COLUMBUS – It lived up to the hype. Or the betting line, at least.
Favored by a school-record 57 points, Ohio State defeated FCS foe Florida A&M 76-0. It took one half for Kenny Guiton to set the school record for touchdown passes in a game, throwing six as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes built a 55-0 halftime lead.
"He's an efficient player right now," head coach Urban Meyer said. "He's an incredible manager, a coach on the field. His time came, he was prepared and his coach [Tom Herman] and him did a very good job.
"It's not by accident that this thing happened now. It's not because he had the buckeye in his pocket or his lucky tee shirt. It's because he worked hard with the position coach to get ready for his opportunity. And, boy, did he."
Guiton finished 24-of-34 passing for 215 yards and six touchdowns. Ten Ohio State receivers caught passes, with Evan Spencer and Jeff Heuerman leading the haul with four a piece. Spencer had 50 yards and two touchdowns, and Heuerman tallied 43 yards and a score.
“I’ve never heard of having too many weapons being a bad thing,” Spencer said. “It’s a good thing to have as much depth as we do and we know as players that pretty much everyone can go in and make an impact.”
Braxton Miller was held out of action for the second straight week. Meyer said Miller informed him that he wouldn't be able to go. But even with record performances in consecutive weeks for Guiton hanging overhead, Meyer said Miller will be the starter for Wisconsin.
"I'm a team player. I have been for five years," Guiton said. "It isn't going to change now."
On Saturday afternoon, even when Guiton was bad, he yielded good results.
Florida A&M started the game off with poor field position after an 11-yard kick return from the 1. The Buckeyes forced a three-and-out and started their drive on the short side of the 50 after a 15-yard punt. Guiton got Ohio State inside the red zone, but threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted in the zone.
Instead of taking the touchback, though, FAMU’s Patrick Aiken tried to bring it out. The results were disastrous, and foreshadowed things to come. Maxey fumbled and the Buckeyes recovered. Making matters worse was a coach’s challenge that went against the Rattlers. Jordan Hall scored from three yards out on the next play. Ohio State failed on the two-point play and led 6-0.
“You cannot afford to give a team as good as Ohio State any extra opportunities and at times we did that,” Florida A&M head coach Earl Holmes said. “The first drive of the game we thought we had the momentum behind us after the interception, but we lost it and never got it back.”
The second punt from Colby Blanton was much better, traveling 47 yards. But the end result was worse. Philly Brown weaved in and out of traffic, from one side of the field to the other. It went down as a 65-yard return, and then a personal foul on FAMU put the ball at its own 11. The Buckeyes scored on one play, a touchdown pass from Guiton to Heuerman.
The third Rattler punt, coming on the very next possession, was the worst of all – a punter’s nightmare: blocked. Doran Grant broke free for a clean look at the ball coming off Blanton’s leg. It took Ohio State two plays from the 25-yard line to punch it into the end zone. Spencer scored his first touchdown on an eight-yard catch, putting the Buckeyes in front 20-0 less than six minutes into the game.
A methodical 16-play, 75-yard drive came to a close in the final minute of the quarter with Carlos Hyde’s first touchdown of the season on a 1-yard shovel pass. Ohio State converted two fourth downs on the drive, including a 4th-and-8.
The Buckeyes’ third one-play scoring drive of the opening quarter came after FAMU quarterback Damien Flemming threw a pass off his back foot that was intercepted with ease by Bradley Roby. A 42-yard return put the ball on the 5, where Devin Smith caught a touchdown pass.
At the end of the first quarter, the Rattlers had more penalty yards (36) than total yards (27). FAMU had zero first downs compared to Ohio State’s 10. The Buckeyes had more fourth-down conversations than the Rattlers had first downs. But the good field position led to a deceptively small yardage total, as Ohio State accumulated just 150 total yards in the quarter.
It was a mismatch across the board, giving way to visions of the Buckeyes' 128-0 win over Oberlin in 1916. The 76-point margin of victory was Ohio State's largest since an 85-7 beatdown of Drake in 1935.
The barrage of points continued in the second quarter with the Buckeyes outscoring FAMU 21-0. Hall had an 18-yard touchdown run, while Chris Fields and Spencer had dual 15-yard scoring catches. Spencer’s gave Guiton his record sixth touchdown pass – before halftime.
"I never thought something like that could come about," Guiton said.
FAMU didn’t get its first extra set of downs until five minutes remained until halftime. The Rattlers were outgained on the day 603-80. It’s the second consecutive week the Buckeyes have eclipsed the 600-yard mark. Drew Basil nearly matched that mark with 546 kickoff yards. FAMU, meanwhile, soared past the 400-yard mark – in punting yards. It ended the day with 402 yards on 10 punts.
"We don't want a pity party," Holmes said. "I don't have a problem with [Ohio State throwing the ball]. I don't expect the coach to kneel. You play the game. You play for 60 minutes."
The second half presented an opportunity for dozens of backups to get playing time. It also came with bad news. On the first play of the second half, true freshman wide receiver James Clark suffered what appeared to be a broken ankle. He was down on the field for several minutes before being carted off with an aircast affixed to his lower leg.
Ezekiel Elliott was the star of the second half, rushing for a game-high 162 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. The true freshman averaged nearly 12 yards per carry. Hyde finished with 41 yards on five carries and a touchdown reception after serving a three-game suspension, while Cardale Jones saw his first playing time at quarterback. He didn't throw a pass, but rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Ohio State now gets into the meat of its schedule, facing Wisconsin and Northwestern in consecutive weeks in primetime. And the coaches and players are not shying away from the spotlight. They welcome the scrutiny.
“You come to Ohio State to complete for the Big Ten Championship,” Meyer said. “That starts tomorrow. Actually, it started in a meeting just a minute ago.”