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Smith-to-Ginn hookup lifts top-ranked Ohio State in blowout

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.

Tailbacks Antonio Pittman and acclaimed freshman Chris Wells
also ran for scores as Ohio State started the season ranked No. 1
for the first time since 1998.

"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."