[Editor’s Note: From now until Big Ten Media Days, we’ll be reaching into The-Ozone’s 23 years worth of archives and each day we will be posting a story from yesteryear. Big moments, small moments, big games, bigger games, and the random recruiting updates about guys you haven’t thought about in a decade or two.]
October 23, 2004 | This story comes from John Porentas and details a game of many firsts for some all-time great Buckeyes. On one hand, this is just your standard game story between Indiana and Ohio State. On the other hand, this also captures the first career start for Troy Smith, who was bumped up the depth chart due to a Justin Zwick injury. The rest is, of course, history. This is also the game where a freshman receiver named Ted Ginn caught his first ever touchdown, which was one of his most spectacular. A freshman running back named Antonio Pittman also scored his first career touchdown. It was also the first career starts for Ashton Youboty and Mike Kudla. — TG
When you have a headache, take an aspirin. When you have a three-game losing streak in the Big Ten, invite Indiana to town.
The Buckeyes (4-3, 1-3) followed that Rx on Saturday and ended up with a 30-7 win over the Hoosiers (2-5, 04) before 104,538 homecoming fans in Ohio Stadium to break a three-game losing streak and garner their first Big Ten win of the season.
Quarterback Troy Smith got his career-first start, subbing for injured Justin Zwick, and the Buckeyes played without the services of captain and starting tailback Lydell Ross who was suspended on Friday for reasons yet unspecified by OSU Head Coach Jim Tressel.
In the absence of Zwick and Ross, Smith and tailbacks Maurice Hall and Antonio Pittman got a Buckeye offense rolling that has been largely ineffective to date this season. They did it at the expense of the Indiana defense that came into the game rated the Big Ten’s worst.
The fireworks started early. On the first play from scrimmage the Buckeyes sent a message when Smith heaved a pass 40 yards down field to a streaking Roy Hall. The pass fell incomplete, but it got the Indiana defense thinking pass.
“It had them on their heels,” said Maurice Hall of OSU’s game-opening pass play.
“They couldn’t stack the box because we have great receivers. With that, we were able to run the ball. It definitely established balance because we have such dangerous receivers. It definitely helped.”
On the next snap, Smith handed off to Hall, the starter at tailback, who ripped off a six-yard gain over left guard. It was a portent of things to come.
The Buckeyes entered the game with the 10th-ranked rushing offense in the Big Ten, but ran the ball successfully against the Hoosiers, racking up 282 yards on the ground.
The ground game was effective all day, but it was the passing game that provided the early excitement.
OSU’s first possession was capped when Smith hit freshman receiver Ted Ginn Jr. with a short pass that was almost picked off when Indiana defensive back Buster Larkins appeared to have a shot for an interception. Larkins couldn’t make the catch, but Ginn did, then streaked the rest of the way to the end zone, breaking tackles and leaving would-be defenders sprawling in his wake for a spectacular 59-yard touchdown.
“The guy from Indiana did a great job breaking on the ball when he did,” said Smith.
“Ted’s concentration came through. He grabbed that ball and as you saw, he made a couple of defenders miss on his way to the end zone.”
[Ed. Note: Play-by-play guy Wayne Larivee exclaiming that Ted Ginn has one man to beat when he is still surrounded by defenders was more accurate than I ever gave him credit for.]
Ginn’s touchdown catch and run was made possible by the Big Ten experiment with instant replay this season. On the play prior to the score, Pittman rushed for for five yards but appeared to have fumbled at the end of the play. Indiana recovered, but the play was reviewed and it was determined that Pittman was down before the fumble occurred.
“That’s the reason for the replay, and you run that risk, but I’m still glad we have it,” said Indiana Head Coach Gerry DiNardo.
“That’s a big swing, but that’s going to happen.”
The OSU offense, which had left the field, was called back out, and on the next play, Smith and Ginn hooked up for the score.
“After I got onto the bench and I got a little water, then I realized that it was under review,” said OSU center Nick Mangold.
“You get a blessing and you have to capitalize on it. You never want to have turnovers. I think that would have done a little bit of damage to us. Good things happened after that, so it was nice.”
The Buckeyes threatened to make a rout of it, taking a 14-0 lead when Smith threw his second touchdown pass of the first quarter, this one a five-yard strike to Santonio Holmes to cap a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive.
The Hoosiers managed to answer when quarterback Matt Slouchier went one yard for a score to cut the lead to 14-7, but that would be the last time the Hoosiers would put points on the board.
The Buckeyes, meanwhile, continued moving the ball behind the passing of Smith and running of Pittman. OSU added two field goals in the second period, one in the third, and finally scored another touchdown late in the fourth quarter when Pittman went 28 yards for his first career touchdown as a Buckeye.
“That’s my roommate,” said Smith of Pittman.
“Before the game he told me that he was hungry today.
“He had to go out there and do some things for himself that would help him get over the hump as far as carries. He did an awesome job.”
Pittman finished the day with 144 yards on 20 rushes for 7.2 yards per carry. Hall added 43 more yards on just seven carries for 6.1 yards per attempt.
“After three losses it feels great to go out and win a big game like that, to show that we still can win, that we still have heart and we’re still going to fight,” Pittman said.
“It’s great to be on the collegiate level and get into the end zone. A lot of guys as freshmen don’t get into the end zone.
“I just thank God for putting me in there. I just want to go out there and do it again,” Pittman added.
Defensively, the Buckeyes gave up 162 yards in the first half, but limited Indiana to just 80 yards in the second half.
The win snapped the Buckeye losing streak, but linebacker Bobby Carpenter said it was just one step in a long road back to where his team wants to be.
“We’re still just 4-3. We’ve got a long ways to go,” Carpenter said.
“We’re just going to take it week-by-week. By the end of the season I think everybody is going to be proud of us.”
* A number of Buckeyes saw the first action of their careers in the game. Freshmen fullback Dionte Johnson, freshman linebacker Chad Hoobler and freshman offensive tackle Steve Rehring all saw action against Indiana.
* The Buckeyes recorded six sacks against Indiana, and converted on six-of-14 third down conversions as-well-as one-of-one fourth down conversions.
* Former starting cornerback E. J. Underwood did not play against the Hoosiers. Former starting wide receiver Bam Childress also saw very limited action. Sophomore Ashton Youboty played opposite Dustin Fox at corner in replacement of Underwood, while redshirt freshman receiver Tony Gonzalez and true freshman wide receiver Devon Jordan both saw considerable action in replacement of Childress.