Ohio State set a Jim Tressel-era record for points, Todd Boeckman threw four touchdown passes and Brian Robiskie had the most TD catches of any OSU receiver in 12 years as the Buckeyes blew out Northwestern, 58-7, in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
The last time Ohio State played a home game, the Buckeyes stumbled their way to a 3-2 halftime lead with Akron before chalking up a rather ugly 20-2 win.
What a difference two weeks makes.
The Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0) returned to Ohio Stadium on Sept. 22 looking like a different team, kicking off the 2007 Big Ten season by rolling to a 58-7 victory over Northwestern (2-2, 0-1).
The point total was the largest for an Ohio State team in the Jim Tressel era, eclipsing the 54-10 win over the Wildcats last season. It was also the most points scored by the Buckeyes since a 72-0 wipeout of Pittsburgh in 1995.
Offensive stars were plentiful for the Buckeyes, who piled up 396 yards of total offense. Quarterback Todd Boeckman connected on 11 of 14 pass attempts for 179 yards and four touchdowns, while junior split end Brian Robiskie gathered in three passes (all of them scoring passes) for 89 yards.
Boeckman became only the eighth OSU quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in a single game. The others – Troy Smith, who did four times last season; Craig Krenzel (2003) and Vic Janowicz (1950), who each did it twice; Bobby Hoying (1995), Tony Curcillo (1951), Art Schlichter (1980) and Mike Tomczak (1983).
Meanwhile, Robiskie became the first Ohio State receiver to catch three touchdown passes in a game since Terry Glenn caught four in that 1995 game against Pittsburgh.
While the passing game was clicking, the Buckeyes were also doing plenty of the damage on the ground. Sophomore tailback Chris “Beanie” Wells picked up 100 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries while backup Maurice Wells added 44 yards and two scores on 15 carries.
“We got off to a great start, obviously,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “At the beginning, we got a good kickoff return, were out there in free-wheeling zone, and were able to do a couple of things. Then, really the defense took over and gave us good field position. It was a decisive win that hopefully we can go back and learn from.”
On defense, Ohio State held the Wildcats to just 120 total yards. That included a net of zero yards rushing for Northwestern, whose leading ground gainer was running back Omar Conteh with 28 yards on 15 carries.
NU quarterback C.J. Bachér was constantly hounded by Ohio State all afternoon, and finished with 17 completions on 32 attempts for 120 yards. Bachér was intercepted twice and sacked five times.
Junior middle linebacker James Laurinaitis led the Buckeyes in tackles for a fourth consecutive game, registering seven stops including a sack. Junior defensive end Vernon Gholston also had a big day – three solo tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery that resulted in a touchdown. The other sacks belonged to junior linebacker Marcus Freeman and sophomore safety Anderson Russell.
To go along with their five sacks, OSU totaled 13 total tackles for loss. Freshman defensive end Cameron Heyward led the team in that department with 2½, while Gholston and junior linebacker Marcus Freeman each had two.
The Buckeyes got the scoring under way with a 42-yard pass from Boeckman to Robiskie at the 13:50 mark of the first quarter. OSU kicker Ryan Pretorius added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
Just over two minutes later, Boeckman and Robiskie hooked up again, this time from 28 yards out. Pretorius added the extra point for a 14-0 advantage with 11:31 to go in the first period.
And the Buckeyes were just getting warmed up. At the 7:25 mark, Maurice Wells vaulted into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown, and then OSU defensive end Vernon Gholston scooped up a Northwestern fumble and ran 25 yards to the end zone. Pretorius added PATs after both scores, making it 28-0 for Ohio State with 5:26 still remaining in the first period.
The onslaught continued early in the second quarter with Boeckman and Robiskie connecting for a third touchdown pass, this one covering 19 yards, before OSU tailback Chris Wells blasted up the middle for a 36-yard touchdown run. Pretorius again kicked the extra points, then added a 40-yard field with 1:19 left before halftime to give the Buckeyes a 45-0 lead.
It was the most points scored by Ohio State in a half since the team put a 52-spot on Pittsburgh in the first half of that 72-0 win in September 1996.
Northwestern made its only noise of the game on the second-half kickoff. Redshirt freshman Stephen Simmons broke a couple of tackles and returned the kick 99 yards for a touchdown.
But the Buckeyes continued their offensive explosion on their very next drive. Boeckman threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Ray Small, and when Pretorius added the PAT, Ohio State had a 52-7 lead and there were still more than 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
OSU tacked on another touchdown at the 2:08 mark of the third period when Maurice Wells jumped over the pile for a 1-yard score. The Buckeyes, however, botched the PAT snap – about the only thing that went wrong for them during the entire afternoon – to leave the score at 58-7.
Tressel, who had already played second- and third-stringers, emptied his bench to get nearly every healthy player in uniform (with the exception of those who are redshirting) some appreciable game time.
The Buckeyes hit the road next week, playing at Minnesota. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. local time. Television coverage is scheduled to be handled by ESPN2.