Buckeyes get an idea of what it will be like without Clarett

Updated: August 31, 2003, 2:44 PM ET

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Defending national champion Ohio State got a look at what life will be like in the coming weeks.

With star tailback Maurice Clarett just another of the more than 105,000 spectators at Ohio Stadium, the No. 2 Buckeyes beat No. 17 Washington 28-9 on Saturday night.

Lacking zip in their running attack, the Buckeyes relied on their stout defense and the wits and guile of quarterback Craig Krenzel to win their 15th game in a row.

As openers go, the game was instructive.

"We were kind of anxious today to find out where we are," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "Washington was a good team. We're going to play some teams that are better."

Clarett is suspended from the team for misleading investigators looking into alleged off-the-field NCAA violations, Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger said before the game. The suspension could last for quite a while -- Geiger has described the open-ended action as involving "a healthy number of games."

Ohio State has yet to respond to several pages of NCAA allegations against Clarett. He will almost certainly miss the Buckeyes' next two games against San Diego State and No. 16 North Carolina State.

With each day that passes, it becomes increasingly unlikely Clarett will be available for subsequent games against Bowling Green, Northwestern or even Wisconsin on Oct. 11.

On Saturday, with Maurice Hall rushing for 58 yards on 15 carries and Lydell Ross adding 43 on 12, the Buckeyes totaled 142 yards on the ground. Clarett averaged 113 yards last year despite battling injuries most of the season. And Ohio State picked up 191 yards rushing a game during last year's 14-0 run to the title.

"We've got to get a lot better at running the football than we did today," Tressel said.

Wearing a scarlet Ohio State warmup suit, Clarett watched much of the game while standing on the team bench, waving a white towel or encouraging the crowd to cheer. He came on the field during warmups wearing his No. 13 game jersey.

"Maurice was excited about Lydell and Mo Hall," Ohio State cornerback-wide receiver Chris Gamble said. "He looked like he was having fun."

Ross and Hall had less fun, it appeared. The running attack averaged 3.3 yards per carry against a Washington team that had difficulty slowing down any runners a year ago.

On the other hand, Ohio State's defense was up to anything and everything that Washington's Heisman-hyped quarterback, Cody Pickett, threw at it.

Pickett completed 26-of-49 passes for 255 yards but spent most of the night running away from the Buckeyes' brawny, intimidating defensive line.

"There are a lot of things we could have done better," Pickett said. "You name it, we could have done it better."

Pickett wasn't helped by the fact the Huskies couldn't advance the ball on the ground, managing just 7 net yards on 24 attempts. That stat was buttressed by three sacks for 34 yards in losses.

"The biggest thing was that we were flying around and making good open-field tackles," defensive lineman Tim Anderson said. "I don't think we missed many tackles."

Krenzel picked up right where he left off in last January's 31-24 double-overtime victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. He ran for just one touchdown in his first 23 Ohio State games, but rushed for two against the Hurricanes and was selected the game's top offensive player.

He rushed for two more touchdowns against Washington, and completed 15-of-27 passes for 203 yards.

Krenzel discounted the loss of Clarett and said the Buckeyes still had plenty of firepower.

"I don't know that we ever relied on one person," Krenzel said. "We have so many weapons offensively. We're only going to be as good as our ability to spread the ball around."

Washington coach Keith Gilbertson could only shake his head at how his team was pushed around.

"They are as advertised. They are big and powerful and quick," he said. "That is a very good football team."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index