So while Braxton Miller's first-quarter injury was of course unfortunate for Ohio State fans and admirers of college football in general, Kenny Guiton's insertion into the game also provided an ironic twist as his approach probably played directly out of the hands of what San Diego State wanted to do defensively.
I thought Miller read plays better and showed a more natural sense of when to run and when to scramble in Ohio State's season opener against Buffalo, but it still remains to be seen if he has put his penchant for taking everything on himself fully in the past. Guiton, meanwhile, knows his limitations and is thus a great facilitator of Urban Meyer's spread offense (which I suppose raises the question of exactly how he might have been able to fit into Jim Tressel's attack, but that is really neither here nor there).
At any rate, it seemed San Diego State had a defender assigned to the quarterback at most times and was giving him a "give" read on the zone read and the regular old option. Guiton did a great job of playing off the unblocked defender and giving the ball to a teammate in the best possible position to do damage numerous times in the afternoon. Beyond that, I would say two of his longest runs – a 16-yarder in the first quarter and the 44-yard touchdown run in the second quarter – were both a result of scheme things that surprised SDSU.
The 16-yard run was a result of Guiton keeping it on a perfectly executed inverted veer play that I don't think the Buckeyes ran against Buffalo (though they did last year plenty of times) while the touchdown came from a new quad-receiver formation that left the Aztecs short of defenders on the inside. On top of that, I would say the free safety probably played the touchdown run wrong as he ended up too close to the line of scrimmage and took himself out of the play. Andrew Norwell and Jack Mewhort both had big blocks on that play.
I really like the inverted veer play a lot as compared to the "traditional" zone read, and Guiton's 16-yard run was a great example of why. He was able to option the outside linebacker, who played it well enough – until he got obliterated by Norwell, the pulling guard. That created the crease for Guiton to cut up the field behind Marcus Hall and Taylor Decker, who had plowed the road with a nice combo block on the front side. Hall then came off the double team and sealed an inside linebacker. I also like the inverted veer because it gives the running back a running start.
So Guiton looked great running the option and operating within the ball control passing game. He let his talented teammates do most of the work, which is a formula for success that also might bode well for the future when Miller has used up his eligibility because it means a dynamic talent isn't necessary for the offense to be dangerous (it's nice to have a dynamic talent at quarterback, of course).
Extended playing time for Guiton also showed he has good, fairly consistent touch on short throws and can hit the deep ball, but his lack of an elite arm showed up a time or two, also.
I thought the offensive line play was excellent, both physically and mentally. Their communication was excellent as they continually handled San Diego State's blitzes from their 3-3-5 alignment (though there was virtually always a seventh guy in the box even though Ohio State had the tight end detached most of the day). The only blemish was the penalties, though Ed Warinner was correct when he pointed out two of the pre-snap fouls were a result of a defender jumping into the neutral zone and should have been ruled offside. Taylor Decker bounced back nicely from a tough opener against a stud linebacker, and Jacoby Boren proved he can handle the middle physically and mentally even with a man lined up on his nose.
Defensively, San Diego State had pretty much no chance playing a pro-style offense against the Buckeyes, who were more than happy to gang up on them and attack both inside and out in some ways that are more difficult (and dangerous) against spread teams.
One hopes the groin injury for Adolphus Washington doesn't linger, but Joey Bosa was more than adequate as a replacement. He has the power to set the edge and athleticism to get into the backfield and do damage as well.
Steve Miller provided a pleasant surprise subbing for speedy Noah Spence at times (there was also at least once the two were on the field together). Spence's speed and agility make him a more dangerous rusher, but I thought Miller looked more powerful than when last we saw him. He used to be a pure speed guy but worked over an SDSU tackle more than once.
I wasn't all that thrilled with Curtis Grant in week one, but he looked more aggressive against the Aztecs. We'll see if he continues to trend in the right direction against Cal. He obviously has the size and speed to be a force, which raises the expectations for him. Meanwhile, Josh Perry got more playing time thanks to an extensive use of the base defense, and he proved more than solid at the Sam linebacker while Ryan Shazier was his usual beast self.
Chris Fields was called for a couple of penalties blocking, but he has a great seal to give Dontre Wilson the corner on the first touchdown of the day. Jeff Heuerman also had a nice cut block on the play, and they optioned the linebacker.
Curtis Grant did a nice job sifting through traffic to get to the quarterback and force a poor throw on the Armani Reeves' interception in the first quarter.
Steve Miller also did a nice job reading a screen pass in the second quarter and peeling back to make the tackle.
Playing a lot to spell Michael Bennett, Michael Hill continued to impress. He stuffed a double team and met running back in the hole on one particular play in the first half. He couldn't make the tackle but forced him outside where Christian Bryant and Roby came up to bring him down.
The dime defense seems to have morphed from the 3-2-5 we saw in the spring and preseason to a 4-1-6. That was the package on the field when Spence and Bennett combined for a sack/fumble. Spence used his speed to get around the tackle while Bennett (who had another strong game) put a nifty spin move on the guard.
On San Diego State's first possession of the third quarter, the Buckeyes hopped into Bear front and Bennett shot what happened to be the play-side gap, where he swallowed up the ball carrier for a TFL. The guard couldn't reach him because he was too quick.
Warren Ball showed off some good feet skipping out of the way of an unblocked defender on one run. The Aztecs blitzed right into gap he wanted and he made three yards out of nothing.