Sunday, September 7, 2003

OSU survives serious scare from Aztecs

Buckeyes' struggling offense exposed in victory against 31-point underdog

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio State tailback Maurice Hall (28) is surrounded by San Diego State defenders Jacob Elimimian (39) and Marviel Underwood (5) during the second quarter Saturday.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
COLUMBUS - Last season, the Buckeyes made their magic, willing wins with such drama as to inspire talk of destiny.

No one will dare lump Ohio State's narrow victory Saturday in with those heroics. The 16-13 win against San Diego State was a straight-up stinker - an ugly and uninspired showing that the Buckeyes had better bury quickly or abandon any hope of a repeat national championship.

"We weren't Ohio State today," senior offensive lineman Adrien Clarke said.

The second-ranked Buckeyes were at home against a 31-point underdog: a middling opponent running a freshman tailback and with its backup quarterback making his first career start. They benefited from four turnovers and eight penalties by the Aztecs.

And still, OSU needed a late-game defensive stand and its own clutch drive to avoid what would have been one of the most embarrassing losses in school history.

SDSU (1-1) seemingly exposed the Buckeyes (2-0) with a simple game plan: throw short passes and stuff OSU's suddenly susceptible running game.

"We found a way to win, and I think great teams ... win ugly sometimes," OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel said. "We took a step backward from last week, and now we're going to have to take two steps forward this week to be where we want to be."

In stretching its winning streak to 16 games, OSU has won eight consecutive games when the difference is seven points or less.

Every statistic Saturday seemingly should have pointed to a defeat:

• OSU's 196 yards marked its lowest total since totaling 166 yards in a 13-6 loss at UCLA two years ago.

• At halftime, OSU had more penalty yards (88) than offensive yards (76) yet led 13-7. It finished with 12 penalties for 124 yards, which tied for third-most in OSU history; the record is 136 yards set in 2000 against Fresno State.

• OSU was 1-of-14 on third-down conversions, with its lone conversion coming in the final two minutes on its final attempt.

• Krenzel was just 5-of-20 for 76 yards and an interception, his worst game as a starter.

Defense was the savior, allowing only one TD - on a 23-yard drive. Will Allen had a game-changing 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, and a forced fumble by Allen and sacks by A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter halted three other promising Aztec drives.

The offense will take the heat. SDSU rushed eight defenders to shut down the run, and Krenzel and his receivers were on a different page all day.

The inability to throw enabled the Aztecs to keep crowding the line of scrimmage.

"A lot of Ohio State's plays are slow-developing, and we thought we could beat them to the punch," Aztecs coach Tom Craft said.

OSU averaged 3.2 yards per carry in 37 attempts. It's worth noting that suspended tailback Maurice Clarett averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season.

With Lydell Ross nursing a foot injury, Maurice Hall has to carry the load. He totaled 91 yards on 19 carries.

Trailing 16-10, SDSU missed a golden opportunity when a wide-open Jeff Webb dropped a pass at the OSU 11. Down 16-13, it had a drive malfunction when a shotgun snap sailed past QB Matt Dlugolecki.

The Aztecs' final drive died at the OSU 46, and Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins for a 14-yard pass on a third-and-6 at midfield to help the Buckeyes run out the clock.

"There's a sense of relief, but also a sense of disappointment," Clarke said. "We can't be happy with this performance."

San Diego St.7033-13
Ohio St.13003-16

First Quarter

SDS-Williams 11 pass from Dlugolecki (Mejia kick), 13:42.

OSU-FG Nugent 38, 9:54.

OSU-Allen 100 interception return (Nugent kick), 6:36.

OSU-FG Nugent 32, 3:25.

Third Quarter

SDS-FG Mejia 47, 9:17.

Fourth Quarter

OSU-FG Nugent 35, 13:22.

SDS-FG Mejia 46, 10:13.


First downs2010
Return Yards75209
Time of Possession31:1128:49


RUSHING-San Diego St., Hamilton 17-69, Franklin 3-9, Engstrand 1-(minus 14), team 1-(minus 17), Dlugolecki 4-(minus 19). Ohio St., Hall 19-91, Ross 7-16, Krenzel 10-14, team 1-(minus 1).

PASSING-San Diego St., Dlugolecki 23-39-2-189, Engstrand 1-2-0-(minus 1). Ohio St., Krenzel 5-20-1-76.

RECEIVING-San Diego St., Webb 6-27, Williams 5-37, Penman 4-20, Pitts 3-31, Porter 2-22, Ortiz 1-20, Moore 1-17, Hamilton 1-8, Poumele 1-6. Ohio St., Jenkins 2-24, Hamby 1-31, Carter 1-21, Hall 1-0.



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