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Ohio State Shows Its Grit With Big Plays

September 24, 2006|From the Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — In about the time it took 79-year-old Joe Paterno to jog to the locker room, Troy Smith and No. 1 Ohio State's defense turned a close game into a rout.

Smith threw an acrobatic 37-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, then Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith returned interceptions for touchdowns as the Buckeyes beat No. 24 Penn State, 28-6.

"In the Big Ten, it's always a four-quarter game," Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said. "We won a four-quarter game."

Paterno, the Nittany Lions' coach for the last 41 seasons, trotted to the locker room midway through the second quarter and didn't return until the start of the fourth because he was suffering from flu.

He got back just in time to see Smith turn a possible sack into a crucial score as the Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0) expanded a 7-3 lead on Brian Robiskie's 37-yard touchdown catch.

"That play that Smith made when we almost had him, he threw that ball on the button in end zone," Paterno said. "That was a super play."

On a day when Penn State's defense put the clamps on Smith and his favorite target, Ted Ginn Jr., the Buckeyes persevered.

"The mark of a championship-caliber team is to keep plugging along -- to keep going, keep going, keep going," said Smith, who said he went against a Tressel rule by reversing field on the pass to Robiskie. "I tried to improvise and keep things going."

With the Nittany Lions (2-2, 0-1) seeking a touchdown and two-point conversion that would tie it, Jenkins intercepted an Anthony Morelli pass and raced 61 yards for a score to make it 21-6 with 2:31 left.

Moments later, Antonio Smith stepped in front of a pass by Morelli meant for Deon Butler and sped along the same route as Jenkins for a 55-yard score.

The win extended Ohio State's winning streak to 11 in a row, dating to last year's 17-10 loss at Penn State.

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