Buckeyes Avoid Shocking Crash Against Dangerous Rockets
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State fans had felt this panic before, but never like this.
The Buckeyes had not lost to an in-state opponent in 90 years, but they were on the ropes Saturday against unranked Toledo in Ohio Stadium.
Despite being favored by nearly three touchdowns, Ohio State (2-0) led by only five points late in the fourth quarter when tailback Rod Smith fumbled the ball to give the Rockets (1-1) another chance.
They advanced all the way to the OSU 16-yard line with a chance to win the game in the final minute, but John Simon slammed quarterback Terrance Owens to the Turf on a 4th-and-5 as the 15th-ranked Buckeyes held on for a 27-22 victory in week two.
“I got hit on the last play and that caused the play to turn bad,” Owens said after the loss.
“If I had time I could have had (tight end Danny) Noble because he was wide open. But I had to get the ball out of my hands since it was fourth and five. I tried to make a play.”
It might have gone differently if Simon had not come back from getting fluids in the locker room, but his pressure forced an early throw and the ball fell incomplete at the feet of defensive back Christian Bryant.
“It was an ugly game, but we made plays when we had to,” senior linebacker Andrew Sweat said.
“Today we had to dig down deep and have toughness. These are the types of games you see what type of player you are and learn from.”
The Buckeyes got out to an early 7-0 lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Joe Bauserman to tight end Jake Stoneburner, who made a one-handed grab. The Rockets missed a 45-yard field goal on their first drive and it looked like it might be another easy victory for Ohio State.
It was anything but.
Ohio State went 3-and-out on their next drive and Toledo defensive back Kishon Wilcher blocked Ben Buchanan’s punt at OSU 35-yard line. Morgan Williams scooped it up and was brought down at the one-yard line, but the Rockets scored one play later and went for two to take an 8-7 lead.
"We come here, and our goal is to win. That's what we came to do,” Toledo coach Tim Beckman said.
“We came to win the football game.”
It certainly looked that way. The Rockets pushed ahead 15-7 in the first quarter on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Owens to speedy wideout Eric Page. They continued to lead 15-14 late in the first half after Carlos Hyde’s 36-yard touchdown, but wideout Chris Fields gave Ohio State the spark they needed.
“All I saw was that the lane opened up and the only guy in front of me was the punter,” said Fields, who returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown to give Ohio State the lead at halftime.
“The coaches always tell us we can’t get tackled by the punter.”
Freshman Ryan Shazier freed Fields up for the score with a bone-jarring crack-back block near the 30-yard line, but Toledo refused to go away.
Tailback Adonis Thomas scored out of the Wildcat from four yards out to give Toledo a 22-21 lead in the third quarter, but the Rockets continually shot themselves in the foot with penalties and special teams mistakes.
“First and foremost, we didn't play well enough to win this football game,” said Beckman, who was an assistant at Ohio State under Jim Tressel from 2005-06.
“There were too many mistakes on our part that need to be rectified. We have to, as a staff and as a football team, make sure that when we're playing in games like this, if we want to take this program back to that championship level, we must make sure that we succeed in those plays that we gave up today.”
The Rockets had 14 penalties Saturday for 102 yards, including one on the Fields punt return that led to a re-kick. Somehow they managed to stay in the game, thanks to some offensive struggles from the Buckeyes.
Bauserman—who played the entire game at quarterback—was 5-of-9 for 62 yards in the first quarter, but went just 8-of-21 the rest of the way for 127 yards.
“We know we've got to take some shots and we did. But you know what, I think he understands what we're asking him to do,” OSU Head Coach Luke Fickell said.
“But Joe made good decisions. I don't think we had a turnover or he didn't have a turnover.”
He didn’t have one, but Smith’s fumble with just over three minutes left on the clock almost proved deadly. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, their defense was able to step up when it mattered most.
But not without a scare.
Box score and Game Statistics
Two-Minute Drill: Beyond the Win over Toledo
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