The Ohio State football team started its 2013 season in winning fashion Saturday, defeating Buffalo by a score of 40-20.
The Buckeyes got off to a fast start, scoring the first 23 points of the game on their first three drives.
Less than five minutes into the game, junior quarterback Braxton Miller connected with teammate Devin Smith on a 47-yard touchdown pass. OSU wasted no time getting its special teams unit on the field, and backup senior quarterback Kenny Guiton took a direct snap and scored a two-point conversion by running into the end zone.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said that the play calls in the first quarter were scripted, and that he was happy with the results.
“You can’t play much better than our guys did (in the first quarter),” Meyer said. “We’re pushing the ball down the field, guys making plays. Special teams, I thought our kickoff was outstanding.”
Guiton said that running two-point conversion plays are “pretty cool,” and that he enjoys being the head of the unit that runs them. Having coaches that are willing to make decisions like going for two are something that he said the players enjoy.
“We love that. That’s something you do in a video game,” Guiton said. “So being able to do it out here is a lot of fun.“
Senior wide receiver Chris Fields was the beneficiary of OSU’s next drive, scoring on a wide open seven yard pass from Miller. Guiton rushed the special teams unit on the field again, completing a screen pass to redshirt-senior Jordan Hall who ran into the end zone untouched.
Just before the end of the opening quarter, Hall struck again but this time from the ground. A 49-yard burst through the middle coupled with an extra point from senior kicker Drew Basil gave OSU a 23-0 lead.
A fast start was something that Meyer said was important, because it was something that his team struggled with last year.
“Momentum is an amazing thing in college football,” Meyer said. “A lot of new young guys that I saw a little bit of hyperventilating out there, but I thought they came out of the chute fast.”
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said the way the first quarter went was “really close” to the way he wanted it to.
“I think we did a heck of a job coming out of the gates, which was something that plagued us last year,” Herman said.
Despite the fast start, turnovers on OSU’s next three drives changed the momentum and kept Buffalo in the game.
A fumble by freshman Dontre Wilson gave the Bulls a short field, and quarterback Joe Licata found tight end Matt Weiserfor a score on the ensuing drive. Buffalo’s star linebacker Khalil Mack then intercepted a screen pass from Miller on OSU’s next drive, returning it for a touchdown. OSU led 23-13 after a failed two-point conversion pass attempt by Licata.
After Wilson’s turnover, Meyer said his team did not respond to the adversity the way he wanted. “The players must learn from mistakes that are made and how to deal with such things,” he said.
“We’ve gotta learn to fight through those momentum shifts,” Meyer said, adding that being able to work through those problems reflects on a team’s maturity level.
“The more mature your team is, momentum’s only about seven points, I consider it,” Meyer said. “But if you’re immature, especially at certain areas, momentum is a 14-point shift.”
Wilson was able to bounce back from the fumble though, returning the ensuing kickoff 51 yards to Buffalo’s 37. On the very next play, Hall broke through for his second touchdown run of the day, giving OSU a 30-13 lead at halftime.
Hall, who ran for a career-high 159 yards, said he does not remember ever having a game quite like this one. Theredshirt-senior said he was surprised with how big the hole was on his 37-yard scamper.
“I was just like, wow,” Hall said. “I don’t know if they (Buffalo) messed up or the O-line just did what they do but I just (saw) it and took it.”
Hall added that with the way the Buckeyes came out in the first quarter, he thought they were going to score 100 points, but that they need to do a better job of putting teams away.
“We probably got a little complacent,” Hall said. “We probably thought that Buffalo was going to slow down. But give them credit, they fought ’til the end of the game.”
On Buffalo’s opening drive of the second half, Licata found senior receiver Alex Neutz in the end zone. The extra point cut the lead to 10 again midway through the third quarter. That was when the heat of the August day started getting to some players.
With temperatures in the upper-80s throughout the game, multiple OSU players suffered from cramping. That prompted Meyer to say “It was a hot mother out there” on the field, and that he was worried about how much his players cramped.
“It’s a concern, yeah,” Meyer said. “I know our strength staff and training staff work hard on the hydration, and I’m not sure if Buffalo cramped. That’s the thing I keep asking myself.”
Miller was unable to avoid having his legs tighten up, and with the Buckeyes only leading by 10 had to be replaced byGuiton near the end of the third quarter. Guiton responded like he has in the past, leading OSU to a score on that drive, finding Fields for a 21-yard score to give the Buckeyes a 37-20 lead.
Guiton said he is “always ready” to step in if Miller goes down, and that his preparation on the sideline is key in case he has to relieve him.
“I try to make sure I know everything that the defense is doing throughout the game and I try to make sure I know what the game plan is and what the like to do in certain situations,” Guiton said, adding that it helps him once he’s on the field because he is able to tell what the defense is doing when they move.
“It’s a lot easier if you know where their guys are going to be,” he said.
The teams traded possessions for the rest of the game, save for a 39-yard field goal by Basil midway through the fourth.
Miller finished the day with 178 yards on 15-22 passing with two touchdowns and an interception. He also finished with 78 yards on the ground.
Even though his team is now 1-0 on the 2013 season, Meyer said there are still things that “gotta get fixed,” but the good thing is that the season is just barely underway.
“When you score 40 points out of almost 500 (yards), 460 or something like that and you’re disappointed, that’s a good sign,” Meyer said. “The bad sign is we’ve got a long way to go.”
OSU is scheduled to take on San Diego State Sept. 7 at 3:30 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.