Smooth Kenny G Makes Sweet Music

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Last updated: 10/21/2012 1:02 PM

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Football
Smooth Kenny G Proves Meyer Singing the Right Tune
By Brandon Castel

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State fans were hoping they would never have to find out if Kenny Guiton was everything his new head coach had built him up to be.

They were quite content to take Urban Meyer’s word for the fact Guiton had blossomed into not only a serviceable backup – or in Meyer’s words, the “old righty out of the bullpen” – but also an adequate replacement for Braxton Miller.

Guiton had already stepped in to finish a few drives for Miller earlier in the year, and he had performed admirably considering the circumstances, but there was an immediate sense Saturday that this was something different entirely.

Ohio State’s star quarterback lay crumpled on the Turf after being slammed down on his left shoulder, and possibly his helmet, at the tail end of a 37-yard run. It was his longest, and most explosive, play of the day, but Purdue cornerback Josh Johnson was desperately trying to save a touchdown when he grabbed a handful of Miller’s jersey on his way to the ground.

Braxton Miller lands awkwardly on his left shoulder after a tackle by Purdue's Josh Johnson
Photo by Jim Davidson
Braxton Miller

What initially looked like an awkward fall quickly became a hold-your-breath moment for the 105,000 inside Ohio Stadium. Miller was slow to get up and even slower to get off the field. He had to be helped every step of the way, and it seems like a miracle the injury didn’t turn out to be more serious.

No one knew that at the time, however. All they knew was that Braxton Miller was gone and Guiton had to step into a spot he had never experienced and try to win a game that was starting to look hopeless even when Miller was on the field.

Kenny Guiton directs the OSU offense shortly after Braxton Miller's injury.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Kenny Guiton

“When Braxton went down, it was detrimental to our offense, but we knew Kenny would step up,” tailback Carlos Hyde said.

“He knows the plays and can come in and execute just like Braxton. He works so hard to get his chance to play, it was great.”

It didn’t start out so great, not for Guiton or the Buckeyes.

For the first time all season, he wasn’t able to finish Miller’s drive by putting points on the board. Guiton’s third-down pass to Evan Spencer was incomplete and kicker Drew Basil missed a 50-yard field goal that would have made it a three-point game.

On his next possession, Guiton took a safety in the end zone after tight end Jeff Heuerman was flagged for a questionable block in the back penalty. The Buckeyes would get the ball back down 22-14 with six minutes to play, but Guiton missed on what could have been a 63-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith down the left sideline.

Kenny Guiton sets up to pass from the endzone. He completed the pass to Devon Smith, but a penalty on the play resulted in safety by rule.
Photo by Dan Harker
Kenny Guiton

Two plays later, he was intercepted trying to find Smith again on a ball down inside the Purdue 20 yard line.

“He threw the pick, and I grabbed him, I said you're going to go win us a game,” Meyer recalled after the game.

“He looked right at me. I think he was down. I think that moment kind of picked him up.”

Guiton felt like he had let his team down, but he was confident he would get another chance to save the day, and the season, for the undefeated Buckeyes. This time he was going to be ready.

“I’m a backup coming off the bench and I just wanted to do well for my team,” Guiton said.

“That’s when it took the offense to pick me up and let me know that the game wasn’t over and we were going to get the ball again.”

With less than three minutes in the game, there was no guarantee Guiton would get another shot, not with the way Ohio State’s defense has played at times this season, but when the Buckeyes desperately needed a stop, they got one.

The Boilermakers put themselves in a hole with a false start on first down, and Ohio State’s defense never relented, thanks in large part to the play of senior Zach Boren and contributions from Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, two key freshmen on the defensive line.

Ryan Shazier and Zach Boren stuff Purdue quarterback Rob Henry.
Photo by Jim Davidson
The OSU defense makes the play.

Ryan Shazier made the stop on third down and Chris Fields made a heads-up play on the return, scooping up the ball off the Turf and running out of bounds around the 39 yard line.

That was all Guiton needed.

The Buckeyes were down by eight, needing to go 61 yards in 47 seconds with no timeouts, but Guiton got more than half of it on first down. He finally connected with Smith on a 39-yard pass down the left sideline to give Ohio State a first down at the Purdue 22-yard line.

He connected with Evan Spencer on the sideline for eight yards and then, after a pass interference call in the end zone, he found Fields for a 2-yard touchdown with just three seconds on the clock.

“Kenny is like Kobe (Bryant) in clutch time,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said.

“He knows the game and I feel like he's a coach for us on offense. He’s doing a good job. I never lose faith in Kenny.”

Kenny Guiton looks for Jeff Huerman
Photo by Jim Davidson
Kenny Guition

Neither did Meyer. Instead of running the ball with Hyde behind his powerful offensive line, Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman dialed up a special pass play for tight end Jeff Heuerman.

He was slow getting off his block, but Guiton stood in the backfield for what seemed like forever and delivered a perfect pass with pressure bearing down on him. In overtime, Guiton connected with Jake Stoneburner for 17 yards on the key play that set up Hyde’s game-winning touchdown run.

“You guys don’t see him at practice. He gets every mental rep possible. He’s coaching people all the time. Every time he gets in the game the team gets excited,” senior captain John Simon said.

“You never want a starter to go down, but anytime you get to see Kenny go out there and perform and get everything he deserves, it is awesome to see. Everyone on the team had full faith in him at that point.”

Kenny Guiton celebrates Carlos Hyde's touchdown in overtime.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Kenny Guiton

Now the question is whether they have faith in him going forward. Miller was tested and released from the OSU Medical Center after the game Saturday, but there is no indication of when he can return to practice.

The Buckeyes play at Penn State in a week, but Meyer is confident this team can continue its winning ways with the smooth Kenny G running the offense.

“We call it competitive excellence,” Meyer added.

“Competitive excellence is simply when you work so hard, when your number’s called, because of so many reps you can make a play. It’s just a tribute to that kid. He’s a special guy.”

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