Braxton Miller was sacked seven times in the first half. Limited by the two-hand-touch rule that made his prodigious scrambling abilities largely useless, the quarterback easily could have become frustrated Saturday in Ohio State’s spring game.
Instead, he helped the Scarlet team dominate.
Miller threw for 217 yards and accounted for three touchdowns as his Scarlet squad pulled away to a 31-14 victory in front of 37,643 fans in Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium.
Before being removed for the fourth quarter, the Heisman Trophy candidate looked like a more confident, improved passer despite windy conditions in the Queen City. He finished 16 of 25 and even caught a pass on a throwback play from Levi Ratliff.
Scarlet chose to move the ball almost exclusively through the air, as Miller hit Devin Smith five times for 76 yards and a score. Brionte Dunn snagged five more passes for 61 yards, while Corey Brown had five grabs for 25 yards and a touchdown and Evan Spencer had a team-best 49-yard catch.
On the other side, Kenny Guiton and Cardale Jones split time before Guiton moved to Scarlet. In all, Guiton was 10 for 18 for 92 yards overall, while Jones finished 7 for 16 for 65 yards, a touchdown, 37 rushing yards and an interception tossed late to Cincinnati-area native Kevin Niehoff.
Warren Ball led Gray with 11 carries for 45 yards. Michael Thomas had his second straight strong spring game, catching seven for 79 yards and a touchdown, while Chris Fields had a TD grab for Gray before making a scoring run for the Scarlet team.
It didn’t take long for Scarlet to take the lead, as Miller found Spencer behind the defense for a 49-yard catch on the very first play of the game. Three plays later, Miller was flushed from the pocket but found Smith behind Armani Reeves on the right side for a 20-yard touchdown. Drew Basil’s PAT made it a 7-0 game.
Gray tried to counter, as a 34-yard pass from Guiton to Blake Thomas – in which the tight end carried linebacker David Perkins for the last 15 yards – put the team in position to score. But the drive fizzled, and Basil’s 28-yard field goal missed wide to the right in a strong breeze.
The next time Gray had the ball, though, it was able to put together a 90-yard drive to tie the score. The biggest play was a 31-yard catch and run by Michael Thomas to get the ball deep into Scarlet territory, and finally, on third down from the 5, Guiton read the blitz and hit Fields for a 5-yard TD.
Scarlet responded nicely, though, as Miller directed a 59-yard drive in the hurry-up offense to give his team a 14-7 halftime lead. Miller worked mostly underneath the Gray defense, hitting Dunn twice for 31 yards, before a back-shoulder pass to Brown from 3 yards out for the score on the last play of the half.
The Scarlet squad then took over early in the third quarter thanks to a couple of fumbles for Jones. The redshirt freshman was moving the ball when he was leveled on a strip sack on the half’s first drive, as cornerback Eli Apple came untouched off the edge and knocked the ball free then recovered it.
Scarlet quickly took advantage, as Miller hit Smith on a diagonal crossing route for 42 yards before running in for a 5-yard touchdown two plays later to five his team a 21-7 lead.
Gray then fumbled on the next play, as Ball and Jones had a miscommunication on a read option and Joe Burger recovered. Two passes to Dunn then gained 21 yards, and Basil came in to make a 25-yard field goal to extend Scarlet’s advantage to 24-7.
Gray got things going on its next drive, though, to get back in the game. Jones had a couple of nice runs and then hit Fields for a nice sideline grab at the 11. Finally, on second-and-goal from the 4, Jones hit Michael Thomas for a nice catch in double coverage for a touchdown that made it 24-14.
Guiton and Fields moved to the Scarlet squad when it took over, with Guiton engineering a 65-yard TD drive with both his arm and his legs. The final play was a 6-yard scoring run by Fields, who took the pitch from Guiton on a reverse and ran in over the right side for an easy score.
From there, Jones was unable to lead the Gray to a score, clinching the Scarlet’s win.
Periods of field goals were interspersed thrice in the game, with Basil making 7 of 11 with a long of 52 yards. Kyle Clinton made 3 of 5 with a long of 39.
Joshua Perry led the Scarlet team with 10 tackles, while star Adam Griffin had seven. Curtis Grant had a game-high 16 stops for Gray to go with a sack, while Adolphus Washington had four sacks – including two on the last possession – and Noah Spence had three.
Cornerback Bradley Roby, tight end Nick Vannett, tailback Roderick Smith and defensive lineman Rashad Frazier did not dress, while tailback Carlos Hyde, offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Corey Linsley and linebacker Ryan Shazier did not take part. Senior tailback Jordan Hall was limited in action.