Ohio State Buckeyes: Bulls-Buckeyes-083113

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The goal was simple enough, and Ohio State made it look even easier to accomplish.

Maybe Urban Meyer should have asked for more than a fast start out of the blocks as “The Chase” officially started on Saturday afternoon.

Even with a shorthanded roster, the Buckeyes looked every bit the contender they’re expected to be in Meyer’s second season leading them in the early stages of the opener against Buffalo at Ohio Stadium. The offense was brutally efficient, the rebuilt defense was pitching a shutout and the biggest question was how long Meyer would keep his foot on the pedal.

But while the Buckeyes got a look at just how quickly they can get to full speed against overmatched Buffalo, they didn’t have enough gas to stay there long enough, leaving plenty for Meyer to fine-tune after a 40-20 win that leaves some questions still to be answered.

“First quarter was script, and you can’t play much better than our guys did,” Meyer said. “ ... I like the fact they jumped out early and they like to play. That’s a positive.

“The negative is that you need to sustain consistent effort and intensity.”

Whether it was the heat and humidity that sapped the energy, maybe the suspensions that knocked out two of their best players before the game even started, or perhaps just rust after not playing a game since November, the Buckeyes certainly didn’t look like the same team from the first quarter much after it was over.

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteSenior Jordan Hall rushed for a career-high 159 yards against Buffalo.
Braxton Miller capped the opening frame with a pair of touchdown passes that showed his newly improved mechanics and accuracy, giving Ohio State the balance it craves in the spread attack. Then he turned around and blindly tossed an interception to a linebacker on a screen pass, which was promptly returned for a touchdown.

There was a rushing attack that opened enormous holes for Jordan Hall to cruise through for a pair of long touchdown runs on the way to a career-high total of 159 rushing yards. That was the same unit that failed to convert a fourth-and-1 near midfield, leading to the first vicious spiking of Meyer’s headset this season.

The promise of Dontre Wilson’s athleticism was on full display on his first touch in the opening quarter, an 18-yard reception that threatened to be much more. The next time the freshman phenom had the ball in his hands, he put it on the turf for a costly fumble.

That inconsistency obviously didn’t hurt the Buckeyes on the scoreboard, and really the outcome was never in serious doubt after that fast start. But by comparison, the final three quarters weren’t even close to meeting the early standard -- and it’s no secret which version of the Buckeyes is needed to claim a crystal football.

“It’s good to see that we can [get out quickly], but we have to keep going with it,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “We have to keep putting up points and keep stopping them and not have any of the slip-ups we had today. But to put up 23 points in the first quarter, that has to feel good a little bit.

“You want everyone to go out there and execute really well, but at the end of the day it’s about winning. We will be able to fix all the stuff we messed up and go into Week Two better.”

A more talented team will be waiting there for the Buckeyes, and San Diego State will no doubt have seen some occasionally poor tackling, a few missed blocks and some questionable decisions with the football that it will try to take advantage of next week.

But it also will see a truly scary, complete team when it watches the first quarter. It will be up to the Buckeyes to figure out a way to keep that one on the field.

Video: OSU LB Ryan Shazier

August, 31, 2013

Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier talks about a 40-20 win over Buffalo to open the season.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- At times Ohio State looked like a contender. At others it seemed to be just trying to survive the heat and injuries that made it even more shorthanded than planned.

The Buckeyes were far from perfect as they opened the season on Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium, but for starters, they still got the result they needed as they coasted after a big first quarter and worked out some kinks in a 40-20 win over Buffalo.

Braxton Miller again was a handful as a rusher and a passer, Jordan Hall was plugged in to supply the punch on the ground and a rebuilding defense made do with Ryan Shazier fighting cramps and star cornerback Bradley Roby on the sideline because of a suspension.

And while Urban Meyer will have no shortage of teaching points in practice this week, the Ohio State coach stayed undefeated with the program with his 13th consecutive victory since taking over last season.

It was over when: Braxton Miller threw his first pass of the game, sparking an early onslaught and supplying a lead the Buckeyes would never give up.

The junior quarterback showed off his improved mechanics, accuracy and arm on the opening drive of the game for the Buckeyes, hitting Devin Smith on a gorgeous 47-yard strike to get his Heisman Trophy campaign off to a flying start.

The Bulls didn’t back down even after falling behind by 23 points in the first quarter, climbing back within 10 thanks to a couple of careless turnovers by Ohio State. But even shorthanded, the Buckeyes had far too much talent for the Bulls and were never seriously challenged despite some inconsistency and a few scary moments.

Game ball goes to: With both the projected starter and the top backup on the shelf with suspensions, a limited backfield needed somebody to fill the void and become a workhorse to take some pressure off Miller. The Buckeyes didn’t need to look further than Jordan Hall, who turned in the finest rushing performance of a star-crossed career to help the offense survive muggy conditions and early-season rust.

Hall was a handful for the Bulls between the tackles, and twice he burst through holes in the middle untouched for long touchdowns on the way to 159 yards on 21 carries. Rod Smith will be eligible to return next week and Carlos Hyde will be back after the third game, but Hall made his case to stay in the lineup with a performance the Buckeyes needed more than they might have thought.

Stat of the game: The goal was to get closer to an even split, but the run-to-pass ratio still leaned heavily toward the rush as the Buckeyes opened the season. That can be partially attributed to the early lead Ohio State jumped out to, but the Buckeyes still were about twice as likely to keep the ball on the ground in the opener than to air it out and show off Miller’s arm. The final count was almost exactly 2-to-1, with Ohio State carrying 45 times and throwing 23, mirroring the approach of the 2012 season.

What it means: The opener was always going to be a tuneup for the Buckeyes, given the discrepancy in talent, and a few sloppy moments along the way should be expected at this stage of the season. Meyer might actually be thankful for them as a way to stay on his team, picking out the early flaws and ensuring he has the attention of a team with a lot of youth and inexperience on the defensive side of the ball.

In the big picture, the Buckeyes probably didn’t find out all that much they didn’t already know, and with key starters such as C.J. Barnett, Roby and Hyde all on the sideline, they weren’t even at full strength to begin with on Saturday. But a much stiffer test is coming next weekend with San Diego State set to visit, and Ohio State will surely find out more about itself then.


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