Andy Gottesman / The Lantern
Dane Sanzenbacher didn’t expect to catch four touchdowns. He didn’t anticipate the Ohio State offense hanging 73 points on an opponent, either.
The No. 2 Buckeyes (4-0) eclipsed the 40-point mark for the third time in four games, cruising to a 73-20 win over lowly Eastern Michigan (0-4) on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
The 73 points mark the most OSU has scored in coach Jim Tressel’s 10 seasons in Columbus and the most for the Buckeyes since dropping 83 points on Iowa in 1950.
“You never come into a game expecting to do that,” Sanzenbacher said. “I think as an offense, we don’t come into the game planning on 73 points, either, but sometimes you’re in the right place at the right time.”
Quarterback Terrelle Pryor accounted for six touchdowns, Sanzenbacher tied a school record with four touchdown catches and OSU racked up 645 total yards against the Eagles, who are winless since Nov. 28, 2008.
For the second straight game, the Buckeyes scored on each of their first six possessions.
Pryor opened the scoring barrage with a 53-yard touchdown run. On OSU’s third play, the junior quarterback scrambled to his left before reversing the field and trotting into the end zone.
“He is just such a great athlete,” offensive lineman Justin Boren said. “He played a heck of a game, and I think he’s going to get all-everything for everybody this week. … He is the best athlete on the team.”
Minutes later, Pryor connected with Sanzenbacher for the first of their four hook-ups. Pryor lofted a pass over an Eagles defender, right into his receiver’s hands, resulting in the 31-yard score.
Pryor found Sanzenbacher for two more first-half touchdowns, one from nine yards out, one from seven.
“We don’t really go into a game saying, well, ‘So and so is going to have this,'” Tressel said. “It’s all according to who’s open, and some of the things we were doing, Dane was the guy that popped open.”
Unlike in blowouts of recent weeks, the OSU defense was far from flawless. Eastern Michigan quarterback Alex Gillett threw for 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Entering the game, the OSU defense had allowed just two touchdowns.
“All of us are pretty disappointed in our play today,” linebacker Brian Rolle said. “You don’t see too many smiles on the faces of the defense. This is the first time I feel we didn’t get a win on the defense this season.”
The Eagles closed to within 38-14 following a 73-yard drive to end the first half scoring.
But Pryor and Sanzenbacher weren’t done.
For the second consecutive week, Tressel kept the first-team offense on the field through the third quarter, despite the lopsided score.
Pryor hit Sanzenbacher for an 8-yard touchdown strike to push the lead to 45-14 just two minutes into the second half. Sanzenbacher tied his career high with nine catches, finishing with 108 receiving yards.
“Sometimes I feel like (Sanzenbacher) is underappreciated, but he’s so good and our team knows it,” center Michael Brewster said. “It was so good to see him play well today. He deserves the recognition.”
After Gillett found Donald Scott for a 32-yard touchdown to cap an 80-yard drive, Tressel dug deep into his playbook.
At the Eagles’ 20-yard line, Pryor flipped the ball to former high school teammate Jordan Hall, who rolled out and threw it back to Pryor in the end zone for a touchdown.
OSU pulled off a similar trick play in a 38-0 destruction of New Mexico State last season, when Pryor gave the ball to receiver DeVier Posey, who threw deep to Sanzenbacher for a touchdown.
Despite sitting out the fourth quarter, Pryor finished 20-for-26 for 224 yards and six touchdowns — four passing, one rushing and one receiving. His six touchdowns tied the school record set by Tony Curcillo against Iowa in 1952. Pryor also had seven carries for 104 yards.
“Terrelle put the ball on the money for me,” Sanzenbacher said. “I think you saw throughout the game, we got in the hurry-up offense a little bit, and he could kind of command that and still keep his composure and make good throws.”
The Buckeyes tacked on a trio of fourth-quarter touchdowns. Backup quarterback Joe Bauserman found Hall for a 17-yard score. On OSU’s next possession, Jaamal Berry broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run.
Third-string quarterback Kenny Guiton scored on a 15-yard dash with three minutes remaining.
“Kenny lost his mind, dropped the ball on the end zone floor, didn’t hand it to the official,” Tressel said. “It was obviously an exciting moment.”
Tressel said he enjoyed seeing the backups contribute to the scoring.
“All those guys work as many days and as many hours as the guys that get six touchdowns,” Tressel said. “So it’s neat for them to have those opportunities.”
OSU begins Big Ten play at Illinois (2-1) at noon Saturday.