With all three quarterbacks seeing significant playing time, the end result was an overall 21 of 45 performance with one touchdown pass against three interceptions – all tossed by redshirt freshman Antonio Henton.
Now that spring practices are complete, head coach Jim Tressel said the pecking order will remain the same as it was when the spring began – that is, with junior Todd Boeckman as the starter, followed by sophomore Robby Schoenhoft and Henton.
That does not mean the players have not made progress in his eyes, however.
“I don’t know that anyone lost any ground,” Tressel said. “I don’t know that anyone took any steps backward. I think guys progressed.”
Each of the quarterbacks showed an inclination to run the ball during the spring game when faced with pressure. Some of that was the result of playing behind several patchwork offensive lines without the services of three players including senior Kirk Barton, while some of it was the result of the team’s defensive front applying pressure.
Some of it was the result of inexperience.
“The thing about playing the quarterback position is you have to slow the game down so that you can make good decisions, and good decisions are based upon seeing the defense,” Tressel said. “And it takes experience to slow the game down.”
None of the quarterbacks were made available to the media following the game.
When asked why the quarterbacks were so frequently on the go, Tressel said the reason was 75 percent “breakdowns from a protection standpoint or excellent rushing” and 25 percent the quarterbacks were getting “a little bit quick to get going.”
That certainly seemed to be the case for Henton, who played the first half as the lone quarterback for the Gray squad before switching to the Scarlet team at halftime. In the first half, the redshirt freshman rushed the ball eight times for a net of 11 yards. During one second-quarter possession, he scrambled on three designed passing plays, picking up eight yards on the first, being dropped behind the line by Todd Denlinger on the second attempt and picking up four yards on third-and-8t on the final play of the drive.
“The hardest thing to do as a quarterback, and that’s why the best ones are the true veterans that can stand in there when everything’s just flying around you and pretend that that’s not even there,” Tressel said. “That’s where you have to get.”
Schoenhoft threw the game’s lone touchdown pass, finding tight end Brandon Smith in the back of the end zone with 5:24 remaining in the game to put the Gray team ahead, 10-9. The throw capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive – the longest drive of the game.
“Robby’s a good leader,” junior tailback Maurice Wells said. “He stayed calm, made good throws, good decisions. He didn’t have any turnovers or anything like that. He led us down the field like a quarterback should.”
For the day, Schoenhoft finished 7 of 15 for 83 yards. Henton was 8 of 16 for 45 yards, while Boeckman was 6 of 14 for 103 yards.
With his team trailing 10-9 in the fourth quarter, Boeckman took the field with 5:24 remaining and the ball on his own 20-yard line. After going a perfect 4 for 4 on the drive for 55 yards, the Scarlet team had the ball on the 14-yard line and was poised to win the game. But on second-and-13, Boeckman was blindsided by senior linebacker Larry Grant, who picked up the ensuing fumble and rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown, sealing the game.
As Grant sprinted down the left sideline with a host of blockers, Boeckman sat on the ground at the 20-yard line, unable to do anything but watch.
“It was good for Todd to get the ball with five-something to go and need to take the team down, and he did until the last play there,” Tressel said. “Todd has a real feel and a confidence for the field. He really has a sense of where everyone is. I think he’s very effective.”
Boeckman’s long pass of 40 yards came as his team faced a third-and-20 situation in the closing seconds of the first quarter. He connected with wideout Brian Robiskie on a streak down the right sideline, who made the grab over redshirt freshman Chimdi Chekwa. He also came out firing on his first play, throwing a deep fade for Brian Hartline that hit him in stride but was dropped.
Henton was the first quarterback to see the field after the Scarlet team won the toss and elected to defer. On his team’s first possession, Henton’s pass intended for Smith on third-and-2 was intercepted by linebacker Marcus Freeman, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. The pass hit Freeman right in the letters; he called it a “defensive player’s dream.”
“It was third and short, and I was anticipating a quick throw,” Freeman said. “I was able to jump the route. The first thing that goes through your head is just don’t drop it.”
It was the beginning of a rough day for Henton, who was just 1 of 6 in the second half for 12 yards while playing for the Scarlet team. He would throw three incompletions in the first half while playing for the Gray squad on 10 attempts, but two of them were interceptions.
Now, nearly four months after the BCS National Championship game, it appears the Buckeyes are in the same quarterback situation today as they were then. Or until fall camp, at least.