OSU Win Marred by Loss of Key Players to Injury
By Patrick Murphy
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Saturday's game against San Diego State was supposed to be about players returning for Ohio State. The 42-7 win ended up being about those who left.
On it's first possession, Braxton Miller and the offense drove 38 yards to the Aztec’s 12 before facing a fourth and short.
Miller carried the ball for five yards and the first down, but was sandwiched on the tackle and did not get up. He left the game with a knee injury.
Kenny Guiton came in to finish the drive, pitching on a speed option play to Dontre Wilson who raced into the endzone for an early 7-0 lead.
“It is a feeling I will never get again,” Wilson said about his first career score. “I love scoring and just for it to be my first college football TD, it was a blessing.”
San Diego State quarterback Adam Dingwell threw an interception on the nest SDSU play from scimmage and the Buckeyes’ offense was back on the field while Miller was still being examined.
Miller was taken to the locker room to put a brace on his knee. By the time he returned to the sideline it was apparent that the game was under control and he was not needed.
Guiton led two-straight scoring drives to give Ohio State a 21-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. The first ended with a 27-yard touchdown pass that dropped perfectly into the hands of Philly Brown. The second was completed with a Jordan Hall four-yard run for the score.
The defense then stepped up after a second-straight strong first quarter.
As the first half came to a close, the Aztecs drove 62 yards to Ohio State’s two-yard line. With time running out in the half, Quinn Kaehler, who came in to replace Dingwell after completing his only pass to a Buckeye, looked for Ezell Ruffin in the endzone, but the play was broken up by Doran Grant to preserve the shutout.
“Our defense played outstanding,” Meyer said.
This certainly had to do with the return of Roby and Barnett, both talented players and leaders on this unit.
“I feel like it was noticeable because they didn’t want to throw the ball in their direction,” Ryan Shazier said.
Neither quarterback was very productive against Ohio State’s defense. Dingwell was pulled from the game after going 0 for 5. Kaehler finished 22 of 36 for 216 yards and one touchdown, but most of that came against the Buckeyes’ second string late in the game.
“If the quarterbacks play well the offense moves the ball and scores points,” San Diego State head coach Rocky Long said after the game. “If the quarterbacks don't play well, guess what, they don't. We thought Adam wasn't playing very well so we put Quinn in and he played a little bit better. He completed a few passes and not to the other team.”
The Buckeyes’ defense allowed only 64 yards rushing for the game, including just five to Adam Muema, who has the highest rushing average in San Diego State history.
Meyer credited this to having two of his key players back.
“Obviously when you get your leader back, C.J. Barnett, and I think Roby obviously helped as well,” he said. “When you get your people back you’ve got a chance because they’re aligned and cohesive.”
The offense, despite not having their leader and main playmaker in Miller, did not miss a beat with Guiton.
Guiton was smooth as always, passing for 152 yards and two scores and rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown.
"Everyone on the team knows what we are getting when [Guiton] comes into the game,” Brown said. “When Kenny is out there, nobody is worried at all.”
Brown, who Meyer said last week needed to be more involved in the offense after only two receptions in the opener, finished with six catches, a team-high 73 yards, and two touchdowns.
The offense was not quite as explosive in the second half, scoring only seven points, but after a 35-point first half it wasn’t necessary to be to secure the blowout.
"Ohio State I'm sure was not as excited to play in the second half as they were the first half,” Long said.
“I'm sure they substitute guys in there, some other five-star recruits, but the second half was an even game.”
The score was 7-7 in the final two quarters, but the game was never in doubt.
Meyer was able to get the young players more touches on offense.
Freshman Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball six times for 36 yards. His stats would have been better if not for a penalty that brought back a big play.
Wilson carried the ball five times for 51 yards and also had three receptions.
On defense, the Buckeyes were able to play their entire second unit in the later stages of the game.
Earlier in the game, OSU was forced to reshuffle the defensive line, as Adolphous Washington left the game with a groin injury and did not return.
In his place came freshman Joey Bosa and junior Steve Miller. Each caused havoc for the Aztec’s offensive line.
"Joey Bosa and Steve Miller, obviously our coaches have a lot of confidence in,” Meyer said.
“You need rotation in there. When [an injured player] gets back, it’s more and more playing time they got.”
For Guiton, it is not about gaining experience, but being available when his team needs him.
“I just do my best to let my voice be heard and impact the team in a positive way,” he said.
The return of some players saw the unplanned departure of others, but the Buckeyes showed the the depth to withstand the losses and register another win.