COLUMBUS, Ohio -- It was as if a stadium full of more than 105,000 people was suddenly empty.
An eerie silence descended on Ohio Stadium when Ohio State's Heisman Trophy prospect Chris "Beanie" Wells went down with a foot injury in the third quarter of the second-ranked Buckeyes' 43-0 victory over Youngstown State on Saturday.
All of a sudden, what seemed like a nice tuneup for the mammoth showdown in two weeks against No. 3 Southern California seemed secondary.
"First and foremost, you really can't replace Beanie," wide receiver Brian Robiskie said.
The star tailback was hurt in the third quarter after taking a handoff from Todd Boeckman on first and goal at the Youngstown State 2. His feet slipped underneath him as he planted to make a cut, with the ball rolling free as he hit the turf.
Wells was helped off the field, and later returned to the bench in the fourth quarter wearing a boot on his right foot.
"I may have rolled it or planted wrong a play or two before," Wells said through Ohio State spokeswoman Shelly Poe. "Something just didn't feel right. Then I think I felt a pop. But the X-rays are OK, so we'll see how it feels in a day or two."
Before the injury, Wells ran for 111 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown run. Boeckman tossed two touchdown passes and freshman quarterback phenom Terrelle Pryor looked solid in his college debut.
Wells is on most Heisman short lists, behind 2007 winner Tim Tebow of Florida. Wells rushed for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago as a sophomore despite several nagging injuries and said earlier this week that this is the healthiest he has been going into a season in years.
If Wells is out, it would be a a huge blow for the Buckeyes, who host Ohio next week and play at No. 3 Southern California the following week.
Tressel declined to speculate if Wells would be available for either of those games.
Boeckman completed 14-of-19 passes for 187 yards and touchdown passes of 31 yards to Brian Robiskie and 25 yards to DeVier Posey.
He seemed shaken by Wells injury, just like all those scarlet-and-gray clad fans holding their breath.
"When you see one of the best backs in the country laying there in pain, it's definitely something that you don't want to see," he said. "Beanie's a tough guy. I know we're all pulling for him. He's gone to the doctors and he'll do whatever he can to help this team out."
Pryor, listed third on the depth chart but entering the game before backup Joe Bauserman, received a loud cheer from the crowd before he took his first snap. He later ran 18 yards for a touchdown.
"I dreamed about what today would be," said the freshman from Jeannette, Pa., who was considered the nation's top quarterback prospect. "I was a little nervous, but you should be. My teammates helped me."
Ryan Pretorius, the 29-year-old senior from South Africa, kicked four field goals and Aaron Pettrey later kicked a 54-yard field goal, the fourth longest at 86-year-old Ohio Stadium.
The outcome was never in doubt between one of the nation's perennial powers and a Championship Subdivision team collecting $650,000 to be a punching bag.
The Buckeyes, with 18 starters back from last year's team that went 11-2 and lost in the national title game, scored on all six first-half possessions. In between Wells' 43-yard scoring sprint through a gaping hole on fourth-and-1 to open the scoring, and Boeckman's TD pass to Robiskie to make it 26-0 at the half, Pretorius kicked field goals of 28, 31, 27 and 51 yards.
"We got humbled pretty good today," coach Jon Heacock said.
The Penguins, who averaged 27.4 points during a 7-4 season in 2007, rushed 21 times for minus-11 yards. Youngstown State has never scored a touchdown in four games against teams from Bowl Championship Series conferences.
"It's embarrassing to lose 43-0 in front of friends and family," YSU cornerback Jarvis Richards said. "There's nothing else to say."
Just like all those suddenly quiet Buckeyes fans.
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|South Dakota State||5-3||8-4|