COLUMBUS, Ohio -- New Mexico State didn't offer much of what No. 17 Ohio State will see the next three weeks. It just filled up an open date on the schedule.
"I think we're ready for the last three games," Sanzenbacher said. "Today helped because it builds confidence. Everyone's excited about the fact that our goals are still intact."
The game was a respite for four-time defending Big Ten champion Ohio State (7-2), which closes the regular season with pivotal conference games at Penn State, against Iowa and at Michigan.
The Buckeyes had seven players who provided more offensive yards than New Mexico State did as a team in 45 plays. The defense throttled the overmatched Aggies, last among all Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense, by allowing just 62 yards -- and two first downs.
"Really, their offense never got on track," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said. "When you have a good defense, you're probably going to get good field position and you'll maybe get some bonus points, which we got."
Linebacker Brian Rolle took advantage of a fumbled snap, falling on the ball in the end zone for a score. By then the Buckeyes were already looking ahead to their showdown in Happy Valley next week.
"It will be fun going back to Pennsylvania," said Pryor, a native of Jeannette, Pa., who spurned Penn State and Michigan to come to Ohio State as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country two years ago. "We'll be ready to go. I always want to play in tough stadiums against tough teams. Those [Nittany Lions] fans will try to tear me up because they were one of my choices."
Rebuilding New Mexico State (3-6) received $850,000 to come to the Horseshoe. The defensive front for the 44-point underdogs was outweighed by almost 50 pounds by the Buckeyes' offensive line.
Just playing on a big stage seemed to be enough for the Aggies.
"Ohio State was my dream school coming out of high school," said linebacker Ross Conner, a native of NMSU's hometown in Las Cruces. "I made it to the 'Shoe."
By any measure, the game was a mismatch.
"As the game went on, we were just trying to get out of here healthy," NMSU coach DeWayne Walker said.
The Buckeyes felt the same way but they lost kicker Aaron Pettrey, third in the Big Ten in scoring, with an apparent knee injury to his kicking leg.
Tressel, frequently criticized for his ultraconservative play-calling, had his team onside kick after its first touchdown and later called a double-reverse wide receiver pass that resulted in DeVier Posey's 39-yard TD throw to Sanzenbacher.
Pryor completed 11 of 23 passes for 135 yards. The sophomore also ran for 83 yards on nine carries, scoring on an 8-yard run before taking off his pads and watching the second half from the sideline.
"I would take care of my superstar -- if I could find a couple of them," Walker said. "You've got to take care of your star player and get him ready for the big game."
Pryor ran for a TD and hit Sanzenbacher for a score after a surprisingly scoreless first quarter. The Buckeyes were just warming up.
Later, Dan Herron took a pitch and then lateraled back to the left-handed Posey, who tossed a 40-yard spiral to Sanzenbacher for a 21-0 lead.
Pettrey kicked the extra point and was covering the ensuing kickoff when he was blocked on his right knee and lay for several minutes on the field. He was helped off and stood on the sidelines in a warmup suit without crutches in the second half. Tressel would only say he was "banged pretty good."
It was one of the few negatives for Ohio State on a gray, chilly day.
"It's really important we had a good game this week so we could go into November ready to roll," defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said.
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