Devin Smith is not mortal.
The Urban Meyer era in Columbus got off to a sluggish start, at least by the oft impossible to live up to standards of the Ohio State faithful. But with one unimaginable, brilliant one-armed Devin Smith grab, the Buckeye team those in central Ohio (and beyond) expected to see slowly began to become a reality. With an aggregate afternoon that would make Heisman year Tim Tebow jealous, Braxton Miller and company came back from an early 0-3 deficit to take down the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, 56-10.
After a 1/7 start for just 5 yards, Braxton Miller regained composure (and brushed off a humid, sticky morning which saw a number of players slipping, sliding, and failing to make catches they otherwise would) to finish the day having completed 14-of-24 passes for 205 yards and 2 TDs. Far more impressively, Braxton Miller set the single game quarterback school rushing record (unseating the trailblazing great, Cornelius Green) with 161 rushing yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. Green (then Greene) had accomplished the feat in 1974 against Wisconsin. Miller now has four 100-yard rushing games for his career, tying Green for the school lead in that category. Unfortunately for Braxton, his afternoon would end early after dehydration and cramps resulted in his not completing the third quarter and giving way to Kenny Guiton (who was beyond competent in his own right).
Ohio State's offense entered 2012 with a sputter. After freshmen Devan Bogard, Najee Murray, and David Perkins all saw action on the opening series, following Ohio State's defense getting Miami's O off the field, the Buckeyes' O looked every bit as green as those inexperienced newcomers. A series of uninspiring drives were followed with a frightening Miami (Ohio) run that if not for a few fortuitous drops, culminated in a missed field goal.
After another Ohio State three and out, Miami again had their way with a half-awake Buckeye defense. Again following a wide open Miami receiver failing to bring in a Zac Dysert throw, the RedHawks settled for a field goal, this time converting. Miami was out to a quick three nothing lead. Amidst much bad, one of the few early positives was defensive end Nathan Williams. After being cleared just Tuesday, Williams was in the game from the get go, looked healthy (a huge plus for the senior end coming off a lost 2011), and even saw action on the kick block team.
Following frosh Armani Reeves and Bri'onte Dunn taking the field at kick return, an impressive Braxton Miller run (capped with a Pryor/Wells-ian stiff arm) failed to go anywhere after Carlos Hyde slipped on a play and a substandard Miller toss. A brilliant Ben Buchanan punt was probably Ohio State's best play of much of the first quarter, saying just about all that needs to on an Ohio State offense, to paraphrase Urban Meyer, that was "non-functioning". Amongst the few early positives, stud freshman d-lineman Adolphus Washington saw early action as well in a unit that at one point featured he, Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, and Nathan Williams concurrently.
Despite a fast start by Zac Dysert, who finished the first quarter 13-23 relative to Miller's paltry showing, another of OSU's few positives (which at one point included just two first downs to their name) was a near Bradley Roby INT. Roby and C.J. Barnett alike were both wishy washy in the early goings, in showings that echoed 2011, but both later redeemed themselves with strong play. The RedHawks ultimately outgained the Buckeyes, 172 yards to 48 in the 1st, easily explaining their 3-0 early edge.
The second quarter, much like Urban's notorious Year Two, signified a metamorphosis from a year old but not year better side into the soulless killing machine many Ohio State fans were hoping for. An explosive 16-yard Carlos Hyde run set the stage for a play action lob to Philly Brown, which at the time culminated the Buckeyes' biggest gain of the day. One of the subsequent plays will easily go down as a play of the year, with Devin Smith bringing down what will easily be a candidate for catch of the year:
The ensuing defensive series saw a near pick by the previously substandard C.J. Barnett. A great play at the macro level by the defense saw three straight 3-and-outs before an on-fire Ohio State offense saw a roll out touchdown from Braxton Miller to Philly Brown. Ohio State led 14-3 and Miami immediately began to look on their heels. The once one-sided yards battle had its table turned and was now squarely in favor of the Buckeyes, 188-172. In fact, in less than four minutes of play in the second, the Buckeyes outpaced the Redhawks 140 yards to zero.
In an afternoon that saw the Ohio State offensive line put in one of their best performances in years, Braxton Miller continuously found time from the second on to go through his progressions and find a more than willing recipient of the football. Another impressive designed quarterback run moved the ball down to the nine and helped set up Carlos Hyde looking every bit the back that garnered high praise from Urban Meyer during essentially the entirety of August. Hyde's 4-yard scramble and a Drew Basil point after gave the Buckeyes a 21-3 edge they'd take into half time. The Buckeyes could've blown the doors off the place by punching in a touchdown right before half, but the RedHawks had one of their few impressive defensive showings on the day, stuffing Hyde. All this on the heels of Braxton Miller, well, doing Braxton Miller things, throwing a lob to Evan Spencer that put Ohio State in scoring distance.
Alas, in lieu of failing to really break things open, the Buckeyes finished the second quarter with 297 yards. Miller alone threw for 187 and rushed for 99. Despite Ohio State's leading receiver having just 14 catches in 2011, Corey Brown finished with five in the first half alone. Devin Smith led all Ohio State receivers the previous year with 300 yards receiving; Philly had 80 in the first half of game one alone.
The third quarter opened with some quick (to coincide with Ohio State's new tempo approach to offense) impressive plays including what could've been a huge return for Armani Reeves. And then Braxton Miller did the sort of thing only Miller can, scrambling for 65 yards including a filthy stutter step.
Fellow freshman stud Noah Spence saw his first action on the defensive line and combined with Etienne Sabino on an inspired play that forced Zac Dysert into intentional grounding. On one of the ensuing snaps, with the RedHawks facing a punting situation, Bradley Roby showed just why he's regarded as the fastest member of the 2012 Buckeyes, storming to the ball en masse with his teammates and securing it to give Ohio State (following another Basil PAT) a 35-3 lead. The drive by the RedHawks exemplified the Silver Bullets really turning it on in the second quarter and beyond: 7 plays for -19 yards and a score... For the Buckeyes.
Miami had their lone offensive bright spot later in the third, when the floodgates on the Zac Dysert-to-Nick Harwell connection finally gave way, closing the gap to 35-10. Shortly there after, Miller's cramp issue would begin to rear its ugly head, giving Ohio State a brief scare, but ultimately allowing Kenny Guiton to get some valuable playing team that could help Ohio State later on in the season.
The fourth quarter felt procedural in many ways, with the RedHawks likely have been wishing for a running clock throughout. Early on, Travis Howard jumped in front of a pass to collect his second INT of the afternoon. Ohio State's previous multi-INT game came in 2010 against the other Miami, the Hurricanes, when Chimdi Chekwa picked off Jacory Harris two times. Carlos Hyde continued to push things forward for the Buckeyes, darting his way to an 8-yard TD run and expanding Ohio State's margin to 42-10. Like Urban Meyer has been preaching, Hyde promptly responded by celebrating with a "a big guy", in this case the linemen who helped pave the way for Hyde's fleet-for-his-size dancing into the end zone.
Senior Zach Boren, a weapon that Tom Herman and Urban Meyer both emphasized would be used in a variety of facets this fall, also got into the action, taking consecutive carries in the red zone and ultimately punching the football across the goal line to add to OSU's lead, 49-10. Despite a lengthy career leading the way for other prolific rushers, this marked Boren's first time as the ball carrier making his way into the end zone. Ohio State defensive backs coach Kerry Coombs approved of the team's cumulative effort.
Luke Fickell's defense managed to empty the bench as the fourth waged on, ultimately incorporating the likes of Adam Griffin and Conner Crowell into the action as well. Tommy Schutt also showed a preview of things to come, stopping Miami (Ohio) ball carriers for no gain on several plays. With Miami's 2010 starter Austin Boucher even checking in at quarterback, the white flag had been beyond raised. A late Bri'onte Dunn TD, the first of his career, completed things, with Ohio State winning Urban Meyer's debut emphatically, 56-10.
When the smoke cleared, Ohio State had outgained the Redhawks 538 yards to 312, going 8-for-16 on third downs, 1-for-1 on fourth down, and winning the turnover battle, +3 to -3. Despite their frantic pace offensively at times, the Bucks even finished the afternoon winning the time of possession battle, 31:26 to 28:34. Ohio State's 7.3 yards per pass completion bested the RedHawks' 5.8 and the rushing advantage was even more definitive: Ohio State averaged 5.6 yards per carry while the RedHawks finished at a paltry -.1 per touch. To really put the icing on things, the Bucks were more attention-to-detail oriented and disciplined in terms of executing, committing just three penalties for 20 yards loss relative to Don Treadwell's group's six penalties for 33.
Urban Meyer wanted an angry team. While they were far from perfect, if anything, they played motivated, particularly from the second quarter on. While the early struggles will give plenty of teaching moments for a staff in many ways still new to Meyer himself, it's hard to argue with the results.