3:30 PM ET, September 17, 2005
Ohio Stadium, COLUMBUS, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- After one bad play, No. 9 Ohio State showed no sign of a Texas hangover.
With Santonio Holmes' punt returns setting up two touchdown runs by Troy Smith and the defense swarming from the second play on, the Buckeyes rolled over San Diego State 27-6 on Saturday.
"After the first play of the game, our defense dominated," said coach Jim Tressel, whose team was coming off a 25-22 loss to No. 2 Texas. "After we were startled a little bit ... our defense decided no more of that and shut them down."
San Diego State shocked the Buckeyes on the first play from scrimmage when Kevin O'Connell tossed a quick sideline pass to Brett Swain, who turned the corner at right end behind a block by Robert Ortiz and raced untouched for the 80-yard touchdown.
A crowd of 104,533 was silenced.
"It was an electrifying start but I didn't have any follow-up," San Diego State coach Tom Craft said.
The Aztecs' offense disappeared after that. They never advanced past the Ohio State 46 and finished with just three first downs -- the fewest in school history. After getting 80 yards on their first play, they mustered just 99 on their last 40.
"We came in after that first play and said, 'We know we're a better team than that,'" linebacker Bobby Carpenter said.
Fellow linebacker Anthony Schlegel said, "That first play was a shock but we just kind of said, 'OK, let's play.' It's that old saying that the next play is the most important one. We really took them out of their game plan."
The Buckeyes (2-1), who open Big Ten play against Iowa next week in their fourth consecutive home game, were never seriously threatened again by the Aztecs (0-3).
It was the defense that broke the game open. On the last play of the third quarter, the Aztecs muffed an option pitch on first down at their own 1. Schlegel's recovery set up Brandon Schnittker's TD dive on the next play for a 24-6 lead.
Ohio State's offense sputtered early but special teams picked up the slack.
Holmes returned a punt 35 yards and a late hit gave the Buckeyes a first down at the Aztecs' 20. Three plays later, Smith burst through a truck-sized hole at right tackle for a 14-yard TD. Josh Huston's kick gave the Buckeyes a 7-6 lead.
"Our punt return game, those guys have done a great job up front, plus Tone [Holmes] and Teddy [Ginn Jr.] back in the back," Tressel said. "Somebody told me [the Aztecs] had nine three-and-outs. When they're starting with the ball on their 11 and they're having a three-and-out, and our punt returners are catching the ball around midfield, that's huge for the offense."
The Aztecs, who had played close games with the Buckeyes twice in the last four years, failed to get a first down for the third possession in a row and punted to Holmes again, his 13-yard return putting Ohio State in business at the Aztecs' 32.
Smith carried on four of the seven plays leading to his 1-yard keeper for the score and a 14-6 lead at the half.
Ginn's 26-yard punt return helped the Buckeyes maintain field position late in the third quarter. That possession ended in a punt but a holding call on the return pinned the Aztecs on their own 1. On first down, O'Connell's option pitch to the right was behind Lynell Hamilton and Schlegel pounced on it to set up the easy touchdown by Schnittker.
"I took it down the line and wanted to pitch it but I didn't see Lynell at first," said O'Connell, who completed 12-of-17 passes for 159 yards but was sacked three times and harassed all afternoon. "I kind of double-clutched it."
San Diego State totaled over 400 yards in each of its first two games, but the Aztecs ran for just 13 yards on 19 carries against Ohio State.
"They've got some great individual players -- and not just one, two or three of them," Craft said of Ohio State's defenders. "They've got them along the line, they've got them at linebacker and they've got them in the secondary."
Smith, making his first start since running for 145 and passing for 241 yards to lead an upset of Michigan last year, completed 14-of-26 passes for 149 yards with one interception and also led the Buckeyes in rushing with 87 yards on 14 carries.
"I feel good we got the W, but I don't feel good offensively about my performance," he said. "I should've done better. We need to sharpen a lot of things."
He was suspended for taking $500 from a booster and missed the Buckeyes' bowl game and the opener against Miami (Ohio) before coming off the bench in the loss to Texas.
Justin Zwick, the starter against the Longhorns, played only the final series and hit on 9-of-10 passes for 47 yards.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... the Buckeyes shook off the shock of an early deficit and the lingering effects of the loss to Texas.
Gameball goes to... the Buckeyes' D. Ohio State limited the Aztecs to only three first downs and 179 total yards.
Stat of the game... 3. The Aztecs' total of three first downs were the fewest in one game in school history.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||1-12||10-19|
|4th Down Conversions||0-0||0-0|
|TD||14:49||BRETT SWAIN 80 YD PASS FROM KEVIN O'CONNELL (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yards.
|TD||0:26||TROY SMITH 14 YD RUN (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 20 yards.
|TD||5:15||TROY SMITH 1 YD RUN (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 32 yards.
|FG||9:33||JOSH HUSTON 25 YD FG|
Drive info: 13 plays, 62 yards.
|TD||14:58||BRANDON SCHNITTKER 1 YD RUN (JOSH HUSTON KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 1 yards.
|FG||5:55||JOSH HUSTON 39 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 21 yards.