Ohio State employed a smothering defense that allowed it to overcome five turnovers and mask some lingering problems on offense, chalking up a 20-2 victory over instate rival Akron in front of 104,317 fans at Ohio Stadium.
The Buckeyes’ performance mirrored the weather during the game, which was played early under a soaking rain and later under abundant sunshine. OSU couldn’t get out of its own way offensively in the first half, scoring only three points on a 37-yard field goal from Ryan Pretorius late in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the Zips held an early 2-0 lead when linebacker Brion Stokes tackled Ohio State tailback Chris Wells in the end zone less than five minutes into the game. But that was about all Akron had to cheer about. The Zips could not muster any sort of offense against a swarming Buckeye defense – at one point in the game, Akron had 12 consecutive drives that went three and out.
“Our defense dictated the tempo of the entire football game,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “As the game unfolded, regardless of anything else, our defense was in command. It was in command and held them to less than 100 yards, getting them off the field with three-and-outs consistently.
“But we can’t turn the ball over like we did. But we got a lot of guys into the game and played a lot of guys, which was good. And we got victory No. 2.”
OSU senior co-captain Kirk Barton was disappointed with the way the offense played the game, saying, “We cannot continue to leave our defense hanging out there like we did today. They were supermen today. But we just had too many mistakes on offense. I don’t know why, but we’re not getting better like we need to.
“We didn’t set the tempo until halfway through the third quarter. We need to do that on the first drive of the game. I would say the urgency in practice this week is going to be turned up about 10 notches.”
OSU’s offense finally got itself untracked in the second half with 17 points, including touchdown receptions by Brandon Saine and Brian Robiskie.
After getting only 115 yards of offense in the first half, the Buckeyes more than double that output in the second half with 238 yards. All told, Ohio State piled up 363 total yards to just 69 for the Zips.
After a near-flawless performance in his first game, junior quarterback Todd Boeckman had a few more struggles in week two, completing 14 of 23 pass attempts for 131 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Brian Hartline was the leading receiver for the Buckeyes with six catches for 43 yards while Robiskie had four catches for 82 yards.
In the rushing department, Wells finally broke out with a career-high 143 yards on 20 carries. Sixty-six of those yards came on three consecutive runs early in the fourth quarter that helped set up Ohio State’s second touchdown.
Saine added 28 yards on the ground on nine carries while grabbing three receptions for 8 yards and a touchdown.
The Zips got on the scoreboard first when Stokes corralled Wells in the end zone with 10:14 remaining in the first quarter. Officials on the field initially ruled the OSU tailback had gotten the ball past the goal line but the play was overturned on replay.
Akron enjoyed that 2-0 lead for much of the rest of the first half until the Buckeyes finally got on the board with Pretorius’ three-pointer at the 7:54 mark of the second quarter.
Pretorius added another field goal with 10:09 to go in the third quarter, this one coming from 33 yards out to give OSU a 6-2 lead. And the Buckeyes finally got a touchdown with 6:10 remaining in the third when Boeckman faked a handoff, took a bootleg to the right side and found Saine for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
Ohio State closed the scoring in the fourth quarter when Boeckman fooled Akron with a similar play, faking a handoff, bootlegging right and then pitching to Robiskie, who was crossing in the back of the end zone. The 13-yard score and Pretorius’ PAT capped the scoring at the 9:18 mark of the fourth quarter.
Akron chalked up two first downs during its first possession of the game and didn’t get another one until five minutes were left in the game. In between, the Zips had minus-18 yards on 33 plays.
For the game, most of the Zips’ offense came through the air. Together, dual quarterbacks Chris Jacqueman and Carlton Jackson completed 17 of 32 passes for 66 yards. On the ground, Akron totaled only 3 net yards. Jackson was their leading rusher, carrying three times for 10 yards.
OSU middle linebacker James Laurinaitis once again led the Buckeyes with seven tackles. Outside linebacker Marcus Freeman added six while safety Kurt Coleman had five. Laurinaitis also had one of three sacks for the Ohio State defense. The others were turned in by defensive ends Vernon Gholston and Cameron Heyward. It was Heyward’s first career sack.
The Buckeyes kept Akron in the game by committing five turnovers – three fumbles and two interceptions – while creating only one turnover on defense. Backup safety Jamario O’Neal stripped away an Akron fumble late in the game for the OSU defense’s first turnover of the season.
Because his team had so many three-and-outs, Akron punter John Stec set a new school record with 14 punts in the game, averaging 41.1 yards per kick.
Next week, the Buckeyes (2-0) will face their first road test of the 2007 season, traveling to Seattle to take on Pac-10 foe Washington.