In Columbus, a noon game against Kent State isn’t quite the spectacle as one under the lights at old and mighty Ohio Stadium.
But it was on this field, just a week ago, that Virginia Tech bludgeoned Ohio State and exposed a slew of defects after starting this season with championship aspirations. With the ache of last weekend’s letdown still on their minds, the Buckeyes took out frustrations against feeble Kent State.
“You still have a sick feeling in your stomach about last week,” head coach Urban Meyer said, “but we're moving forward and I see a lot of young guys that are going to have great futures at Ohio State.”
In game where a drastic gap in talent afforded Ohio State the luxury of emptying its youth-laden bench, the Buckeyes blasted the Golden Flashes, 66-0, Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
“Obviously a little talent advantage, but we had to have a game like this,” Meyer said. “Normally that's a first game, especially when you have a young quarterback and a young offensive line, but I'm glad we played like we did.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who was sacked seven times last week, threw for 312 yards and six touchdowns to tie a single-game school record set by backup quarterback Kenny Guiton last season.
It was that kind of day against the comprehensively overmatched Golden Flashes, one that saw Ohio State dominate in all aspects of the game against an inferior opponent. It jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first and never looked back.
“The thing I keep going back to — not to keep changing where we're headed — but I've seen places where all of a sudden that stadium is half full. There's disinterest involved. That stadium was packed, and our players fed off of that … because a noon game against a MAC school, there's a tendency to have zero enthusiasm and energy in the stadium, and that wasn't the case. They responded well to the week and certainly to the day.”
The contest was so lopsided the Buckeyes trotted out 23 freshmen (true and redshirt) to take part in a mugging that saw them amass 628 yards of offense and stifle Kent State to 126. Against a team that was simply bigger, faster and stronger, the Golden Flashes were rendered hapless.
It’s why Saturday’s more about looking at whether Ohio State’s started to fix glaring defects that doomed it last weekend, and not so much about Kent State. The Buckeyes were expected to win and do it in high-flying fashion. It's Kent State. So what?
“This is a game where if you make mistakes, you can be extremely critical and you look at it in a different way,” junior linebacker Joshua Perry said.
The offensive line looked less porous, running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Curtis Samuel got their feet underneath them and the wide receivers got open and made plays for Barrett on the outside. The defense posted its first shutout since thrashing Purdue last season and smothered the Golden Flashes at every turn.
Whether or not it’s a sign of things to come this season after last weekend’s outing? Who knows.
“I would by no means say things are solved, each one of us has things we have to improve on — myself included,” redshirt freshman guard Billy Price said. “It’s the beginning of a string of things we can continue to improve on and take into the next game.”
If not, it'll be remembered as a mirage — one made possible because of the inevitable mismatches when one of college football's blue bloods plays a team far and away realistically able to compete with it.