BLACKSBURG, Va. – A look at how Ohio State graded out in its season opener at Virginia Tech on Monday night.
In the end it was a night for a little revenge, a lot of Braxton Miller, finally an answer about who got the start at quarterback and more.
Scoring 42 points against a good team on the road should not be dismissed lightly, but Ohio State’s offense was inconsistent.
It started fast and finished well, with the help of a couple Virginia Tech second-half turnovers. But in between there were some problems with turnovers, penalties and putting together sustained drives.
Cardale Jones (9 of 18 for 186 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) won the much-discussed competition with J.T. Barrett to become the No. 1 quarterback. He also carried the ball 13 times for 99 yards. He had more rushing attempts than any OSU running back.
The undisputed star of the night, though, was Braxton Miller, who produced one big play, a 54-yard touchdown catch, in his new role as a receiver, and an even better one with a dazzling 53-yard touchdown run in his first game action in 19 months.
Maybe Ohio State’s defense should be given two grades – one when Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer was in the game and the other after he had to leave the game with a shoulder injury.
The Hokies had 243 yards total offense when Brewer was injured and only 77 yards in the last 26 ½ minutes after he had to leave the game.
Two second-half turnovers – forcing and recovering a fumble and an interception – helped OSU pull away.
Like the offense, which was missing three receivers because of a one-game suspension, the defense was also playing short-handed, with Joey Bosa also out because of a suspension.
Two first-time starters who did not get much playing time last year, cornerback Gareon Conley (8 tackles) and defensive end Tyquan Lewis (1.5 sacks) were among the statistical leaders.
Ezekiel Elliott was a surprise starter in the punt returner’s role and his fumble, which led to a touchdown for Virginia Tech, was an unpleasant surprise.
Duke graduate transfer Jack Willoughby handled kickoffs, field goals and extra points. Four of his kickoffs were returned and four were touchbacks, but one went out of bounds for a penalty. He missed his only field goal attempt from 43 yards.
If anyone was expecting OSU to play at the same level as it did in the national championship game on opening night with four significant players suspended, that was probably unrealistic.
But it got a convincing win on the road against a solid opponent without playing close to its best game. The offense and defense both have room to improve and should do that.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414