Roles reversed in Ohio State-Texas game

Young, Longhorns thrived in '05 meeting

Vols QB Ainge looks good in rout of Cal

National Notebook

September 04, 2006|By Mike Huguenin

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Last season, there were numerous questions about Texas quarterback Vince Young going into the second game of the season - a showdown at Ohio State.

While everyone knew Young was a great athlete who could hurt you with his scrambling ability, there were questions about how well he could pass against a legitimate defense. To be fair, there were questions about Texas as a team, too, most notably whether it could win in a hostile environment despite the opponent not having an established quarterback.

Young and the Longhorns answered all the questions. Young threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns in a 25-22 victory that served as a springboard to the national title. Texas out-gained Ohio State 382-255.

The Buckeyes and Longhorns meet again this Saturday, and the game again looks as if it will serve as a springboard for national title hopes. This time, it's Texas with questions at quarterback and Ohio State with the established quarterback going into the hostile environment.

No one is questioning Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith. While not as mobile or athletic as Young, Smith is effective both as a drop-back passer and on rollouts. He also has a big-time deep threat in wide receiver Ted Ginn, a big line in front of him and some talented backs behind him.

Like Young last season, Smith will be going against a tough, aggressive, speedy defense. It's hard to find a weak spot on the Longhorns' defense. Look for Ohio State coaches to move Smith around in the pocket in an effort to keep Texas linebackers and safeties occupied.

Although Ohio State has nine new defensive starters, it's hard to believe that Texas redshirt freshman quarterback Colt McCoy is going to have success in the air. If Texas is going to win, running backs Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young and the Longhorns' defense are going to have to carry the day.

"It will be a huge game for us," Texas coach Mack Brown told reporters Saturday night. "We told the guys that normally we wouldn't talk about the next one in the locker room and enjoy the win a little longer, but we told them that this is a special game."

Ohio State fans are expected in droves; the school's alumni association has rented out Texas' basketball arena and plans a three-hour pep rally on game day, complete with words of encouragement from former Buckeyes star Archie Griffin.

Those encouraging words won't mean anything, though, unless Smith plays like Young did last season.

Impressive Vols

Guess those "Phil Fulmer is going to lose his job after the season" stories can stop.

Tennessee hammered a talented California team, 35-18. The Volunteers -who led 35-0 before the Golden Bears made it somewhat respectable - had been 0-6 against top 10 teams at home since 2000.

Suddenly, that Florida-Tennessee game on Sept. 16 in Knoxville got even more intriguing.

If one game is a valid indicator, new offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe has helped junior quarterback Erik Ainge regain his confidence. Ainge was brutal last season, but he carved up Cal, going 11-for-17 for 291 yards and four touchdowns.

After the game, Fulmer said Cutcliffe "has energized our offensive football team."

Ainge certainly has bought in. "If he told me to play without a helmet or a mouthpiece with one cleat, I would do it," Ainge said. "Anything he tells me, I'm going to do."

Little guys play big

There were 29 games in which a Division I-A team hosted a I-AA team this weekend. Three I-AA teams were victorious.

The most unbelievable result of the first weekend was I-AA Montana State beating Colorado, 19-10. This is not a vintage Buffs team by any means, though. New coach Dan Hawkins made a name for himself with some freewheeling offenses at Boise State, but it's obvious that former coach Gary Barnett didn't do a good job recruiting skill-position talent. Colorado managed just 216 total yards.

There also was an inauspicious debut for new New Mexico offensive coordinator Bob Toledo, the former UCLA coach. The Lobos were shut down in a 17-6 loss to I-AA Portland State.

Finally, there was Duke being shut out 13-0 by I-AA Richmond. Basketball can't get here soon enough.

Mike Huguenin writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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