"That was pathetic. It was a pathetic performance," Buckeyes wide receiver Brian Hartline said after the Buckeyes rallied in the fourth quarter for 26-14 win over plucky Ohio, a 33 1/2-point underdog. "OU should've won the game. I don't know how we came out with it."
Maybe Ohio State (2-0) had next week's opponent - No. 1 Southern California - on its mind. Or maybe it was the loss of injured running back Beanie Wells.
"It kind of looked like (what it) might look like between your opener and your big 'national stage game,"' Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said. "Which is disappointing."
Lightly regarded even in its own the Mid-American Conference, Ohio put a huge scare into the Buckeyes before they righted things by scoring the last 20 points. With 14 minutes left in the game, the Bobcats led 14-12.
With Wells watching from the sideline with a foot injury, the Buckeyes struggled to move the ball until Brandon Saine's short plunge on the third play of the final quarter finally put them on top. Ray Small added some breathing room with a late 69-yard punt return.
This was not the tuneup the Buckeyes needed before meeting the top-ranked Trojans.
"I guess we move on and get ready for USC, but overall, that's not good football," Hartline said. "That was just one of those ones where you want to crawl into a hole and get ready for next week. That's exactly how I feel."
Ohio (0-2) had five turnovers to help the Buckeyes escape.
A week after a capacity crowd sat in stunned silence when Wells was injured, the fans and the Buckeyes were again quieted - this time by Ohio's inspired play.
"In the first half when we were stopping the run everybody (for Ohio State) got quiet," cornerback Mark Parson said. "They weren't talking as much trash."
Ohio State had not lost to an in-state foe since a 7-6 setback to Oberlin in 1921 - a string of 36 victories, most of them lopsided. Yet Ohio, sporting "O-S-Who?" T-shirts during its Friday walkthrough, led 7-6 at the half, 14-6 midway through the third quarter and 14-12 heading into the fourth.
"We made plays," coach Frank Solich said. "We just didn't make enough plays."
And Ohio did it without its starting quarterback. Theo Scott was brought to his knees by a hit late in the first quarter and was replaced by Boo Jackson. Scott had an injured shoulder and did not return.