Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer promised plenty of passing but couldn’t guarantee receptions ahead of his Spring Game debut with the Buckeyes.
Once the game started there was plenty both, as well as some unconventional field goal tries in the game, which the Scarlet team took, 20-14, before an Ohio Stadium crowd of 81,112.
Scarlet rising sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and Gray team rising redshirt junior quarterback Kenny Guiton combined for 40-of-55 passing in the game with one interception apiece. The teams combined for 532 yards of total offense.
“It was not a very pretty (scrimmage),” Meyer said, “but we had to get some things accomplished. I want to thank our players. They came out and competed.”
Meyer said during a Friday press conference that while his quarterbacks would have their share of pass attempts, he was unsure how many catches his receivers would haul in. Encouraging signs from the quarterbacks and the receivers were present early.
Miller led the Scarlet team on a 2:17, 65-yard scoring drive to put his squad up, 7-0. The drive included 51 passing yards from Miller on 5-of-5 passing. Rising junior running back Carlos Hyde capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
The big blow on the drive was a 25-yard lob down the right side of the field that rising redshirt senior Chris Fields caught, then came Hyde’s run up the gut for the score.
“We did some things offensively that – that is not who we are,” Meyer said of the pass-heavy game plans for both sides. “We’re going to be a very balanced offense. (The Spring Game) was very imbalanced, however, that was done for a reason. We’re taking one of the worst passing teams in America a year ago.”
After holding the Gray team to a missed field goal, Scarlet was unable to add to its lead as time expired in the first quarter. The Gray offense, led by Guiton, totaled 46 yards while Miller led Scarlet to 108 yards of offense, 86 of which came in the air.
Early in the second quarter, rising junior kicker Drew Basil put on a field goal-kicking clinic.
During the conventional drive, Basil converted a 41-yard attempt to put the Scarlet team up, 10-0.
Then Meyer and the OSU coaching staff had their kicker back up and try six more attempts.
An additional try from 41 yards out was made while a third from that distance was blocked.
Meyer continued to motion both the Scarlet and Gray special teams units backward for more field goal tries, and Basil knocked one home from 51.
Then came two tried from 58 yards and Meyer motioned for the crowd to make noise. What began as a modest Ohio Stadium crowd quickly began to fill the bleachers all the way up to C-Deck, and those fans obliged.
With the full backing of the OSU supporters, Basil’s first try from 58 yards was well short. A subsequent try came closer, but also fell short, and that ended Basil’s exhibition.
Gray finally got on the scoreboard with 37 seconds remaining in the half when Guiton found rising sophomore Devin Smith on a slant route. Smith caught the ball, curled toward the end zone and ran untouched the rest of the way to make the score 10-7.
Miller’s command of Meyer’s new offense was clearly evident, as he drove the Scarlet team back down the field in the final half minute of play to set Basil up for a successful 32-yard attempt.
Scarlet went into half leading, 13-7.
In the opening 20 minutes of play, Miller tallied 197 yards on 17-of-23 passing with one interception. Hyde added 14 yards on the ground as Scarlet’s leading rusher and the team ended the half with 216 total yard of offense.
Scarlet freshman wide receiver Michael Thomas grabbed eight passes for 78 yards in the half. Field had three catches for 50 yards.
Thomas finished the game with 12 catches, and received praise from Meyer after the contest. After the contest, Meyer praised the receiver.
“Right now, him and (Corey “Philly” Brown) are kind of our top two (receivers),” Meyer said.
Then, Meyer went on to rank the top five playmakers on the OSU offense.
“I’d have to say right now our playmakers on offense – the top five, in order – are Jordan Hall, would be Jake Stonerburner, would be probably Carlos (Hyde), Philly Brown, Michael Thomas and Devin Smith.”
On the Gray side, Guiton was 6-of-12 passing for 70 yards and one touchdown in the half. Freshman running back Bri’onte Dunn racked up 21 rushing yards and a long of 12 yards.
Neither side produced a significant offensive threat at the outset of the second half, though Dunn made a contribution on a score to put the Gray team in front for the first time – he just didn’t touch the ball.
Guiton faked a hand-off to Dunn inside the 5-yard line, but kept the ball and crossed into the end zone and Dunn was tackled to the ground. Guiton’s quarterback keeper put the Gary side up, 14-13.
The lead came despite the best efforts of sophomore Scarlet linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led both teams with seven tackles – two of which were for a loss – and a sack.
Scarlet responded on the ensuing drive, however, with a 7-yard touchdown run by redshirt sophomore running back Rod Smith to cap a 65-yard drive and restore his team’s lead at 20-14.
Smith finished the day with 23 yards on five carries.
On the Gray’s next possession, Guiton dropped back and threw his first interception of the day to junior defensive back Christian Bryant, effectively ending the teams’ fight for bragging rights.
The score was always going to be a secondary in the game, though, and with more than two minutes remaining, Miller led the Scarlet side on a 79-yard drive.
On the final play of the game, Miller dove for the end zone and fell short, but the clock ran to 00:00 anyway.
Miller finished the day 24-of-51 passing for 258 yards, no touchdown passes and one interception. Miller, whose offensive line included rising redshirt junior Corey Linsley and rising redshirt junior Jack Mewhort, was also sacked seven times.
Guiton finished the day on 16-of-24 passing for one touchdown and one interception.
Of Guiton’s performance throughout spring ball, Meyer said he and his coaching staff will need to figure out why the player “can’t let go” of his passes.
“Kenny Guiton is a much-improved player,” Meyer said. “His arm strength is there. His accuracy is not bad, but he doesn’t let it go. We have to figure out why. He threw a pick today and if he let it go, it wouldn’t have been a pick.”
Meyer said he was most appreciative of the fans coming to the game.
“I want to speak on behalf of our coaching staff and our team – I heard someone say over 80,000,” he said. “I really appreciate that.”