When a team loses its starting quarterback, particularly when he’s a Heisman trophy candidate, things don’t typically go well.
Someone forgot to tell that to the 2-0 Ohio State squad.
Buckeye starting quarterback, junior Braxton Miller, left OSU’s 42-7 victory 2:58 into the game after spraining his MCL and did not return.
In came redshirt-senior Kenny Guiton, with the hopes of the Buckeye faithful on his shoulders.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous today. I know that I prepared all week like a starter. I don’t think I got nervous at all,” Guiton said. “Once I got in, I took my first hit, had my first throw and after that it was just ‘let’s go.’”
On the day Guiton finished 19 of 28 passing for 152 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed for 83 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown.
“I think I started off pretty good, we started off and we went up on the scoreboard pretty good. I think we responded well from the interception, too, but I think the second half I could have played a lot better,” Guiton said. “We protected good, the receivers played a good game. I just have to get them the ball quicker and more often.”
OSU coach Urban Meyer said he was impressed by how well his backup signal caller replaced Miller.
“The old right hander (Guiton) steps in again and does a nice job. He’s too slow, not a strong enough arm, but all he does is lead manage and distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game,” Meyer said.
Guiton was named a captain for the 2013 season, despite not being a starter, and has been under the spotlight before. Against Purdue in 2012 Guiton replaced the injured Miller and led the Buckeyes to a comeback 29-22 victory in overtime to preserve OSU’s undefeated season.
Senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown said when Guiton comes in for Miller, no one on the team stresses about it.
“Kenny’s one of the leaders on our team, he’s one of the captains and everybody respects him,” Brown said. “Everybody knows what he brings the table, a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger. He’s a real vocal quarterback, so when Kenny’s out there, nobody’s worried at all.”
Brown was the recipient of both of Guiton’s touchdown passes, and after the game, he complimented Guiton on his ability to place the ball in the right spot.
“Kenny threw a perfect throw and we had the perfect play called, the corner was really close up, man pressed all day. It was an easy catch and harder throw,” Brown said.
Upon coming into the game, Guiton said he didn’t want to think about the pressure of the situation. He just wanted to score.
“I really try not to think about that when I hit the field. I just try to think about first down, first down, explosive play until we’re in the endzone,” Guition said. “That’s one thing I always tell the offense and that’s one thing I just always live by.”
Guiton’s first drive culminated in a seven-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Dontre Wilson. Wilson said any drop off when Guiton enters the game for Miller is not noticeable.
“Kenny is one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football right now, it’s great to have him as a backup,” Wilson said. “We didn’t really lose a lot, Braxton is a Heisman candidate, but Kenny is a great thrower.”
Senior offensive lineman Andrew Norwell said the biggest thing Guiton adds to the game is energy.
“He brings the juice, he brings the energy. Everybody respects him in the locker room. He’s just a great dude to be around,” Norwell said. “He leads by example. He doesn’t really play a lot because he’s behind Braxton, he’s the backup. When his number’s called he’s got to be ready, and obviously he was ready today.”
Although Miller did not return for the rest of the game, some teammates felt he would have been able to play if he was needed. Guiton said when he saw Miller down on the field, he didn’t know what was wrong but was ready to take the field.
“I really wasn’t sure at all. I did see that his helmet was off and the guy hit him in the face. I wasn’t sure how bad it was at first or anything. I just tried to prepare and make sure I was ready,” Guiton said.
Brown said he thinks Miller will be healthy for OSU’s road trip to California next weekend.
“We’re not too worried. We know Braxton’s going to do a good job of rehabbing this week and he’ll be back for this next game,” Brown said. “But even if he’s not everyone on the team has enough confidence in Kenny (Guiton) that he can get it done.”
Meyer said he “(thinks) there’s a chance (Miller will) be ready for next week.”
Guiton said confidence was a key factor in his performance.
“Just getting extended time in a game like that, I think that built my confidence a lot. It’s one thing to practice all the time and become good but it’s different when you’re actually in there doing it,” Guiton said.
OSU is set to hit the road to take on California (1-1) Saturday at 7 p.m.