Work in Sports
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Defensive backs put Ohio State back on track to where it wants to be.
Cornerback David Mitchell and safety Michael Doss combined for three of 16th-ranked Ohio State's school-record four defensive touchdowns in a 43-10 pounding of overmatched Fresno State.
"I'm proud of the way we played defensively," said Ohio State coach John Cooper, who was unhappy with his team's overall play. "I gave the game ball to the defense."
The Buckeyes (1-0) are trying to rebound from a shocking 6-6 season in 1999, their worst in 12 years.
They came up with four defensive touchdowns, quadrupling their 1999 output. Linebacker Matt Wilhelm also got into the act with an interception return for a score that made it 37-3 in the fourth quarter.
Doss picked up a fumble and fell into the end zone for a TD to open the scoring in the first quarter. Ohio State had turned over the ball on downs after failing on four plays from the 1-yard line.
"The worst thing by far was short-yardage offense," said Cooper, whose team forced six turnovers. "We couldn't score when we were in close. When we got the ball around where we did, we need to score."
Just 15 seconds after Doss' touchdown, Mitchell returned a fumble 36 yards for a score. A backup to first-round NFL draft pick Ahmed Plummer last season, Mitchell added a 51-yard interception return for a 27-0 lead in the third quarter.
"That's the best ballgame David Mitchell has played for us," Cooper said of his senior. "He was the starting cornerback and took advantage of some badly thrown passes."
Ohio State sputtered offensively, scoring just 10 points until a bomb on the final play of the game. Steve Bellisari threw a 23-yard TD to Chad Cacchio and Dan Stultz added a 34-yard field goal.
Bellisari, in his second season as a starter, completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards and rushed 10 times for 52 yards. He played most of the first three quarters.
"I thought Steve dod some good things," Cooper said. "We had some organizational problems and took some unnecessary timeouts because of formations, but those are things we can work on in practice."
Derek Combs carried 14 times for 88 yards and Jonathan Wells added 65 yards on 14 rushes for Ohio State, which gained 253 of its 389 yards on the ground.
Fresno State had 372 yards of total offense. David Carr went 26-of-44 for 238 yards with four interceptions and was replaced by Jeff Grady, who threw for the team's lone TD.
The Bulldogs, a Western Athletic Conference team that went 8-5 last season, scored their only touchdown with five seconds left as Grady found Marque Davis from 11 yards.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Ohio State today," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "They did a good job today. They took advantage of the turnovers and had some good plays. That's the way the game of football is played."
The Buckeyes scored on the last play of the game treating an Ohio Stadium-record 96,583 fans to a 44-yard bomb from third-string quarterback Scott McMullen to Ricky Bryant.
"Today was great," Cooper said. "The stadium, the crowd, everything around us was great about today except the way we played."