Buckeyes' offense explodes in Big Ten opener vs. Northwestern

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- This game cried out for a mercy rule in the Big Ten.

Todd Boeckman tossed three touchdown passes to Brian Robiskie in the first half to lead eighth-ranked Ohio State, scoring early and often, past Northwestern 58-7 on Saturday.

Just about everything went wrong for the Wildcats (2-2), who trailed 28-0 after the opening 9 1/2 minutes and 45-0 at the half. The Buckeyes (4-0) could've had their starters leave after two quarters for some tailgating outside the Horseshoe, which was hosting its 500th game.

"What do you do when you get such a decisive lead? You work on things," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said when asked about the rapidly mounting score. "But you still want the quarterback to throw to the open guy and if the open guy happens to be the deep guy you throw it to him. So, no, once we got to 45 did we start calculating how could we get to 90? No. But you want to do what you can do."

Robiskie, son of former NFL player Terry Robiskie, scored on all three of his receptions, which covered 42, 28 and 19 yards. Boeckman finished 11-for-14 for 179 yards and four scores, also throwing a 48-yard TD pass to Ray Small.

Chris Wells gained 100 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown and Maurice Wells, who had scored twice in 25 career games, matched that with touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards.

The offense scored on its first three possessions after getting off to slow starts in each of the first three games.

"Our goal for the week was to come out and get a touchdown on the first drive," fullback Dionte Johnson said. "We were able to do that -- and do it for the first couple of drives."

The Buckeyes, who came in ranked third nationally in total defense (197 yards a game) and fifth in points allowed (7.3 a game), surrendered just 120 yards and forced three turnovers. Northwestern, averaging 26 points and 451 yards a game, rushed 33 times for 0 yards.

"It was a good start to the Big Ten season," said linebacker James Laurinaitis, who had one of the Buckeyes' five sacks and one of their 13 tackles for minus yardage. "But there's always things you can get better at."

That's a frightening prospect for opponents.

"Obviously, not the way we wanted to start Big Ten football play," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We talked earlier in the week about wanting to come out and start fast. We changed up practice [to do that]. Obviously, it didn't have the impact we had hoped."

The Buckeyes' 45-0 lead at the half marked their most points in the opening two quarters since scoring 52 in a 70-0 win over Pittsburgh in 1996. The record is 56 points against Iowa in 1995.

The Buckeyes took the opening kickoff and on the third play Boeckman lobbed a deep pass that seemed to hang in the air forever before Robiskie pulled it in at the goal line.

"That really takes a lot out of the air out of the balloon," offensive tackle Kirk Barton said. "We really were stressing this week to get them in a hole early. If we won the toss, get them down 7-0. If they got the ball, our defense was going to stop them."

Northwestern lost two yards on three plays and then had an 18-yard punt, giving the Buckeyes the ball back at the Wildcats 36. Three more plays and Boeckman hit Robiskie in the opposite corner on a 28-yard scoring strike.

After Northwestern moved four yards in three plays followed by another shanked punt, Ohio State was back in business at the Northwestern 31. This time it took five plays before Maurice Wells vaulted the line on a 3-yard score.

The Wildcats mustered a first down on their next possession but on second-and-8 at their own 30, quarterback C.J. Bacher was hit by blitzing free safety Anderson Russell and the ball squirted free, with tackle Vernon Gholston scooping it up and rumbling 25 yards for the score and a 28-0 lead.

"This seemed to be as good a job as we've ever done because they [the Wildcats] are a tough group to handle," Tressel said.

Northwestern netted only 20 yards on 35 first-half plays.

On the third play of the second quarter, Boeckman froze the defense with play-action and hit Robiskie on another fluttering pass for a 19-yard touchdown. Chris Wells added a 36-yard score, going untouched up the middle, and Ryan Pretorius kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 45-0 lead.

The small block of Northwestern fans in the crowd of 105,178 got a chance to cheer for the first time on the opening kickoff of the second half when Stephen Simmons returned it 99 yards for a TD.

But the game was already out of reach.

"We were erratic and not in synch," Fitzgerald said. "You can't play Ohio State that way. It looked like we were thinking too much. We were not playing as one heartbeat on offense and Ohio State took advantage of it."