Krenzel runs for two first-half touchdowns
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Craig Krenzel dropped back, surveyed the defense and ran 23 yards into the end zone for a score while Maurice Clarett watched from the sideline.
With Krenzel directing the offense and the same stout defense that won the national title, Ohio State didn't miss its star running back a bit.
Krenzel accounted for 230 yards and ran for two first-half scores as the second-ranked Buckeyes opened the season with a punishing 28-9 victory over No. 17 Washington on Saturday night.
"I don't think we ever relied on just one person," Krenzel said. "This year, we have so many weapons offensively that we're only going to be as good as our ability to spread the ball around."
Clarett showed little emotion as he stood on the sideline in a red sweat suit serving the first of his multigame suspension for violating NCAA rules.
But even without their best player and five defensive starters who are in the NFL, the Buckeyes looked just as tough as they did in winning their first national title in 34 years in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami in January.
"It was great to play football again," coach Jim Tressel said. "That's what we like to do. That's one of the reasons these guys are at Ohio State. It was great to play in front of 105,000 fans. The atmosphere was extraordinary."
Clarett's replacements, Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross, each ran for a score in the Buckeyes' 15th straight win, the second-longest streak in school history. Hall finished with 58 yards on 15 carries and Ross had 43 on 12.
"More than anything else we sent a message to ourselves. We feel confident with the players we have and the coaches we have that we can beat anybody in the country," Krenzel said.
The defensive line led by Simon Fraser, Will Smith and Darrion Scott gave Cody Pickett no time to throw and held the Huskies to seven yards rushing.
Washington had nearly as tumultuous an offseason as Ohio State, firing coach Rick Neuheisel for taking part in an NCAA tournament pool. Offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson, who was promoted to the head coaching job July 29, had no answers in his Huskies coaching debut.
"They are as advertised," Gilbertson said. "They are big and powerful and quick and they have lots of athletes."
Washington, which averaged 420.7 yards per game last year, was held to 147 yards through three quarters and didn't score a touchdown until Pickett's 2-yard run with 3:27 remaining.
"We were flying around," Buckeyes defensive lineman Tim Anderson said. "We were making good open-field tackles. I don't think we missed very many tackles. That was the key."
With Clarett sidelined, the Buckeyes came out throwing the ball early for a change.
Krenzel, who had more than 22 pass attempts just once last season, threw 18 times in the first half as Ohio State took a 21-0 lead in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 105,078 in the sixth night game ever at Ohio Stadium.
With running back Rich Alexis bottled up by Ohio State's line, Washington's high-powered duo of Pickett and receiver Reggie Williams generated little offense.
"They were a pretty solid defensively," Williams said. "They have four guys up front that put a lot of pressure on you and it causes you to do things you shouldn't do."
Buckeyes cornerback Chris Gamble shadowed Williams every time he lined up wide and Williams got most of his 10 catches on short passes in the slot. Pickett finished 26-for-49 for 255 yards.
On Ohio State's second drive, Krenzel hit Drew Carter on a 37-yard pass to set up Hall's 2-yard score.
Krenzel completed three straight passes for 37 yards on the next drive before weaving his way through Washington's defense for a 23-yard score that made it 14-0.
After punter B.J. Sander pinned Washington on its own 1 late in the second quarter, the Buckeyes defense forced a punt. Gamble returned Garth Erickson's 34-yard kick 10 yards to the 25 with 2:07 left.
Krenzel completed a key third-down pass to Santonio Holmes before scampering into the end zone on third-and-10 from the 11 with 11 seconds left in the half.
"The most important thing a quarterback does is make decisions," Tressel said. "He goes back and sees if the routes are open. If not, he steps up and goes."
Krenzel finished 15-for-27 for 203 yards and ran for 27 more to improve to 16-1 as a starter.
Washington started the second half with its first sustained drive of the game, using short passes and five-receiver sets to go 47 yards to set up Evan Knudson's 46-yard field goal.
But Ohio State put the game away with a punishing Clarettlike 15-yard run by Ross, who bulled through Jimmy Newell's arm tackle on his way into the end zone to make it 28-3.
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