Ohio State football: Fans who made trip spurred Guiton

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Adam Cairns | DISPATCH
“We’re blessed,” Kenny Guiton said. “We’re all the way on the West Coast and have half the stadium filled with scarlet and gray."

In a way, it was a perfect marriage — a crowd of Ohio State fans who seldom get to see their team in person, and a quarterback who’d waited five years to start a game.

Both were there on Saturday night in Berkeley, Calif., determined to savor the moment. Sure, some of the scarlet-clad Buckeyes fans traveled far to watch Ohio State play California. But many no doubt were Californians with Ohio and/or Buckeyes ties eager to turn Memorial Stadium into Horseshoe West.

That they did, thanks largely to senior quarterback Kenny Guiton. Making his first start since he was a high-school senior in 2008, Guiton built on his folk-hero status by throwing for four touchdowns subbing for the injured Braxton Miller in Ohio State’s 52-34 victory.

When he entered for Ohio State’s first possession, Guiton exhorted the sea of scarlet behind him to make noise.

“We’re blessed,” Guiton said. “We’re all the way on the West Coast and have half the stadium filled with scarlet and gray. I thought that was pretty cool. I’m a guy who tries to stay juiced up and shows his team I’m into it. When I first went out there, I wanted to get the crowd into it and let them know that we’re out here to take over.”

They did, and so did he. He led the Buckeyes to three touchdowns in the game’s first six minutes. That 21-0 lead provided a cushion that not even Cal’s prolific offense could seriously threaten.

Three games into the season and facing one last tuneup against Florida A&M before entering Big Ten play, Ohio State is a team stocked with offensive talent. To think that the Buckeyes gained 608 yards without Miller and running back Carlos Hyde is something that would have been unfathomable last year.

“Last year, our breakaway talent was only No. 5,” coach Urban Meyer said, referring to Miller. “Now, there are some other guys.”

Whether Miller will return from a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee this week is unknown. The Buckeyes shouldn’t need him against the Rattlers.

But Hyde is expected to return from a three-game suspension. Though the coaches have said he’ll have to earn his way back into a starting job, Hyde’s skill set is the one element the Buckeyes have lacked this season.

Jordan Hall has played admirably, as his career-high 168 yards and three touchdowns against Cal attest, but he’s not a power runner. The Buckeyes haven’t had a runner who can move the pile consistently. Hyde can.

Last year’s offensive success was built around Miller, Hyde and a strong line. That line hadn’t been whole until Saturday, when center Corey Linsley played the entire game. His snaps were limited the first two games because of a foot injury.

After Saturday’s game, Linsley said the foot was no longer an issue and he’d be good the rest of the year.

“Without a doubt,” he said.

The Buckeyes are not without flaws. Their defense looked ragged at times against Cal, though the Bears’ pace had much to do with that. And nobody is confusing Cal’s youthful and injury-ravaged defense with an elite one.

So there is work to do. But Saturday also clearly showed that the elements are being put in place for the Buckeyes to reach the lofty heights many predicted.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch

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