|Jordan Hall (AP photo)|
COLUMBUS — Ohio State came out with their feet pressed firmly on the accelerator, beginning Saturday's season opener against visiting Buffalo by scoring 23 unanswered points and totaling 216 yards in the first quarter alone.
However, the high speeds nearly caused the Buckeyes to derail, as the big plays and dazzling touchdowns turned into costly turnovers, penalties and mistakes, resulting in the Bulls outscoring them in the final three quarters of play.
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, that explosive opening stanza would be enough to secure the victory, as they doubled up the Bulls, 40-20 — extending their nation's best winning streak to 13 games.
Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer said he was disappointed with the performance, but admitted it may not be a bad thing when that "disappointment" resulted in 40 points and a 20-point win.
"When you score 40 points and almost 460 (yards) and you're disappointed, that's a good sign." Meyer said following the win. "The bad sign is we've got a long way to go."
Ohio State junior quarterback Braxton Miller didn't produce a Heisman Trophy-esque performance in the opener, but he did show glimpses of brilliance during the contest, totaling 255 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, including a deep 47-yard scoring strike to Devin Smith on his first pass of the game ... and season.
Miller completed 15 of his 22 passes, and connected with seven different receivers in the win.
The brightest star on the offensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes on Saturday wasn't their heralded quarterback, but their fifth-year tailback Jordan Hall, who started in place of Carlos Hyde (suspension).
Hall rushed for a career-high 159 yards and two touchdowns in the win, including 126 yards before halftime. Hall also tied for the team-lead in receptions on Saturday with three.
Meyer was pleased with what he witnessed from his senior athlete, and stated that when Hyde returns from suspension, Hall will still be a major part of the offensive plan.
"I think he gives us that little bit of a hybrid guy that can do both (run and catch)," Meyer said of Hall. "That was kind of the plan with him. So once we have a full stable back, then he's still going to be certainly involved. And to be able to line up at receiver and motion in and run the ball, that's a good weapon to have."
Hall said he is prepared to do whatever is asked of him.
"Wherever they put me I'm going to do what I can to help the team win," Hall said. "It was a good win. We'll take it but we're not satisfied with it. We know there's a lot to work on. We have practice tomorrow, so we'll get back to work."
The first quarter fireworks began with the deep ball to pay dirt from Miller to Smith.
Miller, who has been working hard this off-season to improve his passing abilities, lifted the deep toss on his first attempt of the game, and Smith adjusted perfectly to snare the ball in the end zone for the score.
Miller also connected on another scoring strike later in the quarter, hitting receiver Chris Fields for a touchdown from seven yards out.
However, Miller showed some inconsistencies, as well — most notably a poor decision on a screen pass that was picked off by Buffalo's Khalil Mack and returned 45 yards for a touchdown.
"That one I wish I could get back," Miller said. "I didn't see him at all. I'm used to Jack (Mewhort) getting the guy on the ground with a cut block and I just threw it and by the time the ball got out of my hands, I was like, 'Dang, the guy's right there.'"
Miller said the Buckeyes' huge momentum was lost after that particular play.
"We were rolling at first, and then that blind screen I threw, I think the momentum went down after that a little bit," Miller said.
"I thought it was going to keep going, and it kind of went downhill. It could have been a lot better."
Defensively, the Buckeyes looked inexperienced, and often times confused. They surrendered 258 yards to the Bulls, and were only able to force one turnover — an interception in the second quarter by safety Ron Tanner.
The Buckeyes had 10 new starters on defense Saturday, and was without star linebacker Ryan Shazier for part of the game due to cramping.
Shazier said there can't be excuses. If the Buckeyes are to live up to its preseason billing, the screws need to be tightened.
"We need to do a better job," Shazier said, after leading the team in tackles with 6.5, including one for a loss. "We're supposedly the preseason No. 2 team in the nation.
"We didn't play to our potential."
Junior middle linebacker Curtis Grant summed up the game perfectly ...
"We need to keep our foot on the gas pedal."
GUITON DELIVERS ... With Miller missing a few plays during the course of the game — due to cramping, — backup quarterback Kenny Guiton came in relief and delivered the way a team captain should.
Guiton, who was named a captain by the team — something not usually bestowed upon a reserve — guided the Buckeyes to a scoring drive, hitting Fields from 21 yards out on his only pass of the contest. He also contributed on two, two-point conversions (run and a pass) in the win.
He also did it while battling a pesky injury.
"He actually has a broken finger," Meyer said of Guiton. "I don't know if you guys knew that. I think we told you that. He had a broken finger almost throughout all of summer and then training camp again, started bothering him again.
"He hasn't been able to throw like he normally throws. He's coming back and we're getting him back together."