Sunday, September 21, 2003

OSU 24, BGSU 17

Bucks stay undefeated

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Ohio State quarterback Scott McMullen calls a play from scrimmage in the second quarter.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
COLUMBUS - The Buckeyes are treating the post-game interview room like a psychiatrist's couch. The weekly Saturday appointment is a chance to bemoan their imperfections.

Though they find fault with every facet of their football, it is worth noting that they remain undefeated. Of all its flaws, the greatest thing Ohio State lacks is a loss.

"Being 4-0, any way you can get it, it's definitely a blessing," tailback Maurice Hall said. "We haven't played to the best of our ability. And that's a good thing."

The fifth-ranked Buckeyes' 24-17 victory Saturday over Bowling Green was another walk on the high wire. In their 18-game winning streak, nine of the last 11 victories have been by seven or fewer points, including the last three.

But ultimately, this and other survival tests might stiffen this team's resolve while it works out the kinks. The defending national champions are a work in progress, and their greatest collective satisfaction is in knowing they should only improve.

"We haven't played as well as we'd like," linebacker A.J. Hawk said. "But it still comes down to we're 4-0.

"We got better at a couple things today. In the Big Ten, things are going to get tougher, but we'll be ready."

Fans will join the Buckeyes in criticizing the lack of a killer instinct. OSU nearly let a 24-7 fourth-quarter lead dissolve for the second straight week. BGSU (3-1) was throwing into the end zone with a chance to tie in the last minute.

Yet in between the inconsistencies in Saturday's statistics - including OSU being outgained by 43 yards and committing three turnovers - was plenty of good news.

Because of injuries and/or suspension, the offense operated without five starters from its preseason depth chart yet managed its finest rushing day of the season. The Buckeyes ran for 205 yards, including 107 by Hall and a 94-yard, two-touchdown game from Lydell Ross.

The Buckeyes were quick to qualify their rushing success Saturday as coming against a smaller defensive line than they'll usually see. "We need to keep overpowering teams like that," tight end Ben Hartsock said.

Scott McMullen was adequate in relief of injured quarterback Craig Krenzel, going 10-of-16 for 118 yards, one TD and an interception.

The Buckeyes were sharper, totaling just three penalties for 15 yards after being flagged for 26 penalties for 253 yards in the last two games.

The defense was again the savior, forcing four turnovers and stuffing the Falcons on short-yardage plays.

OSU relied on its "closer," Will Allen, to finish matters - he picked off a Josh Harris pass on the final play. Allen ended upset bids last season by Cincinnati and Michigan with interceptions, ended the North Carolina State game last Saturday with a goal-line tackle on the final play, and won the San Diego State game two weeks ago with a 100-yard interception return.

Hawk, OSU's other emerging defensive star, tied for the team lead with eight tackles and swung the game's momentum with a third-quarter interception.

The Buckeyes held Bowling Green to 40 rushing yards and are allowing just 24 yards rushing per game. They prevented first downs on drives that reached second-and-1, second-and-3, second-and-1 and third-and-1.

"Their defense is going to bend," Harris said, "but they aren't going to break."

About bending: BGSU had 208 total yards before gaining another 158 in the final nine minutes. The Falcons recovered an onside kick during their rally, ultimately getting the ball with 42 seconds left with a chance to tie.

Yet Harris, who threw for 326 yards, could complete just one of five passes in that final series.



Bowling Green70010-17
Ohio St.71007-24
First Quarter

OSt-Carter 7 pass from McMullen (Nugent kick), 6:04.

BG-McGrady 7 pass from Harris (Suisham kick), 2:14.

Second Quarter

OSt-FG Nugent 47, 10:09.

OSt-Ross 33 run (Nugent kick), 2:17.

Fourth Quarter

OSt-Ross 3 run (Nugent kick), 8:46.

BG-Magner 25 pass from Harris (Suisham kick), 3:25.

BG-FG Suisham 33, 1:46.


First downs2117
Return Yards6849
Time of Possession27:5632:04

RUSHING-Bowling Green, Pope 11-47, Lane 3-15, team 1-(minus 8), Harris 8-(minus 14). Ohio St., Hall 19-107, Ross 22-94, Carter 2-13, McMullen 5-(minus 9).

PASSING-Bowling Green, Harris 33-54-3-326, team 0-1-0-0, Magner 0-1-0-0. Ohio St., McMullen 10-16-1-118.

RECEIVING-Bowling Green, Magner 13-168, Sanders 6-55, McGrady 6-37, Sharon 5-37, Pope 2-23, Hawkins 1-6. Ohio St., Jenkins 3-62, Hamby 3-37, Carter 2-14, Hall 1-3, Hartsock 1-2.

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