COLUMBUS, Ohio Beanie Wells didn't play. The Ohio Bobcats sure did.
Lightly regarded even in the Mid-American Conference, Ohio put a scare into No. 3 Ohio State before the Buckeyes righted things in the fourth quarter and went on to win 26-14 Saturday.
With star tailback Chris Wells sidelined by a foot injury, the Buckeyes (2-0) struggled to move the ball until Brandon Saine's short plunge on the third play of the final quarter finally put them on top and Ray Small added some breathing room with a late 69-yard punt return.
This was not the tuneup the Buckeyes needed before traveling next week to meet No. 1 Southern California.
Ohio (0-2) had five costly turnovers two in the fourth quarter to help its bigger, badder neighbors escape.
Wells, mentioned as a Heisman Trophy hopeful after gaining 1,600 yards a year ago, injured his right foot a week ago in a 43-0 rout of Youngstown State. He watched the game from the sidelines while three players got his carries.
A week after a capacity crowd sat in stunned silence when Wells was injured, they were again quieted, this time by Ohio's inspired play. Ohio State had not lost to an in-state foe since a 7-6 setback to Oberlin in 1921 a string of 36 victories, most of them lopsided.
Ohio, which wore T-shirts with "O-S-Who?" on them during its Friday walkthrough, led 7-6 at the half, 14-6 midway through the third quarter and 14-12 heading into the fourth.
Maybe the Buckeyes were looking ahead to next week's showdown. Maybe they were missing Wells. Or maybe the Bobcats had their number, at least for three quarters.
And Ohio did it without its starting quarterback. Theo Scott was brought to his knees by a hit late in the first quarter and was replaced by Boo Jackson. Scott had an injured shoulder and did not return.
Jackson did just enough to bedevil the Buckeyes, completing 9 of 25 passes for 86 yards with three interceptions and rushing for 55 yards on seven carries.
Had the Bobcats pulled it off, the only comparable upset of a Big Ten team might have been Appalachian State's astonishing victory over Michigan in 2007 at The Big House.
With Ohio State trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, Ohio drove to the Ohio State 34 and punted, with Matt Schulte's kick downed at the 6. Three plays later, center Jim Cordle's snap was 3 feet over quarterback Todd Boeckman's head and flew into the end zone. Boeckman lost the handle, the ball slipping to his feet where it was recovered by defensive end Curtis Myers. Barrett May's extra-point kick made it 14-6.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Buckeyes put together their first extended drive of the day, capped by Dan Herron jutting off tackle for a 2-yard touchdown. But the Buckeyes capped that with a mistake. After Tressel passed on a tying 2-point conversion try, 29-year-old kicker Ryan Pretorius missed the kick wide left.
The Bobcats then began to falter. Ohio State was forced to punt, but returner Mark Parson was hit by the Buckeyes' Shaun Lane and fumbled, with Lane falling on the ball as it tumbled out of bounds at the 25. The play was confirmed on video review.
Six plays later, the Buckeyes were back in the end zone and back in the lead. Saine carried on the final three plays covering 14 yards, including the 2-yard TD run, and Pretorius converted for a 19-14 lead.
Small then sailed 69 yards with under 6 minutes left to essentially end the threat.
The Buckeyes sputtered on offense all day, netting just 272 yards. Boeckman was 16-for-26 passing for 110 yards, but was sacked three times. Herron had 50 yards on 12 carries, Maurice Wells 48 on nine and Saine 15 on five in place of Beanie Wells.
The Bobcats, who lost 21-20 at Wyoming in the opener, led 7-3 after Donte Harden slalomed 15 yards through the defense for a score midway through the second quarter. Ohio State was largely anemic on offense, mustering just two Pretorius field goals until late in the third quarter.