COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio State's defense is proving that
experience is overrated.
The names you know are on offense. Troy Smith. Antonio Pittman. Ted Ginn, Jr. But the real reason that Ohio State is 9-0 and has been the consensus No. 1 team in the country for all of the '06 season? Defense. Jim Tressel's D is allowing less than 10 points per game, less than 300 yards of total offense, and snatching up interceptions like they're on the sale rack at Macy's. Here's a look at the Buckeyes' defensive stats from the past two years. Anyone else getting excited for Nov. 18?
* -- Does not include Saturday's stats
While quarterback Troy Smith buffed up his Heisman Trophy
numbers by running for one touchdown and throwing for another,
top-ranked Ohio State's defense dominated in a 44-0 victory over
Minnesota on Saturday.
"Everybody anticipated a drop-off with the caliber of players
they lost last year," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said of the
Buckeyes, who had to replace nine starters. "I don't see any
drop-off, nor have the other people who have played them. They're a
fine defensive team."
Antonio Pittman rushed for two scores for the Buckeyes (9-0, 5-0
Big Ten), who have won every game this season by at least 17
points. They play lowly Illinois and Northwestern, both 2-7, the
next two weeks while tuning up for the regular-season finale
against No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 18 at Ohio Stadium.
"Putting points on the board is cool but I guess the way you do
it, how you do it, is the most important thing," Smith said.
"We've just got to keep rolling."
Jack Nicklaus, a former Ohio State golfer who grew up in the
Columbus area, received a thunderous standing ovation at halftime
when he "dotted the "i" in the band's signature maneuver, Script
The Buckeyes, for the most part, were substantially under par on
this day. It was another impressive performance by a defense that
came in tied for the national lead in fewest points allowed (8.2
per game). Only two teams have scored more than seven against Ohio
State this season.
Ohio State intercepted Minnesota's Bryan Cupito three times --
Malcolm Jenkins, Antonio Smith and Jamario O'Neal each had one --
and never faced a serious threat from the Golden Gophers (3-6,
0-5), despite playing without stellar defensive tackle Quinn
Pitcock, who was out with a concussion.
The offense piled up 484 yards, though three lost fumbles kept
the score from being more one-sided before a homecoming crowd of
Smith's Heisman moment came with Ohio State in command early in
the third quarter.
He kept the ball on a run off left tackle and then cut back
against the grain and outran the defense to score on a 21-yard
touchdown run to make it 24-0.
"He's gone next year, right?" Minnesota cornerback Dominic
Jones said hopefully. "You get good coverage -- and then there he
goes. That's what a running quarterback can do for you and a
Heisman candidate can do."
Smith also tossed an 18-yard scoring pass to Brian Robiskie,
completing 14-of-21 passes for 183 yards with no interceptions
while rushing for 43 yards on six attempts. Smith has 22 TD pass
and only two interceptions this season.
It was a stunning turnaround for Ohio State's defense. A year
ago, Cupito passed for 396 yards and helped the Golden Gophers
(3-6, 0-5) pile up 578 yards -- the second-most against Ohio State
in 117 years of football. The Buckeyes still won, 45-31.
This time the Gophers never got going and finished with 182
yards -- they had four more yards in punting than in offense.
"Our defense did a great job of handling the tempo of the
game," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said.
The Buckeyes' defense lost three first-round NFL picks and three
others who went in the top four rounds of last year's draft. The
fill-ins and unknowns have been terrific.
"Even though we won last year it was like a loss because they
ran and threw so well on us," lineman Jay Richardson said. "We
took it as a challenge."
The Gophers punted the ball away the first three times they had
it before getting stopped on a fourth-and-1 run at the Ohio State
29 and then turned the ball over on an interception.
The Buckeyes scored on their first two possessions and then
toyed with the Golden Gophers the rest of the day.
"We started the second half with a turnover and a lack of field
position," Mason said. "And then the bottom fell out."