- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A look at the brightest stars in No. 2 Ohio State's 40-20 win over Buffalo to open the season on Saturday.
RB Jordan Hall: The Buckeyes were without their projected starter and the expected backup in the opener, but Hall made sure they weren't missed with the finest rushing performance of his career. The senior officially put his injury-plagued, redshirt season from a year ago in the rearview, bursting through holes up the middle for a pair of long touchdown runs on the way to 159 yards on 21 carries. Hall tacked on 14 more yards as a receiver as he continued to make his case for a leading role even when Rod Smith returns this week and Carlos Hyde comes back after his three-game suspension.
LB Ryan Shazier: Even while missing an extended portion of the game, the star junior was still the most effective defender the Buckeyes put on the field as the rebuilt unit made its debut. The linebacker battled through cramps to get in on seven tackles, including one for a loss, and also made a nice play in space to break up a pass over the middle. His value to the Buckeyes was only underscored when he wasn't on the field -- when his body wasn't right, the dropoff at linebacker was hard to ignore.
WR Chris Fields: An afterthought a year ago, the fifth-year senior made the most of the passes that came his way against Buffalo, turning two of his three catches into touchdowns and finishing with 53 yards receiving in a productive outing. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has praised the improvements Fields has made since April, naming him a starter coming out of the spring game. If the Buckeyes can continue to get him involved as they try to expand the passing game, the spread offense will become even more difficult to defend.
6dDan Murphy and Austin Ward