McMullen will share QB duties for Buckeyes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2003

COLUMBUS - After being knocked woozy and then helped to the sidelines last week, Craig Krenzel is expected to be healthy for No. 7 Ohio State's Saturday showdown with No. 14 Michigan State.

Yet Krenzel, 21-2 as a starter, will still share the job with backup Scott McMullen.

The decision did not make Krenzel happy.

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''I think it's a touchy situation. I've never been a fan of a two-quarterback system,'' he said. ''If you are a coach and you have a guy and you think he deserves to be getting some playing time then that's the guy you go with.''

Krenzel was agitated when asked if he thought coach Jim Tressel has a lack of confidence in him now.

''You're asking me? I think you're asking the wrong guy. I'm not making the decision. I would like to think not,'' he said. ''I would like to think that for whatever reason if Scott gets playing time and I am healthy that the coach has his own reasons.''

Tressel said having McMullen play can only help.

''Craig Krenzel will be our starting quarterback,'' Tressel said Tuesday. ''But the thing I like about our situation is it's become even more obvious that Scott McMullen can contribute as well.''

Through good times and bad - and a lot of come-from-behind wins - Krenzel has been the Buckeyes' top quarterback the past two seasons. He sustained what the school's sports-information office termed a ''mild concussion'' when he was hit by Penn State linebacker Deryck Toles just before halftime of Saturday's 21-20 victory over the Nittany Lions.

McMullen, a fifth-year senior, started two games earlier this year when Krenzel was out with a hyperextended right (throwing) elbow. In those games, he completed 26 of 41 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.

After Krenzel returned, however, McMullen returned to his accustomed spot standing on the sideline within earshot of Tressel. He didn't play against Wisconsin or Iowa, but shook off the rust to complete all five of his passes in a rout of Indiana.

McMullen led the Buckeyes to a touchdown on their first possession of the third quarter against Penn State, then fired a pass that Michael Jenkins pulled away from cornerback Alan Zemaitis with 1:35 left for a 5-yard touchdown that tied the game. Mike Nugent added the extra-point that kept alive the hopes of a repeat Big Ten title for the Buckeyes (8-1, 4-1).

McMullen said the decision doesn't change things.

''Craig's the starter. Unless something changes I don't really view it as a quarterback controversy. And I don't think he does either,'' he said. ''We really can't worry about that stuff. I've just got to be ready.''

Krenzel - along with the entire Ohio State offense - has struggled most of the season. Almost all of Krenzel's numbers are down compared with last year's national championship run.

Krenzel is completing 56 percent of his passes to McMullen's 67 percent. Krenzel has more interceptions than touchdown passes (7-6), while McMullen has been picked off twice and has five touchdown passes.

''Scott McMullen, when he's had opportunities in particular this year, has made the most of them,'' Tressel said.

Tressel denied that the platoon was put into effect because of something Krenzel wasn't doing, so much as the good things that McMullen was doing.

''Plain and simple, Scott has earned this opportunity to play some,'' Tressel said. ''I would hope that's the way Craig would look at it is we've got one more good guy that's going to help us win.''

Krenzel is self-effacing, studious and serious. McMullen is more gregarious, quick to smile and crack a joke at a teammate's expense.

Offensive tackle Shane Olivea said there is also a contrast in the huddle.

''There's a little bit of difference, because Craig has maybe a little more game experience in crucial situations,'' Olivea said. ''This past week was Scott's first opportunity in a tight game. When we needed to make a play, he made a play. This was the first time that Scott was actually put in a situation where the game was on the line. On that final drive, we needed him to sort of grow up really quick.''

Tressel acknowledged that by having the two share playing time he ran the risk of hurting both quarterbacks' confidence.

''It's about the same danger you have with every decision you make,'' he said.

Tressel said he wasn't worried about how Krenzel would handle the decision. He said Krenzel took an active role when McMullen was playing Saturday - calling the pass play that won the game.

''All he wants to do is win,'' Tressel said. ''He'll do the best he can possibly do. And when Scott's in the ballgame, he'll be signaling the plays and talking to (the coaches) on the sideline just like at the end of the game.''