Gamble Sees Valuable Time On Offense, Defense

By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Chris Gamble caught three passes as a wide receiver, had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown called back by a penalty -- and in his spare time he intercepted a pass and was on defense for the biggest series of the game.

Last week's game at Cincinnati was a busy one for Gamble, No. 6 Ohio State's starting flanker who got lots of action as a kick returner and a backup defensive back.

"When I'm in the game, I don't think I ever get tired," the slim sophomore from Sunrise, Fla., said. "I drink water when I'm on the sideline. I'm just ready to play more."

Problem is, he's seldom on the sideline.

"Chris Gamble can play football, whether it's special teams or defensive back or wide receiver, he likes to play," head coach Jim Tressel said. "I think our defense is interested in carving out a role for Chris. We're certainly not opposed to that for any of our guys."

In the Buckeyes' 23-19 victory over the Bearcats, Gamble was everywhere but standing still in front of the Ohio State bench.

In addition to three receptions for 26 yards, he also returned four punts for 29 yards and three kickoffs for 61 yards. His 96-yard return was brought back when Brandon Joe was flagged for holding.

Gamble didn't confront Joe. He just made up his mind to do it again, perhaps against Indiana this week in the Big Ten opener.

"When I looked back I saw the flag and I thought it was on them, but it was on us," the 6-2, 180-pounder said. "There's going to be some calls like that in an away game. Next week I'll try to return one."

Gamble has always been seen as a threat on offense. His 12-yard catch came at a crucial time for the Buckeyes in their 26-20 victory at Michigan last season.

This season he's become more or less a free agent, changing sides in practice to try to help a secondary that has been hampered by injuries and a lack of depth.

"The defense has been bugging us for a long time, you know, maybe they should borrow Chris," Tressel said.

With cornerback Richard McNutt limited by an injury and Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli slicing up the Ohio State defense, Gamble was inserted during a critical Bearcat thrust in the fourth quarter.

On first down from the Ohio State 18, Guidugli tossed a high spiral into the left corner of the end zone. The pass pattern was cut off by the UC wide receiver, however, and as Guidugli's pass floated down there was only one player in the vicinity -- Gamble.

"I was surprised. When I got the interception I was just standing there, with my mouth open," Gamble said with a laugh.

Gamble was also on the field as Guidugli passed into the end zone four times from the Ohio State 15 in the final minute. The Buckeyes weathered that storm to remain unbeaten.

Seeing action on defense has conjured up memories of the days when Gamble was a two-way performer at Dillard High School. He caught 65 passes for 1,012 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior and returned two kicks and one punt for touchdowns.

Even though he was one of the team's top weapons on offense, he was also needed elsewhere at times.

"They put me (on defense) in the semifinal playoff game," he said. "The other team was about to throw a bomb and I got the interception."

Ohio State has almost 100 people available to play, but it says something about the respect the coaching staff has for Gamble that he was put into the game under such dire circumstances.

"We would love to have our best guys on the field," Tressel said. "We thought Chris is a guy who can go in and make plays. How that will evolve, I'm not sure, but we're certainly not going to shy away from it."

This week, Gamble has been working out on offense, defense and special teams, which doesn't bother him at all.

"I like being under pressure," Gamble said. "I just want to help the team out and make the big play."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)