I can’t blame Kirk Herbstreit for being somewhat reserved in his praise of Troy Smith. Herbstreit, a former Ohio State QB (and lead college football analyst for ESPN), was fair and balanced in his appraisal. Smith was dominant last night. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 269 yards and 2 touchdowns. Most of his passes were either between the numbers or precise lead passes that allowed his receivers to continue running their routes.
Smith, in this respect, was actually better than his receivers. There were a couple of instances where receivers either stopped running or slowed down to catch the ball. In one case, Anthony Gonzalez (8-143-1; great game) fell down after making a first down. Had Gonzalez run through the ball and caught the pass with his arms outstretched, he would have walked into the endzone from about the 40 yard line. In another instance, a young frosh wideout dropped a third down he should have caught, but he also stopped running. It is unusual to see Ohio State receivers run routes this way. The school has a tradition of wide receiver play that is among the best in the nation (Michigan, Tennessee).
Smith played with poise and control. One problem he seems to have kicked was that of fumbling while looking to buy time in the pocket. Smith has great mobility within the pocket. He has the capacity to rush for 100 yards in a game and dominate with his legs, but he passed up several opportunities to run yesterday. Instead, he waited and bought time for his receivers to work their way open against a speedy Texas defense.
For my money, he’s the leading candidate for the Heisman trophy. I do not expect Ohio State to lose a game this year. I don’t know that Smith will actually win the trophy. I suspect there will be a number of games this year where Antonio Pittman and others will simply smash the opposing defense by running 40 or 50 times per game. It may be that their approach and desire to dominate both sides of the ball opens up the door for players like Brady Quinn and Adrian Peterson and Steve Slaton. Conversely, I’m sure that if the Buckeyes roll the table, the toughest games will require Troy Smith to play as he has against teams like Texas, Michigan and Notre Dame.