Ohio State lost its Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback during the team’s first offensive series but didn’t look like it missed a beat, rolling to a 42-7 victory Saturday afternoon over Mountain West Conference rival San Diego State in front of 104,984 fans at Ohio Stadium.
Junior quarterback Braxton Miller went down hard following a first-quarter scramble, losing his helmet and twisting his left knee in the process. That would have been cause for alarm on most teams, but it simply paved the way for senior co-captain Kenny Guiton to have a career game while directing five touchdown drives in the first half and one more after intermission.
Guiton finished the game with 19 completions of 28 attempts for 152 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for an additional 83 yards and a TD. The completions, attempts, passing yardage, touchdown pass total and rushing yardage established new career-highs for the senior QB.
Miller completed the only two passes he attempted, good for 30 yards, before leaving with what was described as a sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He was carted off the field, later to return wearing a knee brace, but OSU head coach Urban Meyer elected to be cautious with his starting quarterback and kept him on the sideline the remainder of the game.
“The ol’ righthander stepped in again,” Meyer said with a smile. “He has incredible leadership skills and all our players do is respond to him.”
The coach added that he believed Miller could have returned to the game had he been needed, but “the thing that makes him dangerous are his wheels, so we made the decision not to (put him back in). I think he’ll be ready next week.”
Guiton wound up the game’s leading rusher while tailback Jordan Hall added 75 yards after totaling a career-high 159 in last week’s season opener. Hall rushed for one touchdown as did freshman Dontre Wilson, who carried five times for 51 yards. Rod Smith returned from a one-game suspension to add 11 yards and a touchdown for the Buckeyes, who piled up 263 yards on the ground.
Both of Guiton’s touchdown passes went to receiver Corey “Philly” Brown, who had six receptions for 73 yards. Fellow wideout Devin Smith had a game-high seven catches for 46 yards.
San Diego State had only 280 yards of total offense with 216 of that coming through the air. JUCO transfer Quinn Kaehler went 22 for 36 for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception in relief of starter Adam Dingwell. Aztecs head coach Rocky Long had a quick hook on Dingwell, who misfired on each of his five attempts including one interception.
SDSU, which rushed for 122 yards last week during an embarrassing 40-19 home loss to Football Championship Subdivision member Eastern Illinois, managed only 64 on the ground against the Buckeyes. Sophomore Chase Price was his team’s leading ball-carrier with 22 yards on five carries, while starting tailback Adam Muema, who averaged 112.2 yards per game last season, was limited to only 5 yards on three carries against the Buckeyes.
The Aztecs tried to make an early statement by winning the coin toss and electing to receive. That strategy immediately backfired, however, when they went three-and-out and a short punt gave the Buckeyes their first possession of the afternoon at midfield.
Miller was injured on the seventh play of the drive, but Guiton entered the game, and one his first play flipped a perfect option pitch to Wilson, who sped 7 yards into the corner of the end zone to give the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead at the 11:49 mark.
Guiton directed two more first-quarter scoring drives, the first capped by a 26-yard pass to Brown and the second when Hall bolted up the middle for a 4-yard run. At that point, Ohio State enjoyed a 21-0 lead and was dominating San Diego State in every facet of the game. The Buckeyes already had 182 total yards to minus-3 for the Aztecs, and OSU held a 9-0 advantage in first downs.
SDSU didn’t get its initial first down in the game until the 12:11 mark of the second quarter, long after the Aztecs had changed quarterbacks. San Diego State seemed to respond better to Kaehler, totaling 102 total yards in the second quarter, but it still couldn’t dent the scoreboard, squandering its only chance when Kaehler’s third-and-goal pass bounced off the hands of receiver Ezell Ruffin in the end zone on the final play of the first half.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes had put up two more touchdowns in the second period to run their halftime advantage to 35-0. Guiton took a quarterback sweep around left end and sprinted for a 44-yard touchdown at the 5:33 mark, and then after defensive lineman Michael Bennett had recovered a Kaehler fumble at the SDSU 24, Smith scored on a lunging, twisting 1-yard run with 3:15 remaining until the break.
Ohio State pushed its lead to 42-0 at the 5:52 mark of the third quarter when Brown made a leaping catch between two San Diego State defenders for a 24-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, the Aztecs managed to avoid being shutout for the first time since 2006 when Kaehler capped a six-play, 72-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown flip to fullback Chad Young with 1:41 remaining in the third period.
The Buckeyes (2-0) will hit the road next week for the first time in 2013 when they travel to California to take on the Bears. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Eastern.