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September 9, 2006
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AUSTIN, Texas ? A.J. was relentless again.
Seemingly each time the Ohio State defense needed a boost, he provided one in a big way. Over and over he left the Texas offense frustrated. He played a key role in the Buckeyes' 24-7 victory over the defending national champion Longhorns.
A.J. Trapasso was a beast, averaging 50.8 yards on six punts and keeping the Longhorns in poor field position throughout Saturday night's celebrated matchup of the nation's top two college football teams.
What? You weren't thinking that reference was to A.J. Hawk, the All-American linebacker who once spearheaded Ohio State's suffocating defense. That was so last year.
Hawk is gone to the NFL, remember? No one north of Kentucky could ever forget.
For months the Buckeyes were constantly reminded that Hawk and eight other starters ? including NFL first-round draft choices Bobby Carpenter and Donte Whitner ? were no longer in Columbus. This year's defense faced more questions than Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings.
The Buckeyes' No. 1 ranking, which is based largely on an explosive offense featuring Heisman Trophy candidates Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr., seemed in jeopardy a week ago after Northern Illinois' talented but tiny Garrett Wolfe rushed for 171 yards and accumulated almost 300 yards in total offense against the Buckeyes.
No Husky ? not from Washington nor Connecticut, and surely not from Northern Illinois ? should accumulate that much yardage against the nation's top-ranked team, even if the defense is more suspected than respected.
But on Saturday the Buckeyes defense answered the questions and silenced the doubters.
Or did they?
"Anytime you hold a team to seven points in their stadium ? it's incredible," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel gushed in a noisy post-game press conference underneath the Royal-Memorial Stadium bleachers. "Our defense was relentless."
His defense was also facing a quarterback who was clearly overmatched in only the second game of his collegiate career.
Texas freshman Colt McCoy wasn't bad statistically, completing 19 of 32 passes for 154 yards and even managed a touchdown throw.
But most of his passes were short and safe. He rarely threw downfield, and once when he did his pass went right to Buckeyes linebacker James Laurinaitis.
That third quarter interception led to a field goal, which staked Ohio State to a 17-7 lead that prematurely settled the issue.
McCoy's refusal ? or inability ? to throw downfield allowed the Buckeyes to concentrate on stopping the run, which they did not do.
The Longhorns seemed to derail themselves at times by getting away from their successful running attack.
Texas' offensive line routinely pushed the Buckeyes back, and running backs Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles combined for 164 yards on 27 carries ? that's six yards per attempt. Why Texas did not run more is a question that even Ken Jennings couldn't answer.
The Ohio State defense's goal is to limit its opponent to 13 or fewer points. It was a goal that was reached Saturday because Texas lost a fumble inside the Buckeyes' 5-yard line, missed a field goal, had terrible field position (only one Longhorn drive started beyond their 23-yard line) and had no real deep passing threat.
Will the Ohio State defense be able to withstand tests against teams with talented quarterback/running back duos down the road like Iowa's Drew Tate and Albert Young or Michigan State's Drew Stanton and Javon Ringer or Michigan's Chad Henne and Mike Hart?
Even the Buckeyes defenders were uncertain whether they proved a point by allowing only seven of them.
"We still have got things we need to work on," defensive end Vernon Gholston said. "We knew if we did our job we could have some success with the type of offense they have."
Defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock, one of two returning starters from a year ago, agreed the Buckeyes still have much work to do.
"We still let up way to many rushing yards and passing yards," he said. "They drove a lot and did a lot. We did stop them in the red zone and hold them to seven points.
"I think we improved over last week. We just have to work hard to get better."
There are more elusive running backs and some experienced quarterbacks ahead on the Ohio State schedule.
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