After 30 minutes of cat and mouse between Ohio State and Washington that saw the Huskies score with :03 left in the first half to take a 7-3 lead and momentum into halftime, things didn’t look so good for the 10th-ranked Buckeyes.
Those thoughts didn’t last very long in the second half, thanks to stingy defense and an opportunistic offense. The Buckeyes held Washington to 89 yards after halftime before a garbage-time touchdown drive and pulled away to a 33-14 win Saturday afternoon.
“I liked the way the kids approached the halftime,” Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said after his 200th career win. “There wasn’t panic, there wasn’t fear, there wasn’t anything other than talking about what we had to do to get better, and you could tell there was a resolve to get better.”
Junior quarterback Todd Boeckman, making his first start for the Buckeyes on the road, threw for 218 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, while tailback Chris Wells ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 24 tries.
Washington signal caller Jake Locker ran for 102 yards and threw for 153, but he was picked off three times.
In a game billed as a chance for Locker to put the resurgent Huskies’ program on the map, instead it was OSU that proclaimed it would carry the Big Ten’s banner in high-profile nonconference games.
Leading the way in the second half were the Buckeye stop troops. Three second-half turnovers and a blocked field goal turned the tide for Ohio State, setting the stage for an offense that often moved the ball well but had trouble finishing off drives, especially early.
The real momentum turner came in the middle of the third quarter and with UW kicker Ryan Perkins attempting a 46-yard field goal. The try was blocked, keeping the score 7-3. Two plays later, Boeckman found Brian Robiskie streaking down the right sideline behind cornerback Vonzell McDowell Jr. for a 68-yard touchdown pass to give OSU a 10-7 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Devon Torrence forced a fumble by freshman Curtis Shaw that Buckeye James Scott fell on. Two plays later, Wells cut left and scampered nearly untouched to the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown that made it a two-score game.
“All of a sudden it was a different game,” Tressel said. “When you’re on top like that, you have a chance when you have a defense like ours.”
Washington and Locker responded two drives later by marching down the field, but Locker’s third-down pass from the 23 was intercepted by preseason All-American James Laurinaitis, his second pick of the day.
Ohio State drove down the field from there and Ryan Pretorius made a 23-yard field goal, his second make of the day. Boeckman put an exclamation point on the day when he found Brian Hartline open down the middle for a 36-yard touchdown. Malcolm Jenkins added a late interception, and tailbacks Louis Rankin of UW and Brandon Saine of Ohio State traded last-minute rushing touchdowns.
Ohio State’s embattled offense finished with 481 yards on the day, 263 on the ground. Saine added 83 yards on nine carries after getting the lion’s share of the carries after Wells came out holding his hip during the fourth quarter.
“I thought our guys up front did a good job of controlling the tempo of the line of scrimmage,” Tressel said. “I thought we blocked very well. I thought Jim Bollman and John Peterson and those guys had some great things up front designed.”
The first half was mainly one of missed opportunities. Pretorius missed two field goals – he was wide left from 44 yards and had a 32-yarder blocked. The latter kick came a play after OSU’s converted fourth-and-1 try was overruled by a false start penalty.
“That first half, things didn’t go exactly the way we wanted,” Tressel said. “I thought we had a good plan. That was what was disappointing about sitting there at the half with three points.”
Washington had a similar go of it in the half before Locker’s 23-yard touchdown to Anthony Russo. The Huskies’ initial two drives lasted 11 and nine plays, respectively, but each ended in a punt. The next drive saw Locker complete a pass to Corey Williams for 25 yards then run for 20 on the next play, but a third down shovel pass from the 5 was deflected and intercepted by Laurinaitis.
Wells finished the half with 74 yards on 14 totes, while Boeckman was just 7-15 and could have had a couple tosses intercepted. The Buckeyes piled up 177 yards, while the Huskies had 204, 111 through the air by Locker and 69 via the redshirt freshman’s legs.