- Austin Ward, ESPN Staff Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rust hardly seemed like a problem.
The Ohio State offense couldn't have been operating any more smoothly during its first quarter of action since last November, with the layoff and a long offseason unable to slow it down.
But after the engine started up just fine, the Buckeyes themselves might have been responsible for the sputtering, inconsistent attack that was the on the field after an explosive opening 15 minutes in their opening win last weekend. The No. 3 team in the nation hasn't run from that blame, either, and the Buckeyes aim to make a point by keeping the hammer down today as it welcomes San Diego State to Ohio Stadium (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2).
"We started off pretty fast, but then we kind of let our foot off the gas pedal," right guard Marcus Hall said. "We talked about that as a whole offensive unit, so this week we're really focusing on starting off fast, like we did, but keep maintaining it all the way through the game. I mean, I hate to admit it, but it's just the first game and it's hard keeping it going throughout the whole game.
"That was the wake-up call that we needed. Good thing is it was a first game."
The second one could look much different for the Buckeyes thanks to the return of a handful of key contributors. The difference might be most obvious on defense, with cornerback Bradley Roby coming off his one-game suspension and safety C.J. Barnett back in the lineup after sitting with an ankle injury in the 40-20 win over Buffalo. But there was a notable absence on offense that coincided with a few sloppy drives after the promising start.
Center Corey Linsley played the first 17 snaps and the Buckeyes turned those into 23 points and an easy, comfortable lead before the coaching staff pulled him as a precautionary measure to protect his surgically-repaired foot. Without the senior anchor in the middle in the final three quarters, Ohio State scored just 17 more points -- and while victory was never really in jeopardy, the margin perhaps wasn't as wide as anticipated following the fast start.
"[Linsley] is a little bit ahead of schedule even," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "I wanted to put him back in [against Buffalo], but we made the decision on the sideline to just keep going as is.
"He'll play more, and so he'll just keep gradually getting better and better."
That figures to apply to the offense as a whole as well. The Buckeyes will have a chance to prove it against the Aztecs.