Ohio State touched off an unprecedented fireworks display Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium, exploding for its highest point total in 60 years with a 73-20 victory over nonconference foe Eastern Michigan.
The outburst was the most points scored by the Buckeyes since an 83-20 win over Iowa in 1950 and eclipsed the highest total for any Jim Tressel-coached team. The previous high was a 63-20 win over Alcorn State during Youngstown State’s march to the 1994 Division I-AA national championship.
Tressel seemed a little sheepish when asked about the bloated point total.
“Well, we got a fast start and we got a lot of opportunities,” he said. “We didn’t come in saying we were going for X amount of points (but) our backup guys work as hard as the guys who score most of the touchdowns, so that was a good thing.”
The quick-tempo Ohio State piled up 645 yards of total offense in the game led by junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who was directly responsible for 348 of those yards. He completed 20 of 26 passes for 224 yards and four touchdowns, ran seven times for 104 yards and another score and even caught a 20-yard touchdown pass.
Senior co-captain Dane Sanzenbacher also turned in a superlative performance. He matched a career-high with nine receptions, turning them into 108 yards and four touchdowns. That equaled the school’s single-game record for TD catches, a mark established in 1952 by Bob Grimes during a 35-7 win over Washington State. It was equaled in 1995 by Terry Glenn as the Buckeyes took a 54-14 win at Pittsburgh.
Stars on the offensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes were plentiful and included tailbacks Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry and Dan “Boom” Herron, who turned in outstanding performances.
Hall rushed four times for 26 yards, caught a 17-yard touchdown pass and threw the scoring pass to Pryor. Meanwhile, Berry made the most of his four carries, totaling 74 yards that included a 67-yard breakaway touchdown run. And Herron carried 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown while adding three receptions for another 30 yards.
As well as Pryor played, there was still plenty of production from his backups. Senior Joe Bauserman completed 5 of 6 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown while redshirt freshman Kenny Guiton scored the first touchdown of his career on a 15-yard fourth-quarter run.
The offensive fireworks weren’t reserved exclusively for Ohio State. Eastern Michigan wasn’t expected to do much against the stout Buckeyes defense but managed to wind up with 248 yards and three touchdowns. Most of that was due to quarterback Alex Gillett, who completed 13 of 22 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought Eastern Michigan did a good job,” Tressel said. “They hit a couple of pop passes against us that were well-designed and hit a couple of long passes that we’re not used to. I thought they played hard.”
Pryor got the Buckeyes on the scoreboard early on a nice piece of broken-field running. On the third play of his team’s first possession, the junior QB faded to pass before taking off to his left and eluding a pair of would-be tacklers. Pryor picked up a couple of downfield blocks as he cut back toward the middle of the field and sprinted into the end zone with a 53-yard touchdown scramble.
The drive covered 56 yards in only a minute and 10 seconds.
Senior kicker Devin Barclay tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead at the 13:04 mark of the first quarter.
Ohio State’s second touchdown was nearly as easy. After the defense forced a second straight three-and-out series, Pryor took over and drove the team 65 yards in only three plays. He completed a sideline pass to senior tailback Brandon Saine for 9 yards, threw one to wideout DeVier Posey that the receiver speared out of the air and converted into a 25-yard gain and then found Sanzenbacher breaking between two defenders for a 31-yard touchdown.
Barclay topped off the 65-yard, 65-second drive with another PAT to give the Buckeyes a 14-0 cushion with 10:55 left in the opening period.
Eastern Michigan switched quarterbacks for its next drive, but that turned disastrous when backup Devontae Payne and running back Javonti Green got crossed up on a handoff that led to a fumble. OSU defensive tackle John Simon recovered at the EMU 32.
Four plays later, Barclay booted a career-long 42-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead at the 6:41 mark of the first quarter.
At that point, Ohio State had turned its three offensive possessions into 17 points and 128 total yards while Eastern Michigan had 11 yards to show for its three possessions.
The Buckeyes added another touchdown late in the opening period. It came on the most sustained drive of the afternoon, a 10-play, 65-yard march that included a 2-yard burst from Herron on fourth-and-1 at the EMU 9. On the next play, Herron came around left end and raced into the end zone from 7 yards out.
Barclay added the extra point to make it 24-0 with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
After the first 15 minutes of play, the Buckeyes not only help a lopsided lead on the scoreboard but also enjoyed big advantages in first downs (7-1) and total yards (178-14).
But just as the Ohio Stadium crowd settled in for a runaway rout, the Eagles bucked up and mounted a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated in a 2-yard run by Dwayne Priest, who was his team’s leading rusher with 24 yards on eight carries.
Kicker Sean Graham added the extra point to make the score a more respectable 24-7 with 10:47 left until halftime.
The Buckeyes responded with touchdowns on each of their next two possessions, both ending with scoring passes from Pryor to Sanzenbacher. The first was a 9-yard flip on what appeared to be an aborted quarterback roll-out while the second was a 7-yarder that Pryor threaded to his receiver despite good coverage from Eastern free safety Brandon Pratt.
Barclay added PATs on both scores, making it 38-7 in favor of the Buckeyes with 4:18 remaining in the second quarter.
But the Eagles did not quit. They strung together another nice drive, aided by a 41-yard pass play from Gillett to receiver Kinsman Thomas. That duo hooked up again for a 13-yard touchdown, finishing the seven-play, 73-yard drive. Graham added the extra point to make it 38-14 with 59 seconds to go before intermission.
Sanzenbacher reeled in his fourth TD catch of the day at the 12:34 mark of the third period, diving into the end zone to complete an 8-yard pass play from Pryor. Barclay was good with the point-after try again, pushing OSU’s lead to 45-14.
But Eastern answered again with another long drive against the Ohio State defense. This was covered 80 yards in six plays and culminated in a 32-yard pass from Gillett to Scott. Graham’s PAT was blocked to leave the score at 45-20 with 9:11 left in the third period.
Then the Buckeyes resorted to some trickery. With 2:57 remaining in the third period, Hall took a handoff from Pryor and moved to his right. The sophomore tailback suddenly stopped and looked back to his left to find Pryor running free with EMU defensive tackle Brad Ohrman far behind. Hall lofted a pass to Pryor who gathered it in for a 20-yard touchdown reception.
Barclay added the PAT and the Buckeyes had pushed their lead to 52-20.
Ohio State kept up the scoring onslaught when Hall was on the receiving end of an 18-yard pass from Bauserman at the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter. Barclay came on to make it 59-20.
Berry broke loose for a 67-yard touchdown bolt down the west sideline with 8:39 remaining and Guiton ran for a 15-yard touchdown with 3:26 left. Barclay tacked on both extra points to set the final score.
Ohio State (4-0) enters Big Ten play next week with its first road contest of the season. The Buckeyes will travel to Illinois (2-1), which was idle this week. Kickoff in Memorial Stadium is set for noon Eastern.