COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There may be no replacing the real thing.
There’s never been any question about how seamlessly Guiton can transition to the lineup in a pinch for a handful of plays or perhaps a couple drives, and the Buckeyes have consistently expressed their confidence in having the best backup in the country. Finally needing to prove it for a complete game on Saturday against San Diego State at Ohio Stadium, Guiton provided some evidence that he could handle the stage for more than a cameo and Ohio State turned in yet another prolific scoring performance at less than full strength in a 42-7 romp without its leading man.
“He played a full game today, you saw it,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “The old right-hander steps in again and does a nice job.
“He’s too slow, not enough arm strength, but all he does is lead and manage and distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game.”
Meyer’s scouting report might not have been entirely truthful, but by comparison it’s obvious that Miller brings far more to the table with his electrifying rushing ability, a vastly improved arm and an ability to keep defenses guessing thanks to the combination of the two.
But Guiton can do all of the same things Miller does, and after the Heisman Trophy candidate left on the opening drive of the game with an injury to his left knee that required evaluation in the locker room and kept him from ever returning, at times it was if nothing on offense changed.
Guiton was accurate in the passing game, twice dropping in long-range strikes to Philly Brown for touchdowns on the way to an efficient outing with 19 completions in 28 attempts with 152 yards and an interception.
Guiton even channeled Miller as a runner, dashing up the middle on a draw for a 44-yard touchdown on the way to a team-high 83 yards on the ground as he put together the kind of all-around performance that the starter has produced with regularity since Meyer took over last season.
“When he comes in, we don’t miss a beat,” left guard Andrew Norwell said. “It means a lot to us, because we can always count on Kenny, everybody loves him in the locker room.
“When he comes in, we’re still playing. Nothing [negative] really crosses our mind when he comes in.”
Given his importance in the hunt for a national title, Miller was certainly still on the minds of the coaching staff after he was carted to the locker room and fitted for a knee brace. Had the game been more competitive, they might have also given more serious thought about putting the junior back behind center.
Instead, Miller left his scarlet baseball cap on for the duration of the second half, watching the offense operate without him from a spot just a couple feet off the field. The Buckeyes kept on moving the first-down chains and racking up points without him, and there was no need to rush Miller back against a defense that was probably overmatched no matter who was taking the snaps.
Meyer didn’t speculate too much on Miller’s status for next week’s trip to take on Cal, only going as far as indicating “there’s a chance he’ll be ready.” It appears to be a safe bet that Miller will be healthy and available given the resiliency he has shown throughout his career with the program.
But if he’s not, the same old security blanket is still there for the Buckeyes.
“[Guiton] does have a strong enough arm, he is fast enough,” Meyer said. “He’s just got to come in with more confidence, because when he does, it’s fun to watch.”
Maybe it’s not exactly the same as watching Miller. But once more, there were no complaints about the entertainment value with the next best thing.