Work in Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Whether inspired by the rare night air or just out to prove he should be the starting quarterback, Steve Bellisari picked apart a depleted UCLA defense.
Bellisari led 14th-ranked Ohio State to 21 second-half points and Michael Wiley, despite playing amid a small amount of controversy, ran for two scores in a convincing 42-20 victory over the 13th-ranked Bruins.
"I am a happy coach tonight," Ohio State's John Cooper said.
"This is a good win for us. UCLA is an extremely good team, offensively and defensively."
A 6-3 sophomore, Bellisari came on for starter Austin Moherman and inspired a lackluster Ohio State offense. His eight-yard touchdown pass to Ken-Yon Rambo with 11:41 left in the fourth quarter extended the Buckeyes' lead to 35-17.
Ohio State (1-1) rebounded from a 23-12 loss to Miami in the Kickoff Classic, a game in which neither Moherman (pronounced MOCK-er-man) nor Bellisari made a case to be Joe Germaine's successor. Bellisari completed 11-of-16 passes tonight for 159 yards and two scores, both to Rambo. Moherman was 10-of-19 for 107 yards.
"Steve Bellisari had a great game," Cooper said. "No question, he was the best quarterback tonight. We will have to look at the tape, but he will more than likely be our starting quarterback next week (against Ohio)."
Wiley ran for 119 yards on 22 carries despite being the subject of a Columbus Post Dispatch story earlier in the day. His image appears on a new check issued by Huntington National Bank, a possible violation of NCAA rules, the newspaper reported.
The Bruins (1-1) played shorthanded in just the fourth night game in Ohio Stadium history. They were without 11 players, including five defensive starters, who were suspended for the season's first two games for wrongfully obtaining and misusing handicapped parking placards. Defensive back Marques Anderson was suspended for the entire season.
Desperate for athletes who could run with the Ohio State wideouts, UCLA coach Bob Toledo used receiver Freddie Mitchell and running back DeShaun Foster in the defensive backfield.
"Ohio State is a good football team, but there is no question that not having our full team had an effect," Toledo said. "We got tired and worn down at the end of the game."
Ohio State improved to 4-0 in night games at the "Old Horseshoe," also defeating Pittsburgh in 1985, Washington in 1993 and Wyoming two years ago in the Eddie Robinson Classic.
The Buckeyes took a 4-3-1 lead in the all-time series, although UCLA won the only Rose Bowl meeting between the schools, 23-10, in 1976.
Ohio State has won 21 consecutive home openers.
UCLA scored the game's first points in weird fashion. A pass by Drew Bennett bounced off three players before fullback Matt Stanley, a Columbus native, scooped it up and raced into the end zone to complete the 67-yard play.
Bennett completed 9-of-15 passes for 138 yards and was picked off once. Cory Paus also threw an interception while going 8-of-20 for 97 yards. Despite a bunch of star receivers, Stanley led the Bruins with three catches for 78 yards.
Nate Fikse's 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter made it 10-0 before Ohio State exploded for 21 points. Wiley scored on runs of three and five yards around Bellisari's two-yard TD toss to Rambo.
Rambo caught eight passes for 61 yards while Reggie Germany ammassed 115 yards on seven receptions.
"I am happy with our wide receivers. They both had good ballgames," said Cooper. "We talked about UCLA all week, but I think the best receivers tonight might have been our guys. They were putting seven or eight people in the box, which meant single coverage on Ken-Yon Rambo and Reggie Germany. The secret is to give the quarterback time, and our offensive line did."
Foster, who carried 17 times for 51 yards, scored on a seven-yard run 4:16 ito the third quarter, but Jamar Martin's three-yard TD scamper with three seconds left in the period gave the Buckeyes a 28-17 advantage.
"Our youth showed up today," Toledo said. "We made a lot of mistakes offensively and defensively. We didn't execute a lot of things."