With an unprecedented crowd on hand, the 2015 Ohio State football team got its first taste of live action.
In front of an announced national Spring Game record crowd of 99,391, the Buckeyes held their annual intrasquad Spring Game at Ohio Stadium. The matchup — played between the Scarlet and Gray teams — was a back-and-forth affair, with Gray holding on for a 17-14 win.
“Unbelievable,” senior defensive lineman Tommy Schutt said about the record crowd. “Obviously, we were expecting a really big crowd, but 100,000 is just, wow, Buckeye nation’s unbelievable, and having that many at the Spring Game is unbelievable.”
Each of the two starting quarterbacks — redshirt-junior Cardale Jones of the Gray team and redshirt-freshman Stephen Collier of the Scarlet side — labored through the first half, which saw Gray hold a 10-7 lead.
Jones went into the break completing 15 of 33 passes for 224 yards. Of those, 108 were pulled in by redshirt-senior wide receiver Corey Smith, who also scored Scarlet’s only first-half touchdown on a 58-yard reception.
Collier, on the other hand, could not find any rhythm until the end of the half, when he found redshirt-freshman wide receiver Terry McLaurin for a 35-yard score with no time left on the clock.
Collier, a product of Leesburg, Ga., ended the half just 7-of-19 for 81 yards. He was also responsible for four first-half turnovers, including a trio of interceptions and a lost fumble.
Scarlet made a comeback in the third quarter, scoring its second unanswered touchdown to take a 14-10 lead after three periods.
Collier led a 14-play, 55-yard drive that ended with a three-yard pass to redshirt-freshman wide receiver Parris Campbell as the quarter expired.
However, Jones, last season’s national championship-winning quarterback, engineered a 55-yard, 50-second drive to put Gray back in front.
Gray got the ball after a Scarlet turnover on downs, and needed just two passes to Smith — the latter of which was a 37-yard touchdown — to put his side up three.
Smith finished the game with six receptions for 174 yards and each of Gray’s two touchdowns.
Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Ed Warinner said he believes Smith has the potential to play at that level on a regular basis, but he has work to do.
“Consistency is his issue. He has some talent, and he shows it. Today he showed his talent. His deal, to be someone we talk about consistently, is to be consistent,” Warinner said. “When he does show up and looks locked in, he’s really good.”
Collier had one final opportunity to go back in front, but a 25-yard pass to the end zone intended for redshirt-senior wide receiver Jeff Greene missed the mark as time expired, sealing the Gray victory.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said while he sees several individual players who have taken steps forward since last season, the team still has a long way to go.
“We did not improve as a team,” Meyer said. “That was not a good team out there.
“That’s going to be interesting to watch for the Buckeyes this summer and how they handle themselves, how they behave, how they train and how they come together as a team, because that team has got to be better by the time (strength and conditioning) coach (Mickey Marotti) hands me the team like he does every summer.”
Jones attempted 42 passes on the afternoon, completing 19 of them for 304 yards. He also threw two interceptions in the contest.
Jones said the in-game experience did not feel like much, but he got a lot out of making his first-ever start at Ohio Stadium.
“I felt like another practice, because that’s what we did almost every day in practice, as far as spring ball,” Jones said. “So, I mean, I think it was pretty much the atmosphere (that was the most important experience).”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to open the 2015 regular season on the road against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.