SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Troy Smith helped Ohio State get into the
Alamo Bowl. Justin Zwick will have to help the Buckeyes win it.
No. 24 Ohio State (7-4) won four of its last five games after
Smith took over as quarterback. But he was suspended by the team
last week for a violation of team rules and will miss Wednesday's
game against Oklahoma State.
That puts the offense back into the hands of Zwick, who went 3-3
before hurting his shoulder and being replaced by Smith.
"It's pretty exciting to be back on the field competing," said
Zwick, who hasn't taken a snap in a game since mid-October. "I've
been preparing every week as if I would get this opportunity."
Athletic director Andy Geiger said Tuesday that Ohio State will
sanction a businessman accused of giving improper benefits to
Smith. Geiger said Robert Q. Baker, who used to work for a
health-care products company, gave Smith an unspecified benefit in
violation of NCAA rules. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday
at Baker's home.
Zwick doesn't have the game-breaking talent of Smith, who ran
for 145 yards and passed for another 241 in the Buckeyes'
season-ending upset of Big Ten rival Michigan. But Oklahoma State
(7-4) is still giving him respect.
"Zwick is definitely more efficient with the short passing
game," said safety Jamie Thompson, who leads the Cowboys in tackles
and forced fumbles. "Troy was always running around scrambling and
didn't throw the ball as much. I'm going to focus more on short
passes and trying to contain them as best I can."
Oklahoma State coach Les Miles said his team has tweaked its
defensive approach because Zwick is more of a pure pocket passer.
"We will blitz more to the inside instead of the outside," he
Containing the Ohio State receiver corps could present a key
challenge for Oklahoma State, which allowed an average of 263 yards
passing in its final four games, three of them losses.
Buckeyes receiver Santonio Holmes caught 50 passes for 722 yards
and seven touchdowns during the season, and was complemented as the
year went on by freshmen Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez emerged
In the final three games, Ginn, who also had an NCAA-leading
four touchdowns on punt returns in 2004, caught 12 passes for 171
yards, while Gonzalez had four catches averaging 31.5 yards.
"I'm sure (Ginn) is way far ahead of where he was when Justin
last played with him," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who
added of Gonzalez, "I'm not sure who's faster than him in the 40.
He can really put some pressure on a defense."
And in a tight game, the Buckeyes have the advantage in kicking
with Mike Nugent, a first-team All-American and winner of the Lou
Groza Award, given to college football's top kicker. He went
20-for-23 on field goals, including five from 50 yards or more.
Oklahoma State was ranked as high as 16th after winning their
first five games, but the Cowboys finished 2-4 in the Big 12,
capped by a 31-15 loss to Texas Tech that knocked them out of the
Their offense relies on tailback Vernand Morency, one of the
nation's leading rushers with 145 yards a game and 13 touchdowns.
Linebacker A.J. Hawk, Ohio State's leading tackler, compared
Oklahoma State's offense to that of Michigan.
"What is impressive is that they have been able to run on
whoever they played this year," said Hawk, who averaged 12.4
tackles per game. "And whenever you play a running offense, it's
always fun to play defense."
Donovan Woods completed 82 of 153 passes for nearly 1,500 yards
and 13 touchdowns, and he rushed for another 364 yards. His brother
D'Juan led the Cowboys with 29 receptions for 650 yards and six
Donovan Woods said watching film has given him a good idea of
what to expect from Ohio State's defenders.
"Their front seven is very strong," he said. "They rank right
up there with Oklahoma and Texas and some of the best defense we