Ohio State’s 2007 season opener was not necessarily memorable because of what happened at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes easily handled Division I-AA Youngstown State Sept. 1 in a 38-6 victory. However, the dominant subject following the game was what happened in Ann Arbor, Mich., where rival Michigan was stunned by I-AA opponent Appalachian State.
Team captain Kirk Barton, always good for a soundbite, would not comment about the Wolverines’ misfortune. Instead he made a motion with his hand across his face, indicating that his lips were sealed. Later he covered his mouth with both hands when the subject came up again.
While Michigan suffered arguably the embarrassing loss in its program’s history, the Buckeyes got the season started with a solid win. New starting quarterback Todd Boeckman was efficient, completing 17 of 23 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, and the 105,038 fans that packed Ohio Stadium on a beautiful late summer day left happy.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” Boeckman said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment since I got to Ohio State (in 2003), and when I woke up this morning, I realized what I now had to do. I’ve been waiting four years for this opportunity and now that I have a shot at leading this team, I wanted to take advantage of it.”
Boeckman’s top target was receiver Brian Robiskie. The junior caught nine passes for 153 yards – both career highs. On the ground, Chris “Beanie” Wells ran for 46 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Maurice Wells added 45 yards on the ground to go with three receptions for another 23 yards.
Chris Wells struggled and said he was not mentally prepared.
“I wasn’t focused at all,” he said. “My mind wasn’t in the game. Our guys did an OK job, but I didn’t do my best today.”
It did not take Ohio State long to take command vs. the overmatched Penguins. After the OSU defense held YSU to a three-and-out, Boeckman led the Buckeyes down the field 70 yards in nine plays. Freshman Dane Sanzenbacher capped the drive by catching a 3-yard touchdown reception on a crossing pattern. Chris Wells and Brandon Saine each added 1-yard second-quarter touchdowns to help give Ohio State a 21-3 lead at halftime.
Ryan Pretorius added a 24-yard field goal in the third quarter, and Trever Robinson and Taurian Washington both caught fourth-quarter touchdowns to cap the scoring.
“We’ve got to improve in many, many ways,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “But I thought the kids played hard and we’ve got a chance to keep progressing and become a good team.”
James Laurinaitis, Austin Spitler and Anderson Russell each had seven tackles to lead the defensive effort. OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock used a deep rotation and rotated seven different players – Laurinaitis, Spitler, Marcus Freeman, Larry Grant, Ross Homan, Thaddeus Gibson and Tyler Moeller – at the three linebacker positions. The Buckeyes held the Penguins to 176 total yards.
Leading YSU was quarterback Tom Zetts, who completed 10 of his 18 passes for 86 yards. Another offensive leader for the Penguins was making a return to Ohio Stadium. Former Buckeye Louis Irizarry was Youngstown State’s leading receiver with four catches for 19 yards.
Not everything went well for Ohio State, however. The Buckeyes lost defensive end Lawrence Wilson in the second quarter when the junior went down with a broken bone in his right leg.
But considering what happened in Ann Arbor, it could have been worse.