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Ohio State Takes This Rematch by the Horns

Buckeyes, Smith assume control early and live up to No. 1 ranking in 24-7 victory over No. 2 Texas.

September 10, 2006|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

AUSTIN, Texas — One school looked like the top team in the country and the other one looked like Texas.

Ohio State proved deserving of its No. 1 ranking Saturday night -- no matter how its head coach voted -- with a convincing 24-7 win over No. 2 Texas before a crowd of 89,442 at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

What throws around comes around, right?

Last year, Texas used a September win over Ohio State to launch a national-championship drive, and it looks as if Ohio State might do the same.

There is a risk-reward factor in two top programs exchanging nonconference visits in consecutive seasons.

"I thought it was really smart to play it last year and this year it was really stupid," Texas Coach Mack Brown quipped.

Texas needed a late touchdown last season to pull out a three-point road win; the rematch was not nearly as dramatic.

"This is a great game to play in," Ohio State defensive tackle David Patterson said.

Especially when you win.

Ohio State scored first, last and a couple times in between in route to making an emphatic statement.

The difference between the games was that Ohio State this year had a knockoff of Vince Young playing quarterback, Troy Smith, while Texas no longer has Young to lean on.

"He's improved methodically and incrementally throughout his career," Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said of his senior quarterback.

Smith has the look of a player who can do what Young did last year -- herd a group of talented offensive players toward a common goal, the Bowl Championship Series trophy.

Smith, like Young, is a talented runner, but he beat Texas with his arm, completing 17 of 26 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns.

"We didn't think Troy would pass this much," Brown said.

Smith's rushing totals -- seven carries for minus-13 yards -- were inconsequential.

"I don't know that he could have had a better game," Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said afterward. "He is a legit quarterback. What I mean by that is that he's not just a runner, he's a great passer."

Ohio State set the tone on the game's second play, when Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. hooked up on a 42-yard pass.

When it wasn't Smith to Ginn, it was Smith to Anthony Gonzalez, who had seven catches for 122 yards ... in the first half.

Smith and Gonzalez connected on a 14-yard scoring pass in the first quarter and then Smith, late in the half, threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Ginn to break a 7-7 tie.

Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis' interception of a Colt McCoy pass on the first drive of the second half set up a 31-yard field goal by Aaron Pettrey to put Ohio State ahead, 17-7.

Texas had a chance to cut its deficit to a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but Greg Johnson hooked a 45-yard field-goal attempt to the right and Ohio State answered with a 72-yard, 10-play touchdown drive that ended with Antonio Pittman's two-yard scoring run with 6:31 left.

This rude intrusion on Texas soil snapped the Longhorns' 21-game winning streak and penetrated an air of invincibility.

It was a night preceded by days of anticipation and frenzy as two college football titans met for only the second time. Thousands of Ohio State fans descended on Austin just to be part of an atmosphere of cannon fire, fight songs and the prerequisite pregame aerial flyover.

In the end, for Texas, it ended in a thud.

The Longhorns had not lost since Oklahoma beat them, 12-0, in October 2004.

It was a night when Texas could have used its top cover cornerback, Tarell Brown, who was suspended in the wake of Monday's arrest on gun and drug charges (the latter of which were dropped).

"We could have lost Tarell Brown to an injury, we could have lost him to anything so you can't look at it like a distraction," Texas safety Michael Griffin said. "You can't say that's the reason why we lost."

Texas' concern for Ginn's speed left Gonzalez free to work his way open, though, and he took full advantage. Gonzalez has unusual training habits, spending 10 to 12 hours a day for the last year in a high-altitude simulator tent that creates the effect of being at 8,000 feet elevation.

He needed every last breath against Texas.

Momentum in a game this big can swing in a hurry. Texas appeared ready to take a 7-0 lead as it stood first-and-goal at the Ohio State seven in the first quarter, but Donald Washington scooped up a Billy Pittman fumble at the two and raced 49 yards to midfield.

Mack Brown used his one replay challenge for the game, claiming Pittman's knee was down. The play was upheld, though, and Ohio State went 50 yards in five plays to take the lead on Smith's pass to Gonzalez.

Ohio State's defense, which lost nine starters, was supposed to be its weakness, but it pitched a shutout until late in the half, when Texas tied the score on a two-yard pass from McCoy to Billy Pittman with 1:55 left in the half.

"Anytime you hold a team to seven points in their stadium it's incredible," Tressel said.

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