12:00 PM ET, September 4, 2004
Ohio Stadium, COLUMBUS, OH
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Jim Tressel got little joy out of beating a good friend.
"What I'm excited about is that the game's over," the Ohio State coach said after the ninth-ranked Buckeyes dismantled Cincinnati 27-6 Saturday in the debut of Bearcats coach Mike Dantonio, Tressel's former defensive coordinator.
"It's like playing against family, you know."
Dantonio, who worked for Tressel the last three years, got to see many of his former players at their best.
"Their defense played very well," Dantonio said. "I respect Ohio State. They have great players. They play football the way its supposed to be played.
The Bearcats managed just 238 total yards, converted only five of 18 chances on third down and never put together an extended drive.
Ohio State's offense wasn't hitting on all cylinders but still had more than enough firepower to remain unbeaten against in-state opponents since 1921.
Lydell Ross rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown as the Buckeyes used numerous combinations while trying to replace 13 starters from last year's team that finished 11-2. The inexperience showed at times.
Justin Zwick, seeing his first substantial playing time at quarterback, threw two interceptions and had four fumbles in a rough outing. He completed 14 of 26 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. Backup Troy Smith played far less but produced as much, leading the Buckeyes to scores in two of his three drives while throwing a touchdown pass.
"The quarterbacks made some good plays," Tressel said, trying to be optimistic. "They also made some bad errors, especially from a turnover standpoint, which we won't be able to survive in the future."
Gino Guidugli -- who almost engineered an upset of Ohio State during its national championship run two years ago -- was harassed all day by the Buckeyes' revamped defense. Ohio State played as if it barely missed three starting linemen, two linebackers and two defensive backs.
Guidugli completed 17 of 36 passes for 162 yards. He wasn't sacked but was fed a steady diet of blitzes that resulted in hurried throws. Cincinnati's running game mustered just 76 yards.
"We definitely needed to convert off those (Ohio State) turnovers," Guidugli said. "At the same time, we had opportunities to make a play for a first down or make a play and score a touchdown. But Ohio State always rose to the occasion."
Ross carried 17 times and scored on a 1-yard run. He gained just 14 yards on his first eight carries before a 68-yard sprint that set up one of Mike Nugent's two field goals.
After a scoreless first quarter in which Ohio State rushed for minus-1 yard, the Bearcats took a 3-0 lead after Zwick was stripped of the ball by Jamar Enzor, who also fell on it at the Buckeyes' 32. Kevin Lovell eventually connected on a 27-yard field goal on the second play of the second quarter.
Moments later, Ross burst through a hole at his own 20 and found no one near him, bolting 68 yards.
"We started slower than we wanted -- and I started just as slow," Ross said. "But in the second half we got into a niche and started doing what we wanted to do."
Zwick completed passes for 14, 28 and 15 yards before finding a wide-open Ryan Hamby for a 17-yard score late in the second quarter to put the Buckeyes ahead 10-3.
Things could have been even worse for Zwick, one of Ohio State's most highly touted quarterback recruits ever. He fumbled the ball another time and it bounced directly to teammate Bam Childress. On the touchdown drive, he threw a pass over the middle that went through the hands of two Cincinnati defenders before Childress grabbed it for 28 yards.
"You can't dwell on mistakes," Zwick said. "The two interceptions weren't bad reads. They were just bad balls. You can't worry about that and let them get into your head."
Zwick threw interceptions on Ohio State's first two possessions of the second half.
After Lovell's second field goal for the Bearcats, the Buckeyes marched 57 yards capped by Ross' 1-yard run for a 17-6 lead. Zwick hit Childress on an 18-yard pass play that again went between two waiting defenders, then Ross rambled for 18 more yards to set up the score.
Smith led the Buckeyes to all their scoring in the fourth quarter, including a 23-yard fade pass to Santonio Holmes.
"Comfort is a big thing, but being a clear-cut starter is what we both want," Smith said of the quarterback battle.
Big Ten officials used video replay at the game to review possession plays, ball position and ball placement, but the new system wasn't needed to correct any calls nor did it cause any noticeable delays.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-18||6-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-3||0-1|
|FG||14:54||KEVIN LOVELL 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 22 yards.
|FG||10:15||MIKE NUGENT 27 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 70 yards.
|TD||1:11||RYAN HAMBY 17 YD PASS FROM JUSTIN ZWICK (MIKE NUGENT KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||6:16||KEVIN LOVELL 25 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 27 yards.
|TD||2:27||LYDELL ROSS 1 YD RUN (MIKE NUGENT KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 57 yards.
|TD||5:54||SANTONIO HOLMES 23 YD PASS FROM TROY SMITH (MIKE NUGENT KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 84 yards.
|FG||1:51||MIKE NUGENT 23 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 43 yards.