in the nation in seniors Will Smith, Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson. Smith has been named as one of 12 semi-finalists for the Lombardi Award and also is on the Hendricks’ watch list for defensive ends. Big Will leads the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss with 16.5 and is second in sacks at 9.5. He has 9.5 tackles-for-loss and six sacks in his last four games.

Budding sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk has projected himself into the national spotlight and possible consideration for the Butkus Award. Hawk leads the Buckeyes in solo stops and total tackles with 38 and 77, respectively. He has 55 tackles in the last six games and has led the team in tackles in five of those contests.

Five Ohio State players have been nominated for the Verizon Academic All-America team which is selected annually by a vote of college sports information directors across the country. In order to be eligible for consideration, a player must have a GPA of 3.2 or better on a 4.0 scale, be at least a sophomore in terms of eligibility and be a starter or significant reserve. The Ohio State nominees are: quarterback Craig Krenzel, tight end Ben Hartsock, running back Maurice Hall, cornerback Dustin Fox and safety Will Allen.

Mike Nugent’s 53-yard field goal in the win over Iowa was the second longest field goal in Ohio Stadium history by a Buckeye and the fourth longest in school history. The Ohio Stadium record for an OSU player is 55 yards by Dan Stultz in 1997. Former three-time All-American Tom Skladany holds the school record with a 59-yard trey at Illinois in 1975. Gary Cairns (1966) also has a 55-yard field goals to his credit and Bob Atha had a 53-yard boot at Purdue in 1981. Nugent already holds nine school kicking records.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel ranks eighth in career passing yards at Ohio State with 3,644. Jim Karsatos (1984-86) is in seventh place with 5,089 yards.

Krenzel also ranks 11th in career total offense at OSU with 4,136 yards. The No. 10 spot belongs to Rex Kern (1968-70) at 4,158.

Split end Michael Jenkins is fourth in both career receptions (143) and career receiving yards (2,497) at OSU. Jenkins needs 12 receptions and 229 yards to move into third place on the OSU career lists.

Kicker Mike Nugent has 41 career field goals. The school record of 59 belongs to Dan Stultz (1996-2000). Nugent has made 41-of-53 attempts and ranks first in career percentage with a fanciful .774 figure.

In six home games this year, the Buckeyes have drawn 628,483 fans, an average of 104,747 per Saturday in the Horseshoe. The highest single-season average in Ohio Stadium history is 103,488 in eight games last year. With two more home games — and capacity crowds — still to be played in 2003, that mark seems sure to fall this year.

Ohio State set an NCAA Division 1-A record in 2002 with 14 wins. In doing so, the Buckeyes recorded their fifth unbeaten, untied season (1916, 1944, 1954 and 1968 previously) and claimed their seventh national championship (1942, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1968 and 1970).

With the victory at Penn State, the Buckeyes, who first fielded a team in 1890 and are now in their 114th season of gridiron play, have an all-time record of 754-293-53. That is a wining percentage of .709 for the Scarlet and Gray who played game No. 1,100 at Penn State.

Ohio State began Big Ten play in 1913. The Buckeyes currently have an all-time conference record of 412-156-24 and have either won outright or shared 29 Big Ten titles. The Buckeyes were a perfect 8-0 last year in conference play and shared the league title with Iowa. Ohio State’s last outright crown was in 1984 (6-2).

The Buckeyes own an all-time record of 348-101-20 (.763) since Ohio Stadium was opened in 1922. Ohio State has won 14 in a row in the Horseshoe, last losing to Illinois in the final home game of the 2001 season. The Buckeyes have two home games remaining this year, this week against Michigan State and next week vs. Purdue.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel, split end Michael Jenkins, defensive end Will Smith and defensive tackle Tim Anderson are the Ohio State captains this year. The four seniors were selected by a vote of their teammates.

Five true freshmen have seen action in the Buckeyes’ first nine games — tailback Ira Guilford, tight end Louis Irizarry, defensive backs Donte Whitner and Ashton Youboty and defensive tackle David Patterson.

Playing on national television and led by heady quarterback Craig Krenzel and an unrelenting defense that proved mature beyond its youth at linebacker and safety, the Buckeyes easily dispatched visiting Washington 28-9 in their season opener. Krenzel, who took control of the game from the outset, was only slightly short of sensational in running his record to 16-1 as a starter. His 37-yard strike to flanker Drew Carter set up Ohio State’s first touchdown, a 2-yard run by junior tailback Maurice Hall with 8:31 to play in the first quarter. The senior signal caller made it 14-0 with a 23-yard scramble around left end with 2:51 to play in the first stanza and 21-0 with an 11-yard scramble, this time to the right side, with 11 seconds left in the half. The latter play came on third down and took the bark out of the Huskies. Krenzel threw for 203 yards (his third career 200-yard game) and ran for 27 more in what has become typical of his stellar play. Six of his 15 completions went to senior split end and fellow co-captain Michael Jenkins. Junior tailback Lydell Ross accounted for OSU’ other score, a 15-yard power burst off tackle with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter. In addition to their two touchdowns, Hall and Ross combined for 101 yards rushing.

The Ohio State defense, meanwhile, picked up where it left off a year ago, limiting the Huskiesto nine points and 262 total yards, including just 7 on the ground. Washington quarterback Cody Pickett completed 26-of-49 passes for 255 yards, but no touchdowns, and most of that yardage came in the second half after the outcome had been decided. Pickett had just 77 yards at halftime.

Junior Simon Fraser, starting his third game but first as a regular at defensive end, led the defense with seven tackles, including three for losses and a sack and was named Big Ten co-defensive player of the week. Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk also had seven tackles in his first start.

Junior All-America candidate Chris Gamble had four tackles and a pass broken up and effectively took Husky receiver Reggie Williams – who like Pickett was being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate – out of the game.

As was the case so many times last year in the Buckeyes’ championship run, the Ohio State defense was the difference in Ohio State’s 3-point win over San Diego State. On a day when the OSU offense could muster but 196 total yards and was held without a touchdown, the defense got the job done by coming up with four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumble recoveries) and holding the Aztecs to 216 total yards, including just 28 on the ground.

Will Allen’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the first quarter was THE PLAY of the day and turned out to be Ohio State’s only touchdown. Allen’s tally, the Buckeyes’ first defensive touchdown of the year, and three field goals by All-American Mike Nugent, were enough for the OSU defense, which allowed only a pair of field goals over the last three quarters. Allen’s interception, which was tipped by cornerback Chris Gamble, and subsequent coast-to-coast runback, was the longest interception return in Ohio Stadium history, breaking the old mark of 88 yards, set by Howard “Hopalong” Cassady against Wisconsin in 1954. San Diego State led 7-3 before Allen, who is in his first year as a starter, gave the Buckeyes the lead for good. In addition to his interception, Allen, a senior from Dayton, also forced a fumble and had six tackles.

Cornerback Dustin Fox led the defense with nine tackles, equaling his career high. Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk was in on seven tackles and had three tackles-for-loss and two sacks.

Junior tailback Maurice Hall led all rushers with 91 yards, including a career-long 33-yard jaunt. Hall had a career-high 19 carries and picked up crucial yardage late in the game when the Buckeyes were trying to maintain possession. Nugent made his first two field goals on the day, extending his record for consecutive field goals made in Ohio Stadium to 17, before missing a 28-yard attempt. Following that miss, he began a new streak by hitting from 35 yards out.

Ohio State prevailed 44-38 in triple overtime, running its record to 3-0 and extending its unbeaten string to 17 games in a row. The game was every bit as exciting as the final score would indicate.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a 24-7 lead and seemed in control until turning the ball over with 9:26 to play. That started the ball rolling for North Carolina State, which scored 17-unanswered points to tie the score at 24 with 21 seconds left to play.

The two teams traded touchdowns in the first two overtimes, setting up a dramatic third extra session in which the Buckeyes scored a touchdown, missed the mandatory try for the two-point conversion, and then held on by stopping N.C. State on the half-yard line on fourth down.

In addition to being the first overtime game ever in Ohio Stadium, it was the longest game in Ohio State history, going four hours and 17 minutes from kickoff to the dramatic final play.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel again turned in a stellar performance, hitting 26-of-36 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns, all career highs. Three of those TD passes came in the overtime periods. Krenzel also ran for a touchdown and was the Buckeyes’ leading rusher with 37 yards on 13 carries. Krenzel completed 10 of his 12 aerials in the three overtime periods.

Split end Michael Jenkins and tight end Ben Hartsock each caught seven passes and flanker Drew Carter had six receptions. Jenkins had TD grabs of 44 and 7 yards, the latter in the third overtime on third-and-three. Hartsock had a career high in receptions and grabbed his first touchdown catch of the season in the first OT. Carter also had a career-best day as the OSU offense totaled 317 yards.

Linebacker A.J. Hawk led the OSU defense with a career-high 12 tackles, including two for losses, and had a 55-yard interception return that set up Mike Nugent’s 22-yard field goal.

Will Allen added nine tackles and recovered a fumble that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown run by Lydell Ross, giving Ohio State a 14-0 lead with 2:47 to play in the first quarter.

It was Hawk and Allen who teamed up on the final play of the game to preserve the Ohio State victory. With the Wolfpack knocking at the door on fourth-and-goal in the third overtime, Hawk banged heads with T.A. McClendon at the half-yard line. As the two dueled for position like a couple of sumo wrestlers, Allen rushed in and lowered the boom, sending McClendon to the turf just short of the goal line, allowing the 104,890 fans on hand to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The OSU defense recorded four sacks, two each by tackles Tim Anderson and Darrion Scott.

The Buckeyes also received an outstanding effort from punter B.J. Sander, who averaged 49.4 yards per kick on five punts. Sander dropped four of those punts inside the N.C. State 20.

On a day when the Mid-American Conference was pulling off upset-after-upset, senior quarterback Scott McMullen filled in for injured regular Craig Krenzel and piloted Ohio State to a hard-fought 24-17 win over visiting Bowling Green.

McMullen got the Buckeyes on the board in the first quarter with a 7-yard touchdown strike to Drew Carter. McMullen, who was making just his second collegiate start and his first since 2001, completed 10 of his 16 pass attempts for 118 yards. One of those tosses, a 46-yarder over the middle to superstar split end Michael Jenkins, set up the Buckeyes’ final touchdown, a 3-yard run by Lydell Ross. It was the second TD of the day for Ross, who earlier scored on a 33-yard jaunt on fourth-and-one.

The Ohio State offensive line turned in its best performance since the season opener with Washington and, as a result, starting tailback Maurice Hall and Ross combined for 201 yards rushing, including a career-high 107 yards by Hall. Ross carried the ball 22 times and Hall 19.

The Buckeyes led 17-7 at the half and 24-7 in the fourth quarter before Bowling Green mounted a comeback and narrowed the deficit to 24-17. Suddenly the 104,358 fans in Ohio Stadium had visions of the triple-overtime win over North Carolina State in which the Wolfpack battled back from a 24-7 deficit to tie the score with 21 seconds left in the game. Senior safety Will Allen ended the comeback with an interception on the final play of the game.

Linebackers A.J. Hawk and Robert Reynolds and free safety Nate Salley led the Buckeyes in tackles with eight each, a career high for Salley. Hawk, Allen and cornerback Dustin Fox had interceptions for the Buckeyes, who also recorded five tackles-for-loss and four sacks.

The Falcons were held to 50 yards rushing.

After forcing Northwestern to punt on its first possession, Ohio State marched 59 yards in 10 plays to take a quick 7-0 lead. It marked the first time in the 2003 season that the Buckeyes had scored on their opening possession.

Junior tailback Lydell Ross put OSU on the board with a 12-yard run on which he was bottled up inside but bounced outside and raced untouched into the left corner of the north end zone. Quarterback Scott McMullen, making his second-consecutive start in place of injured regular Craig Krenzel, completed all four of his passes on the drive.

The Buckeyes also scored on their next possession, taking a 10-0 lead with 4:24 to play in the first quarter on a 32-yard field goal by All-American Mike Nugent. Linebacker Robert Reynolds’ fumble recovery gave OSU the ball on the Northwestern 46-yard line.

McMullen made it 17-0 on the opening possession of the second half by flipping a 1-yard scoring strike to tight end Ryan Hamby on third-and-goal. The Wildcats were bunched up in the middle in expectation of an inside power play. Hamby was all alone. The 80-yard march was the longest of the year to date for the Buckeyes.

Nugent completed the scoring with a 42-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter. McMullen and Drew Carter hooked up on a 19-yard pass on the five-play drive.

McMullen completed 16 of his 25 passes for a career-high 166 yards and the one touchdown. Jenkins finished with five catches and moved into fourth place on the all-time Ohio State receiving list. Tight end Ben Hartsock also had five receptions and turned in another impressive game from a blocking standpoint.

Lydell Ross rushed for 43 yards for the Buckeyes who outgained Northwestern 311 to 185 in total yards.

Led by sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk’s career-high 13 tackles, the Buckeyes recorded eight tackles-for-loss and three sacks, never allowing the Wildcats, who crossed midfield on just two occasions, to mount a serious threat.

B.J. Sander averaged 44.6 yards per punt on five kicks and dropped three punts inside the 20.

The host Badgers reversed a recent trend of visiting teams winning by upsetting the third-ranked Buckeyes, 17-10, in Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin scored first on a 2-yard run by Booker Stanley on the first play of the second quarter. Stanley’s run capped off a 13-play, 63-yard drive. Ohio State got on the board with 4:02 left in the half on a 24-yard field goal by Mike Nugent.

Wisconsin increased the lead to 10-3 on a 38-yard field goal by Mike Allen with 5:09 to play in the third period.

The Buckeyes tied the game with 6:09 to play on a 6-yard pass from Craig Krenzel to Michael Jenkins. Krenzel, back in action for the first time in three weeks after suffering an elbow injury against North Carolina State, marched the Buckeyes 75 yards in seven plays for the score. The drive included a 46-yard pass to flanker Drew Carter. Two plays later the Buckeyes scored and seemed to recapture the momentum.

But the Badgers yanked the rug out from under the Buckeyes on their next possession with a 79-yard scoring pass from Matt Schabert to Lee Evans, the longest play of the year against the Buckeyes. Evans’ only catch of the night gave the Badgers the win and ended the Buckeyes’ 19-game winning streak.

The Buckeyes wound up with 271 yards in total offense, while Wisconsin had 299. Krenzel completed 14 of his 26 passes for 202 yards, but the Buckeyes were held to 69 yards rushing. Senior center Alex Stepanovich saw his first action after sitting out three-and-a-half games with an ankle injury.

Punter B.J. Sander enjoyed another outstanding game, averaging 44.3 yards on seven punts. Linebacker A.J. Hawk continued his torrid play with 11 tackles, giving him 36 in the last three games.

In a classic defensive struggle between two of the Big Ten’s top defenses, Ohio State prevailed 19-10. Neither team scored an offensive touchdown. The Buckeyes, who were trying to get back on the winning track after a disappointing loss at Wisconsin, did so by scoring on a 53-yard field goal, a 54-yard punt return, a blocked punt and a safety. Iowa scored on a 36-yard field goal and a 5-yard run on a fake field goal.

The Buckeye defense, which came into the game leading the nation in rushing defense, held the Hawkeyes to 66 yards on the ground, including just 42 by talented tailback Fred Russell.

Iowa was equally stingy, limiting OSU to 56 yards rushing and 185 yards of total offense.

The difference in the game was the special teams, OSU scoring for the first time this year on either a punt return or a blocked punt. Michael Jenkins had the former, fielding the ball near midfield, slipping a tackle and racing into the end zone to give OSU a 10-0 lead. Ohio State had led 3-0 on a 53-yard field goal by Mike Nugent

Redshirt freshman Roy Hall blocked the punt for the Buckeyes, giving OSU a 17-3 lead midway through the third period. Hall came clean up the middle and blocked the ball at the goal line. Freshman Donte Whitner then fell on the loose ball in the end zone.

The Buckeyes picked up two more points on an errant shotgun snap that sailed through the end zone with 3:03 to play in the game.

Iowa got the ball back one more time, but Chris Gamble assured the Buckeyes of a win with an interception at the OSU 26-yard line.

In a game where offensive yards were hard to come by, senior receiver Drew Carter caught six passes for 95 yards to spark the Buckeyes’ aerial game. Carter led both teams in receptions.

The OSU defense was sparked by the play of end Will Smith and tackle Tim Anderson who combined for 4.5 tackles-for-loss and generally wreaked havoc all day long in the Iowa offensive backfield. Safety Will Allen and linebacker A.J. Hawk paced the Buckeyes with seven tackles each.

Punter B.J. Sander again turned in an exceptional performance, averaging 44.8 yards per kick and nailing a 62-yarder in the fourth quarter when the Buckeyes needed to pin the Hawkeyes deep in their own territory.

Nugent’s 53-yard field goal was the second longest in Ohio Stadium history by an OSU kicker and the fourth longest ever by a Buckeye.

The Buckeyes lit up the scoreboard in Memorial Stadium, amassing season highs in rushing yards (216), passing yards (387), total offense (603) and first downs (26). The OSU defense, meanwhile, allowed Indiana 131 total yards and completely shut down the Hoosiers’ running game, limiting them to a minus 12 yards. The result was a decisive 35-6 Ohio State victory in front of 51,240 fans, many of which were clad in scarlet and gray.

Ohio State took control early, marching 78-yards with the opening drive that was capped off by an 11-yard scoring jaunt by junior tailback Lydell Ross. It was the first of three touchdowns on the day for Ross, who rushed for a career-high 167 yards on 23 carries and was over the 100-yard mark in the first quarter.

Quarterback Craig Krenzel completed 19-of-26 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown and redshirt freshman Santonio Holmes had a breakout game with six receptions for 153 yards a pair of touchdowns. Holmes first TD came with eight seconds left in the first half and gave the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead at intermission. Nickel back Donte Whitner, a true frosh, set up the score with his first career interception.

Holmes closed out the scoring on a 47-yard strike from back-up quarterback Scott McMullen, who completed all five of his pass attempts for 111 yards. The OSU defense was again led by menacing end Will Smith who recorded two of the Buckeyes’ six sacks, resulting in a loss of 18 yards. Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk had a team-high five tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. Freshman cornerback Ashton Youboty had his best day as a Buckeye with four tackles.

The Buckeyes led 35-0 before the Hoosiers scored.

Junior defensive end Simon Fraser, who led the Buckeyes in solo tackles against Washington with six, including three tackles-for-loss and a sack, was named as the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week following OSU’s win over the Huskies. Senior strong safety Will Allen was accorded the same honor following the San Diego State game in which he scored the Buckeyes’ lone touchdown on a 100-yard interception return, forced a fumble and was credited with six tackles. Senior quarterback Craig Krenzel was the Big Ten’s pick as co-Offensive Player of the Week following the win over North Carolina State in which Krenzel threw for four touchdowns, including three in the overtime sessions, and rushed for yet another score. Sophomore linebacker A.J. Hawk was the Co-Defensive Player of the Week after a career-high 13 tackles in the 20-0 win over Northwestern in the Buckeyes’ conference opener. Junior tailback Lydell Ross was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a career-high 167 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Indiana. Ross, who carried the ball 23 times, also caught three passes for 33 yards. Punter B.J. Sander is the latest Buckeye to add his name to the list. Sander was named Special Teams Player of the Week after his six punts averaged more than 46 yards against the Nittany Lions.

Ohio State closes out its home season next week by hosting the Purdue Boilermakers. The game will be televised by either ABC or ESPN, but the starting time (either noon or 3:30 p.m. EST) will not be announced until this weekend, or possibly as late as Monday. Ohio State’s senior football players will be introduced prior to the Purdue game.

Michigan State dropped a 27-20 home game to Michigan last Saturday in East Lansing to fall to 7-2 on the year and 4-1 in the Big Ten. The Spartans opened the season with a pair of victories over Western Michigan and Rutgers before getting stunned at home by Louisiana Tech. Michigan State the rallied off five straight triumphs before losing its first conference game this season to Michigan. The wins included games against Notre Dame, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota.

The Spartans are averaging 382.0 yards and 30.6 points per game on offense, highlighted by 267.7 yards through the air. That leaves 114.3 yards on the ground. Jeff Smoker has completed 201-of-313 passes (64.2 percent) for 2,324 yards and 13 touchdowns with six interceptions. Averaging 258.2 passing yards per game, his favorite target is Agim Shabaj, who has 43 catches for 574 yards and four touchdowns. Averaging 63.8 yards per game, he is one of 12 receivers with at least one catch. On the ground, Jaren Hayes leads the Spartans with 129 carries for 586 yards (65.1 yards per game) and five touchdowns.

The defense is holding opponents to 365.2 yards and 19.7 points per game. Michigan State surrenders 264.0 yards through the air and 101.2 yards on the ground. Ronald Stanley is the leading tackler for the Spartans with 73, which includes 39 solo tackles. He has six tackles for loss, including one sack, has broken up two passes and has forced three fumbles and recovered another. Jason Harmon has 71 total tackles for the season, including two for loss. He has two interceptions and has recovered three fumbles. The defense has 13 interceptions and has forced 21 fumbles, 12 of which it has recovered.

Chris Perry ran for 219 yards on a school record 51 carries and John Navarre threw three touchdown passes to lead Michigan to a 27-20 victory over Michigan State last Saturday. The Spartans, which were off to their best start since 1966, lost for the first time after rattling off five straight victories. Nearly one and a half minutes into the fourth quarter, Navarre hit Braylon Edwards for a score to put the Wolverines up by 17, but about three minutes later, Spartan kicker Dave Rayner connected on a 31-yard field goal to pull within two touchdowns. Michigan appeared it would add to the lead and put the game away but Robert Flagg sacked Navarre and forced a fumble that was recovered by Clifford Dukes and returned 65 yards for a touchdown with 6:03 to play in the game. The Spartans got the ball back with just more than one minute to play, but Smoker’s desperation toss was intercepted in the end zone with no time remaining. Michigan out-gained its in-state rival 439-290 in yards of total offense.

John L. Smith (Weber State, 1971) is in his first season with the Spartans after moving to East Lansing from Louisville, where he spent five seasons as coach of the Cardinals. At Louisville his teams were 41-20, highlighted by an 11-2 finish in 2001 and a Conference USA championship. That was the second straight regular season championship for the Cardinals. Smith’s 2000 team also won the C-USA championship. He guided Louisville to a bowl in each of his five seasons, playing in the Motor City Bowl, the Humanitarian Bowl, two Liberty bowls and last year in the GMAC Bowl after a third-place C-USA finish. Smith owns a 117-62 overall record in a career that includes stops at Idaho (1989-94; 53-21) and Utah State (1995-97; 16-18). In the 1993 Division I-AA playoffs, Smith’s Idaho team lost at Youngstown State (35-16), who was then coached by current Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel. Tressel’s team went on to win the national championship that season.