3:30 PM ET, September 2, 2006
Ohio Stadium, COLUMBUS, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Top-ranked Ohio State showed off its speed against overmatched Northern Illinois on Saturday. It's not likely the Buckeyes will have such an easy time outrunning their next opponent.
Troy Smith tossed touchdown passes of 5 and 58 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. on the first two possessions as the Buckeyes geared up for next week's showdown at Texas with a 35-12 victory.
"I'd like to think we can be explosive," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We took a step -- now, the next step is higher, we understand that -- but we took a step."
How high is the next step? Well, the No. 3 Longhorns started their season Saturday with a 56-7 win over North Texas.
Former Cleveland high school teammates Smith and Ginn appeared to be in tune for the rematch of last year's dramatic game at Ohio Stadium in which Vince Young led Texas to a 25-22 victory. The Longhorns went on to win their first outright national championship since 1969.
"It's kind of a relief to get this game done," linebacker James Laurinaitis said of waiting for the return engagement with Texas.
The feelings of last year's defeat are still fresh in the Buckeyes' minds.
"It's something we've waited for for a year," Pittman said. "We need to go to their house and take one back."
Smith completed 18-of-25 passes for 297 yards and three scores for the Buckeyes, also tossing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez on Ohio State's third possession.
"We try to get all our playmakers the ball," Smith said. "At any given time, a guy can be the go-to guy."
Ginn had four catches for 123 yards and returned two punts for 44 yards and two kickoffs for 25 more yards.
"I'm just trying to be a guy who makes things happen," Ginn said.
Pittman totaled 111 yards on 19 carries and scored on a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter, with Wells chipping in with 50 on 10 attempts and an 8-yard touchdown run as Ohio State rocketed to a 21-0 lead after a quarter and a 28-0 lead after the first play of the second.
"It was a tidal wave in the first quarter," NIU coach Joe Novak said.
Smith was never sacked and never threatened in the pocket.
"We're very aware that the guys rushing the passer next week are maybe going to be a little bit more skillful than the ones who were this week," Tressel said of the Longhorns.
The Buckeyes offense rang up 488 yards but also lost fumbles twice inside the Northern Illinois 10 and missed two field goals.
On the second play after the opening kickoff, Northern Illinois got Ohio State's attention when Phil Horvath hit Garrett Wolfe for a 31-yard gain. But that drive died when Horvath was sacked by Vernon Gholston.
Wolfe had a huge day, rushing for 171 yards on 26 carries and catching five passes for 114 yards and a score. The nation's leading returning rusher dragged cornerback Malcolm Jenkins over the goal line on his 4-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter.
Asked if Ohio State's defense was as good as advertised, Wolfe said, "Yes. Very much so."
Smith hit Brian Hartline for a 32-yard gain on the first offensive play of the season before the Buckeyes marched to a first-and-goal at the 7. On third down, Smith found Ginn on a hook pattern in the right corner of the end zone for a 5-yard score.
On Ohio State's next possession, Ginn, flanked left, was held up at the line by cornerback Adriel Hansbro but broke free and Smith lofted a perfect spiral down the sideline that Ginn caught in stride for a long TD.
"On the long touchdown, right at the snap their guy tried to move up and play press-man with no help behind him," Tressel said. "That's tough duty. And Teddy ran right by him."
Andy Dittbenner's 11-yard punt gave Ohio State the ball at the Huskies' 20 and it only took three plays for Smith to turn that into a touchdown pass over the middle to Gonzalez.
The Buckeyes left a lot of room for improvement after going up 28-0 on Wells' TD.
Wells lost a fumble at the NIU 4 and Justin Zwick -- the starting quarterback last year against Texas -- slipped on a handoff and lost another fumble at the Huskie 5. Ohio State also missed both field-goal attempts.
Still, a win was all the Buckeyes needed to finally turn their thoughts to Texas.
"Hey, they're the national champs," Gholston said. "They're sitting on top of the world. This will be a great opportunity to play a great opponent."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Anthony Gonzalez scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Troy Smith to give the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
Gameball goes to... Troy Smith. The senior QB went 18-for-25 for 298 yards and 3 TDs. He connected with Ted Ginn Jr. for Ohio State's first two scores.
Stat of the game... 6: Ohio State gave up just six points in the first three quarters; its opponent next week, Texas, gave up 7 to North Texas.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||1-13||6-10|
|4th Down Conversions||3-3||1-1|
|TD||08:24||Ted Ginn Jr. 5 Yd Pass From Troy Smith (Aaron Pettrey Kick)||0||7|
|TD||06:38||Ted Ginn Jr. 58 Yd Pass From Troy Smith (Aaron Pettrey Kick)||0||14|
|TD||03:15||Anthony Gonzalez 15 Yd Pass From Troy Smith (Aaron Pettrey Kick)||0||21|
|TD||14:55||Chris Wells 8 Yd Run (Aaron Pettrey Kick)||0||28|
|FG||06:16||Chris Nedick 35 Yd||3||28|
|FG||08:39||Chris Nedick 37 Yd||6||28|
|TD||14:58||Antonio Pittman 1 Yd Run (Aaron Pettrey Kick)||6||35|
|TD||10:27||Garrett Wolfe 5 Yd Pass From Phil Horvath (Two-Point Conversion Failed)||12||35|