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Ohio State posted their third shutout of the season Saturday, routing the hapless Aggies of New Mexico State 45-0. The Buckeyes staggered out of the gate to a scoreless first quarter, but four second quarter TD's were more than enough to subdue the Aggies, who managed just two first downs and 62 total yards all day, and never took a snap in OSU territory.
Terrelle Pryor threw for 135 yards, including a 19-yard TD strike to Dane Sanzenbacher, and rushed for another 83 yards and a touchdown before sitting out the second half with a minor leg injury. Pryor finished 11 for 23 passing, and mixed his usual dynamic rushing game with a passing performance that was more erratic. Pryor survived a couple of ill-advised throws that nearly resulted in interceptions for the Aggies, but moved the team effectively in the big second period.
How to look shaky while winning 45-0...
On the down side, the Buckeyes' offensive execution was anything but crisp and efficient. There were repeated breakdowns in the run blocking and the pass protection. Perhaps more importantly, the Buckeyes lost placekicker Aaron Pettrey with a knee injury to his kicking leg. Before the injury, Pettrey missed two 52-yard field goal attempts, and after the injury, backup kicker Devin Barclay missed two more, going 1 for 3 for the game.
On top of the kicking issues, the Buckeyes had problems getting their inside running game going in the first quarter, as the offensive line struggled early with the smaller Aggie defenders. The assembled 104,719 were starting to get nervous when it took Ohio State three possessions and just over a quarter to score against a team they were expected to dominate from the outset.
No Mercy From OSU Defense
That domination would eventually become a reality, as two quick OSU touchdowns in the first two minutes of the second quarter gave the Buckeyes a 14-point lead. As it turned out, it might as well have been 140, considering the complete ineptitude of the Aggies' offense.
The New Mexico State offense came into the game with the 120th-ranked offense out of 120 FBS programs, and they played as advertised. The numbers don't lie:
- The Aggies gained62 total yards...40 rushing...22 passing.
- They got two first downs in the game...none in the second half, and punted 11 times.
- The longest play from scrimmage was a 13-yard scramble by quarterback Jeff Fleming.
- They averaged 1.4 yards per play, fumbled three times and threw an interception.
When a team is that weak on offense, you'd think the time of possession statistics would be completely dominated by the winners, but it didn't work that way on this day. The Buckeyes had the ball for 33:37 to 26:23 for the Aggies. That's because once they got rolling, Ohio State scored often and picked up yardage in big chunks, giving the Aggies 14 different offensive possessions in which to be terrible. And for the most part, the Aggies spent their 3-and-outs running the football...and running the clock.
Another 500-Yard Day
For the second straight week, Ohio State exceeded 500 yards in total offense, racking up 559 for the game. How that happened....with the offense not exactly hitting on all cylinders...and Pryor on the bench for the entire second half...and backup Joe Bauserman completing just two second half passes...is kind of a mystery. But rushing for 310 yards as a team is a good start.
Ten different Buckeyes (including three walk-on running backs) had rushing attempts in the game, led by a career-high 90 yards for freshman Jordan Hall, which included a 39-yard run. Pryor added 83 in a half of play, with a long run of 27 yards, and Dan Herron rushed for 66 yards on six carries, getting the majority of it on a 53-yard TD run in the 3rd quarter. Ray Small pitched in 23 yards on an end-around, while Brandon Saine was bottled up with just 13 yards on seven carries, but did score his first TD of the season on a 3-yard run to finish the second quarter scoring.
There were a few big plays in the passing game too, starting with the first offensive play of the game when Pryor hit DeVier Posey for a 43-yard completion. With the Buckeyes up 14-0 in the second quarter, Posey got into the act as a passer for the first time as a Buckeye. He took a pitch on a reverse play, and fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to Sanzenbacher in the back of the end zone. Posey said later that his first read on the play was to look for Pryor coming out of the backfield, and his second option was to run himself, but he saw Sanzenbacher coming open deep, and was able to get it in to him for the score.
Bauserman was 2 of 9 passing while playing the whole second half, but he made his two completions count. Both went to freshman Duron Carter, for plays of 35 and 40 yards, on consecutive 4th quarter possessions. Sanzenbacher had four catches for 72 yards and two second quarter touchdowns, the trick play from Posey and a 19-yard TD catch from Pryor for the second Buckeye score.
Speaking of trick plays, kicker Aaron Pettrey and the kickoff team pulled off a successful onside kick following the first OSU score. Pettrey topped the ball and then recovered it himself to set up the second Buckeye TD of the game.
Posey led all Buckeye receivers with five grabs for 79 yards, to go with his successful debut as a passer. Posey now has 22 receptions in his last three games to emerge as the Buckeyes' go-to guy in the passing game. If there's a problem with that, it's that the defense knows it too, and it has been Pryor's tendency to lock in on Posey and try to force the ball to him even when he's covered.
Ho-Hum Day For OSU Defense
For a shutout performance, this game was notable for its lack of memorable defensive plays. With the average NMSU play going for 1.4 yards, the Buckeye defenders were reduced to making routine gang tackles on plays that were mostly going nowhere.
The one exception was a defensive touchdown for OSU, scored when Brian Rolle fell on the ball in the end zone after Aggie quarterback Jeff Fleming fumbled a shotgun snap.
NMSU quarterbacks completed just six passes on the day, with a long gainer of 10 yards, though they were victimized by a few drops by the Aggie receivers.
Ross Homan led the OSU defense with seven total tackles and an interception, and no one else had more than three total stops. Lots of guys got on the field on defense and special teams though, as no less than 24 different Buckeyes had at least one tackle. Lawrence Wilson had the Buckeyes' only sack.
The Buckeyes' record improved to 7-2, with their next game Saturday at Penn State.
The leg injury to Pryor is not believed to be serious. He injured it on one of the last plays of the half, when he was tackled at the sideline, getting dragged down from behind by the jersey on a horsecollar-type tackle. The knee injury to Pettrey may be more serious, leading the coaches to speculate afterward that he might miss next week's game.