Childress steps into spotlight with big Scarlet/Gray performance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 26, 2003

COLUMBUS -- Brandon ''Bam'' Childress spent his first three years stuck near the bottom of the Ohio State depth chart, a lost player on a team that seldom lost.

Then, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in April, Childress stepped out of the shadows.

The redshirt junior-to-be returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and also caught two scoring passes as the Scarlet roared back to beat the Gray 37-29 Saturday in the annual intrasquad game.

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''I had an A+ day but it became an A- because of the one fumble,'' said Childress, who had four catches for 109 yards but had one bobble that led to a Gray score.

''He's slippery as heck,'' said Scarlet quarterback Justin Zwick, who threw four touchdown passes. ''You give him a chance and he can do big things with the ball.''

Most of Ohio State's top offensive weapons took the day off or saw only limited action. Starting quarterback hit on 3-of-7 passes for 30 yards with an interception before leaving after the first quarter. Tailback Maurice Clarett's only activity was playing catch with teammates in the end zone before the game. Michael Jenkins, the Buckeyes' top receiver a year ago, had just one catch for 21 yards.

The game was played before 57,200 rabid fans who paid $5 a ticket on a cloudless, windy day.

''That looked like more than 57,000 out there,'' head coach Jim Tressel said. ''We couldn't have had a better day for a spring game. The sun was shining and our guys enjoy it when a lot of people are around.''

Zwick, battling Troy Smith for the No. 3 quarterback job, completed 17-of-29 passes for 217 yards while leading the Scarlet back from a 20-7 deficit early in the second half.

Ohio State did not return a kick for a touchdown throughout last season's 14-0 march to the national championship but returned two for scores in an 11-second span of the second quarter.

Santonio Holmes, a redshirt freshman from Florida, shed a tackler and then cut to the right sideline where he picked up a wave of blockers to go untouched the rest of the way. The 79-yard return put the Gray on top 10-0.

Holmes also caught four passes for 65 yards, including a 23-yarder for a late touchdown.

''I think I had a great day,'' he said. ''I made some mistakes, but in front of a large crowd it's pretty tough. The coaches kept telling me to make big plays. That's what I tried to do.''

After adding the extra-point, Josh Huston kicked off to Childress at the 6 and he sped down the right sideline going the other way. The only obstacle he had to sidestep was an arm tackle by Steven Moore near his own 35. The return by Childress, a seldom used wide receiver/defensive back, helped cut the lead to 13-7 lead at the half.

''Right now I'm just trying to get better at every aspect so I can get as much playing time as possible,'' Childress said. ''I was trying to make a good impression.''

Childress fumbled the second-half kickoff and the Gray capitalized on the next play when Scott McMullen found Chris Gamble for a 19-yard score.

Holmes lost fumbles the next two times he touched the ball. Three plays after he fumbled away a punt, Zwick threw a high pass to the goal line where Roy Hall leaped and took the ball away from Holmes for the touchdown to cut the lead to 20-14.

On the Gray's next possession, Holmes fumbled a first-down pass completion from Matt Trombitas and the Scarlet was back in business at the Gray 25.

Zwick then lofted a 30-yard scoring pass to tight end Ryan Hamby to give the Scarlet its first lead.

''I'm just trying to do my best to become a better quarterback everyday at practice,'' said Zwick, a touted recruit last fall out of Massillon. ''I wanted to help my team win the game. I know we're playing against each other, but we think of it as a game situation. We want to win.''

The Gray countered with another Huston field goal before Childress turned otherwise innocuous passes from Zwick into 27- and 54-yard scores.

Smith completed half of his 36 attempts for 215 yards and a score.

Another acclaimed recruit a year ago, linebacker Mike D'Andrea, had an interception, a sack and two other tackles for minus yardage for the Scarlet.

''I'd say I'm maybe 65 to 70 percent comfortable,'' D'Andrea said. ''I've still got a lot of work to do. I won't be fully satisfied until I get to play a full game and don't make a mistake.''