Historically, the Ohio State offense takes a few games to find first gear. For at least half of the Buckeyes' game against Northern Illinois, OSU displayed an explosive offense that was the primary reason for its preseason No. 1 ranking.
Senior quarterback Troy Smith passed for 297 yards and three touchdowns with 123 of those yards and two touchdowns going to junior wideout Ted Ginn Jr. and the Buckeyes used 21 first-quarter points to bury the Huskies by a final score of 35-12.
The Buckeyes (1-0) came out firing, and after forcing an NIU (0-1) punt on the game's opening possession, Smith drove OSU 66 yards in eight plays – capped by a five-yard touchdown pass to Ginn – to give the Buckeyes the early lead.
After forcing a three-and-out on the Huskies' final possession, Smith found Ginn left in single coverage along the far sideline and connected for a 58-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the drive.
Just like that, the Buckeyes led 14-0 less than nine minutes into the game and Smith and Ginn had combined for the two touchdowns.
"We did come out and strike with some big plays," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "The nature of their defense was such that they were going to make sure that they crowded the box and wrapped up and played some man coverage outside. When the guys covering in man aren't quite as fast as the men they're covering, you've got to execute and make those plays."
The Huskies had a chance to get back in the game, however, until the defense came up with a big play in the red zone. After Smith connected with Anthony Gonzalez for a 15-yard touchdown on OSU's third drive, the Huskies marched the ball down to the OSU 11.
But on second and nine, OSU linebacker Larry Grant stepped in front of a Phil Horvath pass and returned it for 49 yards, setting up OSU's next scoring drive.
NIU senior tailback Garrett Wolfe kept the Buckeyes guessing for much of the game, helping the Huskies extend several drives that did not result in points. Wolfe finished with 171 yards rushing on 26 carries and 114 receiving yards and the lone NIU on five catches.
"He is an amazing tailback," senior captain David Patterson said. "I think it will really help our defense to have gone against such a great player."
Ahead 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, freshman running back Chris Wells took his first official carry as a Buckeye and plunged in for an eight-yard touchdown run to open the second quarter.
Wells had a second opportunity to score late in the third quarter. After being inserted into the game on a fourth-and-two situation from the NIU 35-yard line, Wells busted off a nine-yard run to gain the first down.
He then carried the ball on the next five plays, getting the ball to the goal line before fumbling after running into fullback Stan White Jr., who was stacked up at the line.
Wells finished the day with 10 carries for 50 yards and one touchdown.
"It felt good," sophomore offensive lineman Alex Boone said. "Chris just struck right through them. After (the fumble), you just kind of shake it off and turn the page and go back out there."
After naming Aaron Pettrey as the starting kicker, Tressel sent out Ryan Pretorius to attempt the first field goal of the season. He missed from 51 yards out. Then in the final minute of the first half, Pettrey missed a 44-yarder wide right.
With the win, the Buckeyes can officially shift their focus towards their showdown on the road with Texas.
"We're very aware that the guys rushing the passer next week are going to maybe be a little bit more skillful than the ones that were this week," Tressel said.