Written by: Big 33 Staff on July 26, 2000.
Pennsylvania rode the strong right arm of Jeff Smoker to a rousing 31-14 triumph over Ohio in the 2000 PNC Big 33 Football Classic before 19,000 at Hersheypark Stadium.
Smoker came into the game rated one of the top five quarterbacks in the country. The Manheim Central product did not disappoint.
Pennsylvania roared out of a 2-game losing streak in this series with the best players from Ohio.
Smoker, calm under just a little pressure, made the big plays for the Keystone kids. He threw just seven passes, but he completed five and three of those were for touchdowns.
Pennsylvania also got a fine performance from Hershey quarterback Jared Hostetler, who also completed five of seven attempts.
Smoker was the star of this game, but Tony Johnson was equally deserving. He caught three passes, but they went for 161 yards.
Pennsylvania drove 62 yards for its initial score that came on a 24-yard pass from Smoker to Don Patrick. Dave Kimball booted the PAT and the first quarter ended with PA on top by 7-0. Kimball followed with two field goals. Then came the play that took the life out of the visitors.
Ohio was trailing by 13-0 but had Pennsylvania pushed deep into it’s own territory. Smoker, who had been sacked on the previous play, dropped deep into the pocket. This time his blocking held and he had time to fire a strike to Johnson, who had sped into the clear down the middle of the field. That play gave the Keystone club a nifty 21-0 cushion at the half.
Ohio finally got on the board with a 4-yard run by Ray Huston and an 11-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to James Fisher.
Pennsylvania closed with a short TD pass from Smoker to Mike Vernillo and a third field goal by Kimball.
The showing was especially pleasing to Mike Pettine and his Pennsylvania coaching staff. They put in an offense that featured the big play. Plus a defense that limited Ohio to 65 yard rushing and 138 passing The first half was all Pennsylvania as Ohio got just one first down in the first 24 minutes.
“Our players executed much better than we could have expected,” Pettine said. “This was Pennsylvania pride at stake.”
“Not being able to run the football really hurt us,” Ohio coach Steve Gilbert said. “We couldn’t protect our passers and we didn’t defend against the pass.”