When Braxton Miller crumpled to the ground on Saturday, there weren’t many people that remained calm in Ohio Stadium. There was someone, though, that was unwavering.
Kenny Guiton threw a few practice throws before entering the game. Over the next four quarters, he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. And, oh by the way, he also led the team in rushing with 83 yards, including a 44-yard scoring run.
It was the Guiton people have come to expect. He preserved an undefeated season a year ago. Saturday could have been one win in a national championship season that Guiton was responsible for.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous,” he said. “I prepared all week like a starter. I tried to make sure the whole offense and the whole team sees that I’m comfortable.”
“The old right hander steps in again and does a nice job,” head coach Urban 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.”
Earlier in the week, San Diego State head coach Rocky Long said Braxton Miller was the Heisman front-runner. After the Buckeyes’ 42-7 win Saturday, Long was trying to figure out how Meyer decides which quarterback to play.
“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.”
It’s no accident that Guiton is a captain on this year’s team. He’s vocal and has a presence that oozes poise. That combined with his level of play means the offense runs similarly whether it’s him or Miller that’s in the game.
“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.”
Following the game, Meyer and Guiton both said they believe Miller will be ready to go at Cal. Meyer even said he could have played against San Diego State, if needed.
“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 Aztecs were a nine-win team a year ago and the program is coming off three straight bowl seasons. Many thought Saturday’s game would be one of Ohio State’s toughest of the season. If that was the case, it’s a good sign for the Buckeyes, because they completely dominated.
“Our defense played outstanding,” Meyer said. “I never expected what happened today.”
A big factor in the defense’s play was Michael Bennett. He clogged running lanes and camped out in the backfield to put both San Diego State quarterbacks under duress.
“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.”
Bradley Roby was back, playing both special teams and defense. He made an immediate impact, as the Aztecs did everything they could to throw away from him. It’s been a long offseason, but Roby didn’t argue with Meyer’s philosophy on suspending him.
“I understood,” Roby said. “I made the program look bad and I had to pay the consequences for that. Of course I hated not playing, but it was something I understood had to be done.
“You have to be smart with where you’re at and who you’re around. Perception is reality. Just because it isn’t what really happened, people say that and that’s what people believe, and that’s what people are going to judge you by. You have to be smart throughout, on and off the field.”
Miller wasn’t the only Buckeye injured on Saturday. Defensive end Adolphus Washington left after the first quarter.
“Adolphus has a groin injury,” Meyer said. “It will be day-to-day.”
Dontre Wilson has been one of the most hyped newcomers in the country this season. He showed flashes of his speed last week and finally scored his first career touchdown against San Diego State.
“When I saw the end zone I had to get there,” Wilson said. “I think about [fumbling last week] all the time. I wish I had that play back, but you have to move on and keep playing. I’m way faster than a lot of people. Now, I have to go out and prove it.”
It’s been a long time coming for linebacker Curtis Grant. But the first two games have given the appearance that he’s finally seizing the opportunity to be an impact defensive player for Ohio State. Still, he isn’t going to rest on it any time soon.
“I’m not comfortable at all,” Grant said. “Playing in this defense you can’t be comfortable. I want to get better. It comes along with playing alongside these guys. I have to be better.”
Ohio State 42, SDSU 7
Some fans may have been skeptical of Guiton, even with the Purdue result. The team never skips a beat in the huddle, though.
“He is one of the leaders of our team,” wide receiver Philly Brown said. “Everyone on the team knows what we are getting when he comes into the game, a lot of confidence and a lot of swagger. When Kenny is out there, nobody is worried at all.”
San Diego State wide receiver Colin Lockett hinted that Ohio State’s performance may have been more impressive than many previously thought. The Buckeyes used a backup quarterback and, according to Lockett, didn’t look all that impressive.
“They’re a good football team, but they didn’t do anything spectacular. They lace up their cleats the same way we do, they just came ready to play and we didn’t. The scoreboard shows.”