- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio Rarely has a Gamble paid such handsome dividends.
Ohio State's defensive braintrust gave wideout Chris Gamble his first start at cornerback yesterday, and the sophomore responded by lifting the offensively punchless Buckeyes to a 13-7 victory over No.18 Penn State.
"It was like watching Charles Woodson in scarlet and gray," said Ohio State defensive end Kenny Peterson after Gamble made the game's three pivotal plays, all on the defensive side of the football. "I'm not sure he came off the field. Gamble was everywhere, man."
The 6-foot-2 native of Sunrise, Fla., turned in the afternoon's momentum-shifting stunner early in the third quarter. With Penn State leading 7-3 in a game that was offensively toxic from start to finish, Gamble jumped in front of a pass from Penn State quarterback Zack Mills, and wound his way 40 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that put the fourth-ranked Buckeyes (9-0) ahead to stay.
"I was in a cover three, so I had the right third of the field, and the two receivers in that zone ran a post and a wheel route," said Gamble. "I was watching Mills' eyes and reading him. He locked onto that wheel route, and I broke on the ball just as he was throwing."
The interception was Gamble's team-leading third of the season, despite the fact that yesterday marked his first start in the secondary. He saw his first defensive action in red zone situations against Cincinnati in Ohio State's fourth game and played the same role in victories over San Jose State and Wisconsin.
Against both Cincinnati and Wisconsin, Gamble made game-saving interceptions in the end zone. And when starting cornerback Richard McNutt went down for the season in the previous game against the Badgers, Ohio State's coaches decided to give Gamble a shot at the starting job.
"The defensive coaches were begging me to let him start over there, because he's a superb athlete," coach Jim Tressel said. "I asked him on Thursday if he could handle being our starting flanker and corner, and he said he was ready for the challenge. Not only do you have to be extremely talented and extremely fit to play both ways, you have to be extremely smart to have all those assignments down."
Gamble, who is also the team's second-leading receiver with 21 catches for 336 yards, said he played every defensive snap yesterday and was on the field for "way more than half" of Ohio State's offensive plays.
And his stellar first start on the Butkus side of the football wasn't limited to just one interception return. Gamble absolutely silenced Penn State senior receiver Bryant Johnson in man coverage. Johnson, one of the nation's most dangerous playmakers, left Ohio Stadium with just one reception for six yards.
"I simply wasn't going to let that guy have a big game," said Gamble of the top target for the Nittany Lions (5-3). "My goal was to have as many catches as he had, and I did that."
Even on offense, Gamble's primary contributions were of the Butkus variety, as he made two touchdown-saving tackles after Ohio State turnovers. After a first-quarter fumble by Craig Krenzel at the Penn State goal line, Penn State cornerback Anwar Phillips looked certain to record a 100-yard fumble return with a convoy of four blockers and only one man between him and the Ohio State end zone. Unfortunately for the Nittany Lions, that one man was Gamble, who knifed through the phalanx of blockers and dragged down Phillips at the Buckeyes' 41-yard line. Penn State failed to score on the possession.
Early in the fourth quarter with Ohio State leading 13-7, Gamble once again played a cavalry of one after Krenzel was intercepted by Lions' safety Shawn Mayer at the Penn State 40. Gamble, again the only man between the Nittany Lions and a go-ahead score, executed a textbook open-field form tackle on Mayer at midfield. And once again, Penn State failed to score on the possession.
"I guess I'm pretty happy, considering it was my first start on defense," said Gamble. "It was great getting the win and coming off the field with the crowd chanting my name."
The record crowd of 105,103 at Ohio Stadium certainly didn't have much else to chant, considering the state of the Buckeyes' offense. Star tailback Maurice Clarett carried only four times (for 39 yards) before leaving the game with a left shoulder injury midway through Ohio State's first possession. Clarett, who had the gall in a recent article to mention that he was pondering jumping to the NFL after just one season in Columbus, will likely stop agent-hunting after losing a second game to injury. NFL general managers don't usually cotton to injury-prone power runners.
Without the precocious freshman pounding the pigskin, the Buckeyes basically were without an offensive identity. Clarett's backup tandem of Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall managed a paltry 60 rushing yards on 29 attempts.
But Penn State was even more pathetic. Mills, a native of Ijamsville, chucked a season-high three interceptions, and the Nittany Lions finished with a woeful 179 yards of total offense.
"Our offense was ridiculous," said senior tailback Larry Johnson.
And so was Gamble, whose double-duty routine is likely to shame the efforts of both Michigan's Woodson (1997 Heisman Trophy winner) and Georgia's Champ Bailey, the two most notable two-way players in recent memory. Both Woodson and Bailey were defensive standouts but offensive part-timers. Gamble is a two-way starter; the first at Ohio State in 50 years. If only Tressel and Co. had thrown him into the defensive mix earlier, the nation might not be so desperate for a Heisman favorite.


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