TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Troy Smith outplayed Brady Quinn and Jim
Tressel outfoxed Charlie Weis.
Fourth-ranked Ohio State jumped on No. 5 Notre Dame with big
play after big play Monday night in a 34-20 Fiesta romp, sending
the Irish to their eighth consecutive bowl defeat.
"I been hearing a lot about how are you guys going to beat a
Notre Dame team when you give Charlie Weis four weeks to prepare
for it," Buckeyes senior linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "That kind of
upset me because I thought, 'What about giving coach Tressel four
weeks to prepare for you?''
So make it four straight bowl wins for the Buckeyes, three of
them at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
Suspended from last year's Alamo Bowl for taking $500 from a
booster, Smith earned a measure of redemption with an offensive MVP
performance, hooking up on a pair of long touchdown passes.
Santonio Holmes set a Fiesta Bowl record with an 85-yard TD
catch, then said he was forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL
draft. Ted Ginn scored on a 68-yard end around and caught a 56-yard
touchdown pass for the Buckeyes (10-2).
Darius Walker scored all three touchdowns for Notre Dame (9-3).
The Irish fell to 13-14 overall in bowls, a disappointing end for
Weis in his first year as their coach.
Smith also sat out this year's opener, but has improved steadily
since then. He completed 19 of 28 passes for a career-high 342
yards and ran for another 66 in 13 attempts.
"As you watched Troy throughout his career, every day in
practice, he learns a little something and gets better, and he
learns from every ball game," Tressel said. "He's very passionate
about being a great quarterback, and each day he's taking a step
closer to it."
The junior from Cleveland capped his performance with a pair of
third-and-long completions on the Buckeyes' final scoring drive.
Antonio Pittman, who rushed for 136 yards in 21 carries, broke free
on a 60-yard touchdown run to seal the victory with 1:46 to play.
"First of all, I want to let you know that sitting out of last
year's bowl, I didn't think about that as much as you probably
think I did," Smith said. "To me, this year"s seniors, this
group of guys on the field, that's what it was about. I don't like
taking a lot of credit for what goes on on the field because it
takes 11 guys."
Forget the stereotype of plodding, but powerful Ohio State; the
Buckeyes won with sheer speed.
Ginn caught eight passes for 167 yards. He zigzagged into the
end zone on his long run to help the Buckeyes take to a 21-7
halftime en route to their third Fiesta Bowl victory in four years.
Holmes caught five passes for 124 yards.
Ohio State had a Fiesta Bowl-record 27 first downs. The
Buckeyes' 617 yards were third-most in the bowl's 35-year history.
The intricate, efficient offense that Weis brought with him from
the New England Patriots sputtered early before the Irish mounted a
comeback that cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter.
Hawk, Ohio State's Lombardi Award-winning linebacker and the
game's defensive MVP, sacked his girlfriend's brother, Quinn,
twice. Hawk also ran down Quinn to stop a third-down play early in
the fourth quarter.
Quinn, a third-team all-American behind Matt Leinart and Vince
Young of Texas, completed 29-of-45 for 286 yards but no touchdowns.
He was sacked Walker gained 90 yards in 16 attempts.
The teams met for only the fifth time in their storied
histories, and for the first in a bowl game.
The Irish gave up a 617 yards, third-most in Fiesta Bowl history
275 on the ground.
A crucial play came when a video replay nullified what would
have been an Ohio State turnover in the third quarter.
With Notre Dame trailing 21-13 and the Buckeyes driving, Smith
threw over the middle to Anthony Gonzalez, who dropped the ball at
the Irish 12. Tom Zbikowski picked it up for Notre Dame and ran 88
yards to the end zone. An illegal block would have brought it back
to the Buckeyes' 21, but a video review of the play determined
Gonzalez juggled the ball and it was ruled an incompletion.
"That was THE play," Weis said. "What I said to the official
on the field is I hope your guy upstairs was right because that
changed the whole complexion of the game."
Josh Huston kicked a 40-yard field goal and Ohio State led 24-13
with 2:20 to go in the third quarter.
Huston's 26-yard field goal with 10:12 to play made it 27-13.
Notre Dame mounted its best drive, 80 yards in 13 plays, to cut
the lead to 27-20. Walker's 3-yard run was ruled a touchdown after
another video review with 5:27 left.
Soon, Ohio State's speed took over.
Ginn took Smith's pitch on an end around and raced for a
touchdown, leaving three Notre Dame defenders sprawled on the
ground with a cutback from the sidelines 10 yards from the end
zone. The Irish led 14-7 with 14:16 left in the first half.
Later in the quarter, Ohio State took over at its own 2. No
matter. Smith scrambled from the 6 to the 15, then connected with
Holmes for an 85-yard scoring play.
The previous record for longest pass in the Fiesta Bowl was 79
yards from Tennessee's Tee Martin to Peerless Price against Florida
State in 1999 and Oregon's Joey Harrington to Samie Parker against
Colorado in 2002.
It was the final Fiesta Bowl in Sun Devil Stadium. The game
moves to the Arizona Cardinals' new stadium in the west Phoenix
suburb of Glendale next year.
"There are two ways you can go after a loss," Weis said. "One
way is you sit there and feel sorry for yourselves. The other way
is to take that bitter taste in your mouth and say I don't want to
have that taste a year from now."