No. 1 Ohio State 24, No. 2 Texas 7

By Mike Medina  |   Saturday, September 09, 2006  |  Comments( 1 )

College Football
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By JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer

AUSTIN, Texas(AP) Before the Longhorn band played a somber "Eyes of Texas," Ohio State offensive lineman Kirk Barton ran to the sliver of the stadium filled with Buckeyes fans and flashed the Hook 'em Horns sign with both hands aimed down.

The message was clear: Ohio State showed the defending national champions who's No. 1.

In the first regular-season matchup of No. 1 vs. No. 2 in a decade, quarterback Troy Smith riddled Texas for 269 yards passing and two touchdowns, leading the Buckeyes to a 24-7 win Saturday night.

The victory keeps the Buckeyes (2-0) in perfect position for a run to a national title. Keep winning, and they should stay right where they are.

After the game, Buckeyes players charged toward their section of 4,000 or so fans tucked in a sea of burnt orange, alternately signing Horns Down and No. 1.

"We haven't claimed anything yet," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "We still have to go back to the Horseshoe and keep winning games."

Still, the Buckeyes were having a heck of a party on the way into their locker room.

"We came in here and beat the No. 2 team in the country and the defending national champion in front of their home crowd," Buckeye defensive end Vernon Gholston said. "We showed everybody what we can do."

The Buckeyes' defense, which replaced nine starters this season, looked championship caliber, holding a Texas team that had scored at least 40 points in 12 consecutive games to a single touchdown.

"Anytime you hold a team like Texas to 7 points in their own stadium is incredible," Tressel said.

As for No. 2 Texas (1-1), which saw its 21-game winning streak snapped, the Longhorns will need some help if they hope to return to the national title game.

"We've been winning so much, I forgot how it feels to lose," said Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed, who caught the winning touchdown pass against the Buckeyes last season.

Colt McCoy, the Longhorns' new starting QB, was no Vince Young in the rematch of last season's 25-22 Texas win in Columbus. He threw for 154 yards with an interception and a touchdown.

The Longhorns used their win in Columbus last season as the springboard to their first undisputed national title since 1969. But that win and that season came with Young at quarterback.

McCoy, the redshirt freshman from West Texas, showed he can take a hit, but he couldn't pull off the type of comeback that Young made legendary.

"I thought we were one play away," McCoy said. "We felt like we were on the edge. There ain't no excuses."

There was one big reason, however, for Ohio State's success - Smith.

A year ago, Smith split time at quarterback during the game, his first of the year after a suspension.

He was everything Texas feared this time: a leader and a playmaker.

He threw first-half touchdown passes of 14 yards to Anthony Gonzalez and 29 yards to best friend and high school teammate Ted Ginn Jr.

"It's a sign of how Troy has matured," Gonzalez said. "It's what we've come to expect of him and what he's come to expect of himself."

The second was a perfect strike just before halftime that sucked the life out of the home crowd.

"I try not to think about last year because I didn't want to come in with a chip on my shoulder or a revenge factor," Smith said.

Gonzalez had eight catches for 142 yards, both career highs, against a defense concentrating on Ginn, who finished with five catches for 97 yards.

"We didn't make the plays we needed to make," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "We had our chances there, even in the fourth quarter. Everyone tried, everyone played hard. Give Ohio State credit."

Saturday night's game was an unusual early-season blockbuster with two of college football's heavyweights both on the field and in tradition.

The last time 1-2 met in the regular season, No. 2 Florida State beat No. 1 Florida, but the Gators won the rematch in the Sugar Bowl to win the national championship. Ohio State was the first No. 1 to come to Austin since SMU in 1950.

The Longhorns unveiled a nifty option with McCoy and Jamaal Charles and were picking up big chunks of yardage on the ground. Texas drove to the Ohio State 7 before receiver Billy Pittman fumbled at the 2.

Donald Washington returned the ball to midfield and might have gone all the way if McCoy hadn't tracked him down on the sideline to save the TD.

Smith made quick work from there, hitting Gonzalez three times on the short drive. The last was a 14-yard touchdown after the receiver escaped cornerback Brandon Foster, one of the players Texas used to replace the suspended starter Tarell Brown.

"That was the biggest momentum shifter in the game for our defense," Ohio State defensive end David Patterson said.

McCoy led the Longhorns to their only TD with a 13-play drive, twice taking vicious hits from Buckeye pass rushers, including a shot to the head from defensive end Jay Richardson that drew a flag. The quarterback popped up and waved his arms to pump up the crowd, then fired a 7-yard TD pass to Pittman.

The Buckeyes immediately answered.

Smith hit Gonzalez with a long gain, then floated a perfect 29-yard TD pass to Ginn, who slipped behind Aaron Ross and didn't have to break stride as the ball dropped in over his shoulder in the end zone to make it 14-7 at halftime.

Ginn, who had only two catches against the Longhorns last season, swung the momentum back to Ohio State with the TD.

McCoy made a rookie mistake when he was intercepted by James Laurinaitis, one of the Buckeyes' new starting linebackers, replacing A.J. Hawk and Co., on Texas' first possession of the third.

The turnover led to Aaron Pettrey's 31-yard field goal to make it 17-7.

It stayed that way until late in the fourth when Smith drove the Buckeyes 72 yards in 10 plays for Antonio Pittman's 2-yard touchdown run that sealed No. 1 for Ohio State.
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