COLUMBUS – The unblemished record left Urban Meyer in a jovial mood. The best thing about being 1-0 is a chance to be 2-0, the head coach says. An early 23-0 lead against Buffalo imprinted visions of the fast-strike offense mentioned all summer.
Then Ohio State became sloppy, resting on the three-touchdown margin.
The quickest avenue to agitating Meyer is not giving 100 percent on every play. There’s a reason four to six seconds of relentless effort is repeated ad nauseam. Players admitted to being lackadaisical and uninspired the final three quarters, when the Bulls outscored the Buckeyes 20-17.
It caused Meyer to issue a decree of no complacency. The message was delivered during a demanding week of practice that saw vomit on the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
On Saturday afternoon, there were 104,984 fans whose stomachs went inside out on Ohio State’s seventh play from scrimmage. Braxton Miller crumpled to the field, helmet flying through the air after a vicious hit. It wasn’t a head injury, though, but instead a sprained MCL.
It was the nightmare scenario spoken of as the lone roadblock to an unbeaten season. But Kenny Guiton, as he did multiple times last year, proved he wasn’t just a backup relegated to mop-up duty.
“The old right hander steps in again and does a nice job,” Meyer said. “He’s too slow, not a strong enough arm, but all he does is lead, manage and distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game. He also incredible leadership skills where players respond.”
The third-ranked Buckeyes scored one play after he entered the game and in four of his first five series. That steak of good fortune dated back to 2012, adding up to 13 touchdowns in 21 series with Guiton at quarterback.
Ohio State had little problem dispatching San Diego State, 42-7, behind Guiton’s 235 total yards and three touchdowns. Miller never returned to the game, though Meyer said he could have and will likely be ready for next Saturday’s trip to Cal. Miller jogged back from the locker room and wore a knee brace.
“We had a long discussion on the sideline,” Meyer said. “I think he could have [gone back in]. But things that make him dangerous are his wheels, and I don't think it would have been smart. So we all decided it was best not to.”
The Heisman hopeful’s presence wasn’t needed against the Aztecs, a nine-win team in 2012 that has gotten off to a disastrous start this season. San Diego State didn’t get their first first down until 18 minutes into the game and were limited to just three total yards in the first quarter.
Quarterback Adam Dingwell had struggled in his previous two games, completing less than 40 percent of his passes while throwing seven interceptions and zero touchdowns. After three series and no completions in five attempts against a bolstered Ohio State secondary, head coach Rocky Long had seen enough. Quinn Kaehler entered and played the rest of the game.
The offensive line’s inability to block the Buckeyes’ D-line was a bigger issue. Ohio State had three sacks and held San Diego State to 64 rushing yards on 27 attempts. Michael Bennett was a big part of the run lanes being clogged. He tallied 3 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, including 0.5 sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“He’s a difference maker right now,” Meyer said. “I can’t think of a guy playing better and leading better. He’s a perfect example of hard work because this time last year he was nonexistent. When he went in he was a liability. Now he goes in and he’s one of the leaders on our defense.”
On Guiton’s first play, he pitched the ball to freshman speedster Dontre Wilson on an option and watched him jet to the end zone from seven yards out. The next possession concluded on a 27-yard touchdown pass to Philly Brown. Jordan Hall scored on a four-yard run late in the first quarter. When the first 15 minutes were over, the Buckeyes had another three-touchdown first quarter.
Where the game differed was the final 45 minutes. The foot stayed firmly on the gas pedal. Guiton scored on a 44-yard run, snaking from one side of the field to the other. It brought the loudest ovation of the day and served as another signature Guiton moment.
“He’s as good of a backup quarterback as there is in the country,” Long said. “I don’t know how they decide which one starts to be honest with you. I think both of them are very good players. When one goes down, I don’t think they lose anything.”
Rod Smith capped the first half scoring with a one-yard plunge. Ohio State’s 35-0 lead was a welcome relief for the coaches and players after a lull last week.
The Buckeyes made it 42-0 in the third quarter on a beautifully thrown 24-yard lob pass by Guiton to a well-covered Philly Brown, who came down with the ball with two defenders surrounding him. The 11-play, 66-yard drive was Ohio State’s longest of the season.
Ohio State 42, SDSU 7
San Diego State scored on a two-yard run late in the third quarter. Even in a near flawless performance, players can always find something to pick at.
“It’s frustrating we didn’t get the shutout today,” said linebacker Ryan Shazier. “Every defense wants to hold the other team to zero points, but we did what we had to do.”
It was a return to normalcy for the defense with Bradley Roby, C.J. Barnett and Shazier all on the field together. The trio finished with 16 tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup. Barnett had a team-high seven tackles, while Doran Grant and Armani Reeves, who started in place of Roby for the second straight week, each snared an interception.
“Having guys like C.J. and Bradley back is like a security blanket,” Shazier added. “We know exactly what they can do and that they’re going to do it.”
Hall built on his 159-yard performance last week with 75 yards and a rushing touchdown, and Wilson finished with 51 yards and a touchdown. Brown led the receiving corps with 73 yards and two touchdowns. Devin Smith had a game-high seven catches for 46 yards.
It was the 17th game of Guiton’s career, and by far the most snaps he’s every played. He set career highs in nearly every statistical category. Guiton finished 19-of-28 throwing with 152 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He ran nine times for 83 yards and a score.
“I just do my best to let my voice be heard and impact this team in a positive way,” Guiton said. “I take pride in the fact the offense almost doesn’t skip a beat when I come into the game. I just do my best to be a leader in that way.
“I let the team know everything is going to be OK.”