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Blast off: Bucks top Rockets

Andy Gottesman / The Lantern

Ohio State unleashed a week’s worth of frustration on Toledo, with the Rockets playing the role of punching bag in the Buckeyes’38-0 victory Saturday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

A week after falling to No. 3 USC at home, 18-15, the Buckeyes shut down Toledo’s spread attack, which had averaged 42.5 points per game before facing OSU.

“Our defense came out of the box,” Buckeye coach Jim Tressel said. “When you swarm on defense like we do, it gives your offense a few more opportunities, and we struck a couple plays that took command of the ballgame.”

The Buckeyes got off to a quick start.

On OSU’s third play from scrimmage, quarterback Terrelle Pryor launched a strike downfield to a wide-open Dane Sanzenbacher for a 76-yard score.

“It felt like it was in the air forever,” Sanzenbacher said. “We got lucky that it opened up like that, easy pitch and catch.”

Sanzenbacher found open seams throughout the day, totaling 126 yards on five catches, two resulting in touchdowns. The junior receiver enjoyed excelling against his hometown team.

Pryor finished with a career-high 262 passing yards, in addition to 110 yards on the ground on 12 carries. He kept Toledo’s defense off-balance all afternoon with his dual-threat approach.

“I love getting the ball to my receivers,” the sophomore quarterback said. “Believe me, if I can run, I’m going to take off and run and get the ten yards or whatever. That’s a choice of mine. I could take off and get ten yards every time, but I love getting the ball into my receivers hands, and maybe they can break it for 70, 80 yards.”

The Rockets, meanwhile, struggled to sustain drives against a flocking OSU defense.

“We got down 21-0 early and had to throw the football a little more than we would have liked,” Toledo coach Tim Beckman said. “I thought at times we were able to run the ball, but we got into so many situations that we couldn’t continually run the football.”

Toledo quarterback Aaron Opelt, who racked up 742 passing yards and seven touchdowns in his first two games of the season, managed just 197 without a score in the loss. The Buckeyes held the Rockets to just 210 total yards, a far cry from Toledo’s previous average of 559 yards per game.

The Buckeyes’ second series lasted 12 plays and covered 68 yards. Pryor found Sanzenbacher for another touchdown, this time slinging an 18-yard pass into tight coverage for the score. Sanzenbacher made a one-handed stretch to snag the throw.

“That ball was thrown in a hurry and right at the break,” Tressel said. “Dane’s got good hands. He’s a steady guy. Nothing bothers him inside, even when there’s a lot of bodies flying around.”

Each of Toledo’s first ten drives ended with a punt. The Rockets fumbled away their only glance at the end zone late in the third quarter.

On its only drive lasting more than seven plays, Toledo moved the ball deep inside Buckeye territory. Opelt connected with receiver Eric Page in stride near the end zone, but he lost control of the ball when unsuccessfully spinning away from a Kurt Coleman tackle.

Linebacker Ross Homan recovered the fumble for the Buckeyes, who regained possession and maintained the shutout.

The victory cleanses some of the rotten taste left in the players’ mouths after losing to Southern Cal. Following a week of criticism and scrutiny, the team is ready to move forward onto Big Ten play.

“Criticism doesn’t bother us,” Pryor said. “I know what I’m capable of. I know what the offensive line is capable of. We all know what each other is capable of. It comes with the territory, you just have to do your job.”

The dominating performance against Toledo helped prepare Ohio State for the rigor of conference play, Sanzenbacher said.

“We have to be a lot more focused,” he said. “We know that every team has us marked down on their calendars and is going to play us tough.”

 

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