COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio State Buckeyes (1-0) wanted to come out fast in the season opener against Buffalo and they accomplished it but after scoring 23 first quarter points things bogged down as Urban Meyer's team showed some obvious deficiencies. Braxton Miller started off hot and ended up 15-22 for 178 yards, two touchdowns and a pick-six via the air and 77 yards on the ground while Jordan Hall had a career high 159 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns as Ohio State doubled up Buffalo (0-1), 40-20.
Suspensions and cramps kept the Buckeye bench thin as Bradley Roby, Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith all missed the game due to suspensions and C.J. Barnett did not play due to a sprained ankle that was a game time decision according to Meyer. The missing players gave Hall, Corey Brown and others a chance to step up. Add to the trouble cramps catching up with Braxton Miller, Ryan Shazier and Evan Spencer and there was some sweating going on at Ohio Stadium that had nothing to do with the 90-something degree temperatures.
"I preached all week about coming out fast and playing hard, and they did it. Two quick scores, the first quarter (went by the) script," Meyer said. "You can't play much better than our guys did. And then we rough a punter, and we have a fourth down [play] we don't make and then we throw a screen and it goes the other way. In a tight game, you're going to lose."
The Buckeyes were tested but passed the test.
"I like the fact that they fought," Meyer said after the game. "I like the fact they jumped out early and they like to play. And that's a positive. The negative is that you need to sustain consistent effort and intensity."
Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack appeared to be every bit as good as advertised and ended the day with eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception return for a touchdown.
"His presence was noticed, without a doubt and against quality opposition," Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn said. "He did a great job, was very active and played a ton of snaps. I could not have been more proud of his play on such a big stage."
Everyone expected Miller to be the one launching his Heisman campaign on Saturday and while his numbers were not bad the cramps slowed him down and his hot start slowed down after coming out of the gate 7-8 for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns after the first quarter.
"It feels like we went to overtime, that's how my body feel with all that heat, actually putting on pads, going full go for four quarters," Miller said after the game. "It's tough."
Ohio State came into the game with six new starters in the front seven on defense and two in the secondary before the loss of Shazier for a significant amount of time. At that point the Buckeyes were playing with 10 of 11 new players on the defense and the Bulls were able to gain some traction with the legs of Brandon Oliver and his 26 carries. Quarterback Joe Licata was 19-32 for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns but after getting blitzed for 23 first quarter points the hole was too deep for the Mid-American Conference opponent.
"I give a lot of credit to Ohio State for coming out and putting us down 23-0 early," Quinn said. "I was proud of the way our kids responded. We were able to outscore them in the second, third and fourth quarters."
From the Ohio State side of things there will be a lot of film study and corrections before the team hosts San Diego State in a week.
"Momentum is an amazing thing in college football," Meyer said. "The more mature your team is, momentum's only about seven points, I consider it. But if you're immature, especially at certain areas, momentum is a 14-point shift."
Did the team perform like the No. 2 team in the nation?
"No, it didn't feel like it," Miller said after the game. "We just gotta keep working at it and, you know, come back strong in tomorrow, watch film and fix the mistakes."
Though at the start of the game it seemed as if the Buckeyes were just about unstoppable after a 47-yard TD pass to Devin Smith follow up by a 7-yard pass to Chris Fields and then a 49-yard Hall run. Couple that with a pair of two-point conversion makes and the Buckeyes seemed to have as potent of an offense as anyone in the game.
But then the lack of experience and depth on the defensive side of things started to show as Buffalo came back with a Matt Weiser 16-yarder from Licata to get on the board and Mack's 45-yard interception return of a Miller dump-off pass to freshman Dontre Wilson. After a missed two-point try the Buckeyes were only up by 10 and the natives were getting restless.
"We're supposedly the preseason No. 2 team in the nation," Shazier said. "Today we did a good job but we weren't playing to our potential."
It appeared that Hall was playing to his because he took a 37-yard run in on a one-play drive that was set up by a 51-yard Wilson punt return.
"Wherever they put me I'm going to do what I can to help the team win," Hall said. "It was a good win. We'll take it but we're not satisfied with it."
After halftime the Bulls would answer on their first drive and cut it to 10 with a Alex Neutz 10-yard TD reception. And then things seemed to go from bad to worse for Ohio State when Miller went down for a second time with cramps but backup quarterback Kenny Guiton came in prepared to fill the void.
Guiton hooked up with Fields on his second TD of the day, this time for 21 yards to put Ohio State up by 17 and the scoring ended with a 39-yard field goal by Drew Basil.
The Buckeyes have now run their win streak to a nation-high 13 straight wins and will look to get it to 14 with San Diego State coming to town, the former team of Michigan head coach Brady Hoke.