Halloween in Ohio Stadium was light on the tricks and heavy on the treats as Ohio State executed a total 45-0 destruction of nonconference foe New Mexico State.
The Buckeyes piled up 559 yards of offense and scored nearly every way possible – long runs, short runs, reverse passes, defensive fumble recoveries and a field goal. The final tally would have been even more lopsided had OSU not missed four field-goal attempts.
Meanwhile, an anemic Aggies offense was held to a mere 62 yards by the Ohio State defense. That was the lowest total for an opponent this season and first time the Buckeyes had held an opponent under 100 total yards since last year’s season opener against Youngstown State. The Penguins managed only 74 yards during that 43-0 loss.
The OSU defense also celebrated its third shutout of the season. The Buckeyes haven’t recorded three shutouts in a season since 1996 when they blanked Pittsburgh (72-0), Minnesota (45-0) and Illinois (48-0).
“We’ve got a good, solid defense and their offense never got untracked,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel. “I thought our kids came out with good focus … and came out and got it done decisively.”
The Buckeyes had plenty of offensive stars, including freshman tailback Jordan Hall. He led an OSU rushing attack that totaled 310 yards, the first time the Buckeyes had cracked the 300-yard barrier since a 317-yard effort in 2005 against Northwestern. Hall had a career-best 90 yards on 10 carries.
Meanwhile, sophomore Dan “Boom” Herron returned from an ankle injury to total 66 yards and a touchdown on only six carries.
Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor accounted for 218 yards of total offense, all in the first half. Pryor rushed nine times for 83 yards and a touchdown and completed 11 of 23 passes for 135 yards and a score. He came out of the locker room after the break still in uniform but minus his helmet and shoulder pads.
Preliminary reports were that the sophomore QB had tweaked a hamstring in the first half, but Tressel would not confirm that. The head coach would only admit that Pryor was “banged around (and) nicked up a little bit but we have a lot of guys who are nicked up.”
Sophomore receiver DeVier Posey continued his good work of late. He gathered in five catches for 79 yards and also threw the first touchdown pass of his career. Posey connected for a 39-yard score with junior Dane Sanzenbacher, who had a pair of touchdown receptions in the game.
About the only bad thing to befall the Buckeyes during the afternoon was a right knee injury to senior kicker Aaron Pettrey. He was the victim of an apparent cut block on a second-quarter kickoff and may be sidelined for the remainder of the season. Walk-on Devin Barclay handled the kicking duties in Pettrey’s stead, including getting his first career field goal in the third quarter.
The news was universally bad for New Mexico State. Aggies QB Jeff Fleming was 6 for 13 for 22 yards and an interception, and he also led his team in rushing with 31 yards on seven carries.
NMSU managed only two first downs in the entire game – both coming in the first half – and never crossed into Ohio State territory. The Aggies pushed only as far as their own 42-yard line on their first possession of the game. New Mexico State never got farther than its own 39 after that.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Buckeyes exploded for 28 points in the second period. Pryor topped off a 13-play, 80-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run, giving Ohio State a 7-0 lead at the 14:56 mark of the second quarter.
The march took 4:54 and was the second-longest scoring drive of the season in terms of time of possession.
Pryor connected with Sanzenbacher for a 19-yard TD pass less than two minutes later to make it 14-0 with 13:01 remaining before the half, and then the Buckeyes resorted to some trickery. On their next possession, Pryor handed off to Herron who flipped the ball to Posey on an apparent reverse. But the OSU receiver stopped and hurled a perfect spiral to Sanzenbacher for a 39-yard touchdown.
The play marked the first touchdown pass by an Ohio State receiver since Ted Ginn Jr. hooked up with tight end Rory Nicol for a 38-yard score during a 44-3 win over Indiana in 2007.
The Buckeyes tacked on one last score before the break when tailback Brandon Saine scored his first touchdown of the season, a 3-yard run at the 0:56 mark. Saine finished the game with 13 yards on seven carries.
OSU kept its foot on the gas pedal in the third quarter despite Pryor sitting things out and backup Joe Bauserman running the show. Bauserman finished the game 2 for 9 in the passing department for 75 yards.
Barclay connected on a 29-yard field goal to make it 24-0 with 7:05 left in the third, and that was followed at the 4:22 mark when junior linebacker Brian Rolle recovered a New Mexico State fumble in the end zone.
Herron capped the scoring when he broke loose for a 53-yard touchdown bolt with 0:05 showing on the third-quarter clock.
Junior linebacker Ross Homan led the Buckeyes defensively with seven tackles and an interception, his second of the season. Six players were credited with three stops each, including senior defensive end Lawrence Wilson, who also registered the team’s only sack.
Rolle and defensive end Thaddeus Gibson each recovered a New Mexico State fumble, giving the Buckeye defense three takeaways in the game and 24 for the season.
Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) will be back in action next Saturday when the Buckeyes travel to Penn State. The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions (7-1, 3-1) were playing at Northwestern later this afternoon.
Kickoff for next week’s game will be shortly after 3:30 p.m. Eastern. The game will be telecast by ABC and ESPN2 using the reverse mirror.