CINCINNATI – Gusty winds did little to prevent Ohio State from airing out the football during its annual Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
With parts of Ohio Stadium undergoing surface work, the Buckeyes traveled about two hours southwest to the Queen City for the 2013 edition of an intrasquad scrimmage between the Scarlet and Gray teams.
After a game that saw its quarterbacks throw for a combined total of 433 yards, the Scarlet team prevailed, 31-14.
While limited in the running game because of a no-contact black jersey, junior quarterback Braxton Miller finished the day 16 of 25 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
His counterpart, redshirt senior Kenny Guiton, totaled 151 yards and a touchdown on 13 of 22 attempts.
After guiding the Buckeyes to a 12-0 finish last season, OSU coach Urban Meyer hovered just yards back from play on the field as the teams battled it out amid 18-25 mph winds in front of a speckled crowd of 37, 643.
“This was a great day for Ohio State football – to come back to (a place), I consider this partly my hometown,” Meyer said during a press conference after the game.
By his own admittance, Meyer said he intended it to be a day where the Buckeyes threw the ball more than they ran it.
“Obviously, it was a pass-heavy game – an area that we were not very good at last year that we have to get better,” he said.
Miller would set the tone early – launching a 49-yard rocket to junior wide receiver Evan Spencer on the scrimmage first play. Three plays later, Miller found junior wide receiver Devin Smith for a 20-yard touchdown with 9:08 to play in the first quarter.
Miller said he’s gotten more comfortable throwing the ball.
“Just knowing the play, how the play is developed and how it’s going to move. I can just move out of the pocket and know where the guy’s going to be,” he said.
It’s something Meyer took note of.
He said Saturday’s marked improvement in the passing game was a “continuation of what started all spring.”
In fact, Meyer said it’s the type of development that could vault OSU into talk of being one of the nation’s best offenses.
“I’ve spent a lot of time talking about a part of our game – that if we can figure that out – I would be disappointed if we don’t have the best offense in the Big Ten,” he said.
It’s a notion that seems too early to validate, but one perhaps with the potential to come to fruition somewhere down the line.
Meyer, though, maintained it’s a concept that hinges upon the play of his offensive line – which lost only former right tackle Reid Fragel.
And with senior left tackle Jack Mewhort held out of the game for precautionary reasons, Meyer called the “fifth spoke of the offensive line” a “legitimate concern.”
“Unless we get that fixed, there go the best offense in the Big Ten,” he said.
Meyer’s concern seemed warranted, as sophomore defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington combined for five sacks in the first half and seven total.
It bought time for Guiton and the Gray team to answer in the second quarter.
The Buckeyes’ backup quarterback found senior receiver Chris Fields from six yards out to tie the game, 7-7, with 4:35 remaining in the half.
Guiton, who played sparingly last season, said he was content with his performance.
“I thought I did pretty good, I got the offense down. I’m moving forward, trying to get everybody else making sure we know what we’re doing,” he said.
Thanks to an eight-play, 59-yard drive, though, the Scarlet team again seized the lead after Miller found senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown.
Miller’s squad would head into halftime with a 14-7 advantage that they would not relinquish.
Having been harassed most of the afternoon by the Gray defensive line, Miller rolled out of the pocket before scampering for a 5-yard touchdown with 6:25 to play in the third.
Senior kicker Drew Basil tacked on a 25-yard field goal more than two minutes later to make it 24-7 in favor of the Scarlet team.
Behind sophomore wide receiver Michael Thomas, the Gray would make a dent in the deficit after sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones found Thomas from four yards out with 8:44 to play in the fourth.
Jones finished with 65 yards and a touchdown on 7 of 16 attempts.
In a instance of trickery and changing of allegiances, Fields, who started the contest with the Gray team, scored on a 6-yard reverse play, pushing the Scarlet team’s lead to 31-14 with 4:41 to play in the game.
It would all but seal the Scarlet team’s second-straight victory in the Spring Game.
OSU is scheduled to open the 2013 season against Buffalo Aug. 31 at Ohio Stadium.