Ohio State kicked off its 2010 season under the Ohio Stadium lights Thursday night and muscled its way to a 45-7 rout of visiting Marshall.
The Buckeyes opened their season on a weekday night for the first time since 1997 when they took a 24-10 victory over Wyoming. It also marked the first nighttime opener at the Horseshoe since a 28-9 OSU win over Washington in 2003.
The fireworks exploded early and often as the Buckeyes tallied a trio of first-quarter touchdowns, two on passes by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The junior signal-caller finished his evening’s work with an efficient 17-for-25 performance passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
“I thought Terrelle did some real good things tonight,” OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. “I thought he had confidence in where he was going with the ball and I thought his command and anticipation were pretty darn good.”
Pryor led an Ohio State attack that accounted for 529 total yards and featured an excellent balance of running and passing. Senior co-captain Brandon Saine led all rushers with 103 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries as the Buckeyes netted 280 yards on the ground.
Redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry added 80 yards on seven second-half carries, and senior Dan “Boom” Herron chipped in with 44 yards on seven carries.
Nine different receivers caught at least one pass for the Buckeyes and four grabbed at least three. Junior DeVier Posey led the way with four catches for 41 yards and two scores while senior Dane Sanzenbacher made the most of his three catches, turning them into 113 yards and a touchdown.
Sophomore tight end Jake Stoneburner and senior receiver Grant Schwartz had three receptions each, good for 41 and 20 yards respectively.
Meanwhile, Marshall struggled for every yard and finished with 199 total. Most of that came through the air as quarterback Brian Anderson completed 17 of 28 attempts for 135 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
The Herd managed only 44 yards on the ground on 21 attempts with backup tailback Martin Ward getting most of that total. He had 32 yards on six carries.
Leading the way for the Ohio State defensive effort was senior safety Tyler Moeller, who celebrated his return from missing all of the 2009 season with a serious head injury. Moeller turned in a team-high six tackles, including two for loss and the Buckeyes’ lone sack. He also forced one of Marshall’s three fumbles in the game.
The only score the Thundering Herd could muster came on special teams when junior Ahmed Shakoor returned a blocked field goal 61 yards late in the second quarter for his team’s only touchdown.
That special teams glitch along with a couple of long kickoff returns by Marshall was about the only thing with which Tressel could find fault in the opener.
“I think we just didn’t protect a gap on the field goal,” the coach said. “I don’t know if the kick was high enough – sometimes you try to drive it on the longer ones and they wind up a little low. We’ll have to look at that on film. But I do know we didn’t protect the gap. That kind of thing and giving up those returns on kickoffs – we’d better get those fixed for next week.”
The Buckeyes barely let the Thundering Herd breathe early, getting things started early when freshman Dorian Bell caused a fumble on the game’s opening kickoff and junior Nate Oliver recovered at the Marshall 22.
Four plays later, Posey got loose from MU cornerback Rashad Jackson in the corner of the end zone and hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Pryor. Senior kicker Devin Barclay added the PAT for a 7-0 Ohio State lead at the 13:42 mark of the first quarter.
The Buckeyes went right back to work on their second possession as Saine did the heavy lifting. The senior co-captain blasted up the middle off a block from fullback Zach Boren for a 40-yard bolt, and then cruised around right end – thanks to a seal block from fullback Adam Homan – on a 4-yard run.
Barclay added the extra point and OSU was seemingly on its way to a rout with a 14-0 advantage at the 10:27 mark of the opening period.
But things turned quickly when freshman Drew Basil’s 52-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Marshall nose tackle Johnny Jones and returned 61 yards by Shakoor for a touchdown. Junior kicker Tyler Warner added the extra point and the game was suddenly a game again at 14-7 with 2:21 remaining in the first quarter.
Ohio State stretched its lead back to two touchdowns only two plays later when Pryor hit Sanzenbacher on a deep post pattern. The OSU receiver not only beat Jackson on the play but also wriggled out of the Marshall defender’s grasp at the 5-yard line and completed the 65-yard touchdown play.
Barclay added the PAT and the Buckeyes held a 21-7 lead at the 1:22 mark of the first period.
By the time the first period finally ended, Ohio State had totaled 199 yards of offense to 44 for the Thundering Herd.
The second quarter was decidedly less explosive but no less decisive for the Buckeyes.
Saine scored his second touchdown at the 3:49 mark when he exploded through a huge hole up the middle on a 45-yard scamper. Just over a minute later, OSU senior linebacker Brian Rolle intercepted an Anderson pass in the middle of the field and weaved his way 30 yards to the end zone. Barclay’s PAT made it 35-7 Buckeyes at the break.
The Pryor-to-Posey connection clicked again for the only third-quarter score. Capping a nine-play, 80-yard drive, Posey got in front of Shakoor in the end zone and Pryor threw the football where only his receiver could make a play with the result an 11-yard touchdown.
Barclay again kicked the extra point and the Buckeyes padded their lead to 42-7 at the 10:17 mark.
Barclay added a 34-yard field goal with 7:28 remaining in the game to set the final score.
Ohio State (1-0) will be back in action next Saturday when the Buckeyes host Miami (Fla.) in a rematch of the 2003 BCS National Championship Game. The Hurricanes (1-0) rolled up a 45-0 win earlier this evening over Division I-AA Florida A&M. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw for 210 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Hurricanes.
“We’re happy about the win tonight but we know it’s going to be a more difficult world next week,” Tressel said. “We have to get ready for what we know will be a great challenge.”
ESPN will have coverage of next week’s contest with kickoff set for just after 3:40 p.m. Eastern.