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Buckeye offense shows some spark

9/28/2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- No offense, but Ohio State's defense did
it again.

With linebacker A.J. Hawk leading the charge, the fourth-ranked
Buckeyes limited Northwestern to 185 yards to win their 19th
straight game, 20-0 Saturday.

The Buckeyes clearly miss star running back Maurice Clarett,
suspended for at least a year for violating NCAA rules, but it
hasn't been enough to stop them yet.

"Maurice Clarett was a dynamic back, there's no denying that,"
tight end Ben Hartsock said. "He could break tackles and he was a
spark. He'd make a play that wasn't blocked perfectly and maybe
take it 6 or 7 yards or maybe break it all the way. We can't allow
ourselves to dwell on that too much."

Neither offense mustered much as Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
posted its first shutout in 62 games, dating to a 41-0 victory at
Illinois in 1998.

Lydell Ross had a 12-yard touchdown run, Scott McMullen hit Ryan
Hamby for a 1-yard score and Mike Nugent kicked a pair of field
goals.

That was it for the offenses as Northwestern (2-3, 0-1) missed
two field goals and had a touchdown called back by a penalty.

"We had opportunities to seize the momentum and get a little
something going and those opportunities did not come through for
us," Northwestern coach Randy Walker said. "We came close. That's
the most frustrating thing about today. You total everything up and
there's probably 15 reasons why we didn't score or make more plays.
If it was one thing, it would be easy."

The Buckeyes hurt themselves with dropped passes and struggled
to run the ball.

Hawk had 13 tackles, including two for losses, before taking
most of the second half off. Nate Salley added nine tackles and
Chris Gamble broke up two passes.

"You can't say enough about that defense," Buckeyes coach Jim
Tressel said.

Ohio State limited the Wildcats to 121 yards rushing on 40
attempts. The rushing total was more than the Buckeyes have given
up in their first four games combined (96 yards).

Northwestern's Brett Basanez hit just 10 of 24 passes for 64
yards -- none longer than 12 yards -- and was sacked twice.

"Their front four is the core of the team," Basanez said.
"They've got a couple of first-rounders there."

Ross bounced out of a traffic jam in the middle and coasted
around left end on a 12-yard score on Ohio State's first
possession, capping a 59-yard march that took 10 plays.

"It was congested up the middle and I glanced to the left and
saw it was open," Ross said.

Nugent's 32-yard field goal made it 10-0 midway through the
second quarter. The Buckeyes took over at the Northwestern 46 after
Robert Reynolds recovered Ashton Aikers' fumble.

But Ohio State couldn't move the ball on its next three
possessions, punting twice and turning it over on McMullen's high
pass that was tipped by tight end Ben Hartsock to safety Bryan
Heinz.

The Wildcats drove into Ohio State territory three times in the
game but made pivotal mistakes each time.

Basanez avoided a tackle in the backfield and sprinted for an
8-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Zach Strief was
called for holding on the block that sprung Basanez, although
subsequent replays appeared to show him pushing Hawk to the ground
and away from Basanez.

Three plays later, Slade Larscheid shanked a 35-yard field-goal
attempt that was wide left. His 47-yard attempt in the third
quarter fell 20 yards short. The snaps bounced to the holder on
both kicks.

"I don't feel that they adjusted to anything we were doing,"
Strief said. "We just killed ourselves over and over today."

Ohio State took the second-half kickoff and had to convert four
third-down plays to score, capped by McMullen's 1-yard pass to Ryan
Hamby.

The Buckeyes continued to have problems moving the ball on the
ground. Coming in averaging just 128 yards rushing per game, they
were limited to 125 yards on 35 attempts.

Ross led the Buckeyes with 43 yards on nine carries before
leaving with a sprained right knee. Freshman Ira Guilford added 29
yards on eight carries and McMullen helped the cause with 23 yards
on three attempts.

"We're a team right now," Hartsock said. "We're very tight
knit. Guys who are in the backfield ... we have all the confidence
in the world in. We'll do all we can for them to help them move the
ball ... but that doesn't put points on the board."

Ohio State's regular quarterback, Craig Krenzel, missed his
second game with a hyperextended right elbow. He threw some before
the game but never left the sideline.

McMullen completed 16 of 25 passes for 166 yards with the one
interception.

"We're still surviving and doing what we need to win football
games," Tressel said.

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