Jan. 9, 2007
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith swore he didn't believe in any Heisman jinx. He might feel differently now.
The Heisman Trophy winner had his worst night when the Buckeyes needed his best - in the BCS national championship. Top-ranked Ohio State lost to No. 2 Florida 41-14 and Smith tossed an interception, fumbled and threw for just 35 yards.
"As the quarterback I am the one guy out there who can pretty much control everything," Smith said. "Florida did some great things defensively, but nothing we couldn't have handled. I take all the blame for that."
The strong-armed senior from Cleveland came in completing 67 percent of his passes. He had thrown a school-record 30 touchdown passes with only five interceptions - and three of those were off receivers' hands.
Yet he never found his rhythm and never got a chance while being harassed all night by Florida defensive ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey. Moss sacked Smith twice while Harvey had three sacks.
"They looked fast on film and they proved to be as fast as they looked," center Doug Datish said.
Coach Jim Tressel said it wasn't fair to put the burden for the loss on Smith's shoulders.
"It was a combined effort, starting with the coaches," he said.
Smith failed to throw a touchdown pass for only the second time this season. And his completion percentage while going 4-of-14 passing was the worst of his 28 games as a starter at Ohio State.
Of the last six Heisman Trophy winners to play for a national championship that same season, only one - Southern California's Matt Leinart in 2004 - won the title game.
Most had good numbers. Some did not bear any of the blame for the loss. But they still lost.
Whether it's the increased attention of defenses, the added pressure or the grind of photo ops and interviews after capturing the award - or maybe all of those reasons - it's almost as if the winner is carrying that heavy bronze statue around on his back during the title game.
Until now, Smith had his biggest games when the spotlight was shining brightest against the best opponents. But Monday he appeared out of synch all night.
The Buckeyes - who had scored at least 40 points in four of their last five games - ran three plays and punted the ball away on their first possession.
The second time the offense had the ball, Smith looped a pass into the left flat that was between receivers, with Florida cornerback Reggie Lewis making a diving interception at his own 29.
The Gators ate up the 71 yards in 10 plays, with tailback DeShawn Wynn scoring on a 2-yard run on the first play of the second quarter for a 21-7 lead.
Late in the first half, Smith nearly lost a fumbled snap on a critical third-and-1 play. That led to a Gator field goal and on the next Ohio State possession, Smith fumbled when Moss sacked him. Harvey recovered at the Buckeye 5.
A few plays later it was 34-14, Florida, and Ohio State never threatened again.
Not all of the recent Heisman winners have had bad games in losing in the title game.
USC's Reggie Bush played well a year ago but USC lost to Texas. Oklahoma quarterback Jason White was ineffective against LSU in the 2003 title game. Nebraska's Eric Crouch had an OK day as Nebraska was routed by Miami in the 2001 national championship game. Florida State's Chris Weinke didn't throw a TD pass as Florida State lost the 2000 title to Oklahoma.
Florida coach Urban Meyer said in the weeks leading up to the game against Ohio State that Smith would likely draw extra attention from his defense. He was right.
As disappointed as he was, Smith stayed composed as he put the lopsided loss in perspective.
"If this is the worst thing that happens in life to us," he said, "we're pretty cool."