Ohio State sideline: Kenny Guiton's play makes fans miss Braxton Miller less
Quarterback Kenny Guiton and his Ohio State teammates probably didn’t mean it this way, but the message was “Who needs Braxton Miller?” after Guiton, making his first start, took them to three fast touchdowns, breaking a school record along the way. The defense had it going early against California’s hurry-up offense, lost its grip and then just got through it. And Guiton? He engineered three straight touchdown drives to start the second half. Overall, it was an entertaining evening for lovers of the game — the offensive game.
Guiton had passed for four touchdowns by midway through the third quarter. The first, on Ohio State’s second play from scrimmage, was a 90-yarder to Devin Smith, the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State history. Smith also caught the next touchdown pass from Guiton, a 47-yarder. Jordan Hall helped the Buckeyes with ball control after the opening burst, finishing with 168 yards on 30 carries and three touchdowns.
The offensive linemen controlled their territory most of the time in a fast-paced game. Left guard Andrew Norwell and right guard Marcus Hall appeared to have good moments on several of Guiton’s keepers and Hall’s runs. On defense, safety Christian Bryant had an early interception.
Guiton went after Cal’s gambling man-to-man defense early with the two touchdown passes to Smith. When Cal backed off, Guiton deftly worked the pistol option with Jordan Hall and freshman Dontre Wilson. The Buckeyes were intent on showing they could run plays in a hurry, especially when Guiton pushed them to the line on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line midway through the second quarter and handed to Hall for a touchdown.
There were moments when the defense was splayed like a freshly caught trout. Facing the Bears’ pass-heavy spread offense, the Buckeyes used six defensive backs most of the game. The defense did make a play or two, such as Bryant’s leaping breakup of a pass to the end zone on fourth down from the Ohio State 7 with 12:16 left.
Stat that matters
Guiton had a huge night passing, but the 332 yards rushing Ohio State had made the difference. Cal entered with the nation’s 116th-ranked defense in terms of yards allowed, and lived up to that.
Linebacker Ryan Shazier hurt his right shoulder in the second quarter but returned. Quarterback Braxton Miller (left knee sprain) did not play. Defensive end Adolphus Washington (strained groin) did not make the trip. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett went down with an unknown injury early in the fourth quarter, as did Devin Smith.
By the numbers
53: Number of offensive plays Cal ran in the first half but still trailed 31-20.
1: Number of yards by which Guiton and Devin Smith beat Gene Fekete’s school record for longest play from scrimmage, an 89-yard run against Pittsburgh in 1942.
On paper it looks like an easy one, with Football Championship Subdivision opponent Florida A&M coming to Ohio Stadium. Maybe for entertainment, Miller will be able to return, and he and Guiton can compete for the starting job.