Despite an injury to starting quarterback Braxton Miller, the Ohio State Buckeyes did not miss a beat Saturday, defeating San Diego State, 42-7.
The junior quarterback left the game during OSU’s first drive, spraining the MCL in his left knee at the end of a first down run early in the first quarter. Miller was carted to the locker room after walking off the field under his own power. He returned to the sideline with a brace on his knee, but did not play for the remainder of the game.
On the game’s next play, redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton pitched the ball to running back Dontre Wilson, and the freshman sped to the pylon to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead.
When Miller went down with the injury, Guiton popped right up next to OSU coach Urban Meyer, seeming anxious to get on the field. Guiton said that although he did not know if Miller would be able to return to the game, his preparation from practice this week allowed him to be ready to perform at a high level.
“I actually wasn’t that nervous today,” Guiton said after the game. “I know that I prepared all week like a starter. Once I got in, I took my first hit, had my first throw and after that it was just ‘Let’s go.'”
Meyer called Guiton “the old right hander,” calling his leadership skills “incredible.”
“All he does is manage and distribute and has an incredible knowledge of the game,” Meyer said. “Then also incredible leadership skills where players respond.”
OSU led, 14-0, after Guiton connected with senior wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown on a 27-yard touchdown pass on its next drive.
Brown, who only had two catches in last week’s win over Buffalo, finished the day with six receptions for 73 yards and a pair of scores. He said he was happy to be more involved in the offense, but winning is the most important thing.
“I had two catches last week but we got the win and that’s all that matter to me,” Brown said. “Coach Meyer and Coach Herman came up with a great game plan to get me more involved and the O-lineman blocked well and then Kenny Guiton did his thing.”
SDSU’s offense struggled all day, even though the Aztecs benched starting quarterback junior Adam Dingwell, who failed to complete a pass in the game, in favor of junior Quinn Kaehler. Kaehler did not fare much better, finishing the game 22 of 36 for 216 yards with a touchdown, an interception and a fumble.
Meyer said having defensive starters and leaders in senior safety C.J. Barnett and redshirt-junior cornerback Bradley Roby back in the lineup helped the unit.
“Obviously when you get your leader back, C.J. Barnett, and I think Roby obviously helped as well,” Meyer said. “I think you start getting your people back, you’ve got a chance because they’re aligned and cohesive.”
Enjoying every opportunity you have to suit up for the Buckeyes is something that Barnett said he has realized now that he is his senior year.
“You got to cherish every opportunity,” Barnett said. “When I was younger, I didn’t really understand it, but being a senior now, only having I think, what, five more games after this in the ‘Shoe, it’s just a great chance to go out there, be with my guys and enjoy my time. We play great defense.”
Guiton led the Buckeyes on three more scoring drives in the first half, scoring on touchdown runs by redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall, Guiton himself and redshirt-junior Rod Smith.
Guiton said getting off to a fast start was important for both his confidence and the team’s, but he was less than pleased with his performance in the second half.
“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 lead, 35-0, at halftime, out gaining the Aztecs 309 to 99.
After trading possessions early in the third quarter, Brown was on the receiving end of another Guiton touchdown pass, this one for 24 yards to give OSU the lead, 42-0.
Brown said that reception, where he had to twist his body between two defenders, was and “easy catch and harder throw,” adding that he respects Guiton as much as anybody.
“As a backup quarterback, to be voted a captain out of your teammates you’ve gotta have a lot of respect,” Brown said. “Kenny G was one of the guys who got some of the most votes on our team out of all the captains. That just shows you how much everybody respects him and he’s a leader out there everyday, getting everybody going-so I’m happy for him.”
Guiton, who is known for consistently finishing scoring drives if, and when, Miller gets hurt, said he does not think about that, but has a simpler mindset.
“I really try not to think about that when I hit the field,” Guiton said. “I just try to think about first down, first down, explosive play until we’re in the end zone. That’s one thing I always tell the offense and that’s one thing I just always live by.”
Meyer called Guiton a “coach,” and that he does more things on the field than is noticed.
“His management of the game and the reads and those types of things and getting us in play, which, a lot of times you don’t see,” Meyer said. “You look back we’re checking and those kind of things, that’s the quarterback’s responsibility to get us in the right play. And he did that very well. And he always does that.”
Guiton, who has been a backup for his entire OSU career, said it was “definitely worth it” to stick around Columbus instead of transferring to another school where he could get more playing time. Although he played essentially the whole game today, just being at OSU is why he stuck around.
“I don’t think just getting a lot of playing time shows you that it was worth it,” Guiton said. “I’m at a great university, one of the best universities in the nation. The best in my mind. Getting an education is great and getting to play, I like to cherish every moment of it. Like I tell my team, you have to, man you have to cherish every moment that you get on that field.”
The Aztecs did not get on the board until late in the third quarter, as Kaehler found fullback Chad Young out of the backfield for a two-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 42-7, the final score.
Guiton and Brown both said that Miller will be ready for next week’s game at California, but if his team needs him, Guiton said knows he will be ready thanks to the constant support from Buckeye Nation.
“Every time I run out on the field its a standing O and that just runs through my veins,” Guiton said. “It’s a crazy feeling that I can’t explain.”
Guiton finished the day 19 of 28 passing for 152 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran the ball nine times for 83 yards and a touchdown. Brown finished with six receptions for 73 yards and two touchdowns for the Buckeyes, and Hall ran for 75 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
OSU (2-0) is set to play California (1-1), who beat Portland State 37-30 Saturday, on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.