COLUMBUS – The scoreboard read: Ohio State 42, Akron 0.
But the Buckeyes were expected to win big in their season opener Saturday, and the result most Ohio State fans were looking forward to was nearly as lopsided: Joe Bauserman 4, Braxton Miller 1.
That was the number of touchdowns each Ohio State quarterback scored in the rout, although Bauserman’s helped the Buckeyes establish a 28-0 lead and Miller’s came in the fourth quarter and after the young player had stumbled through several other possessions.
“We know we’re going to need them both,” Ohio State coach Luke Fickell said. “We’re just going to put them in the situations and see how they handle it, and still continue to let them compete. They’re willing to work together and we’ll see how it goes.”
The battle for the No. 1 quarterback role was the top story – well, maybe the second-biggest story – coming into the season and even though fifth-year senior Bauserman was named the starter for Saturday’s opener, Fickell said both quarterbacks would see time on the field against Akron.
That was reflected on the Ohio State depth chart, where the top quarterback spot is listed as “Joe Bauserman OR Braxton Miller.”
The tight contest had Buckeyes fans wondering if it would be the former pro baseball player who had already performed in front of 106,000 at Ohio Stadium or the highly touted and super-talented raw recruit that would grab control, and Bauserman clearly did that against Akron.
In Ohio State’s opening possession, Bauserman completed both of his pass attempts before scrambling for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Buckeyes a quick 7-0 lead.
He and junior tight end Jake Stoneburner continued to increase that lead as the pair connected three times for touchdowns in the next two quarters.
“It felt good to get out there and get good timing and get comfortable,” Bauserman said. “I tried to lead the best I could. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about.”
Bauserman looked like a veteran in his first career start, making several strong throws while on the run and directing the offense as if he’d been doing it for years. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 163 yards and the three touchdowns.
Miller entered the game on the third series and things didn’t go as smoothly. The true freshman was stuffed on a run up the middle, had a nice pass dropped by junior tight end Reid Fragel and had to jump on a bad snap by senior center Mike Brewster.
“I don’t think it blew up on him – I told him on the sideline that it might have been the best thing for him,” Fickell said. “He got hit, he had a pass dropped and a senior snapped the ball on the ground … and the most important thing to me, he didn’t bat an eye at it.
“We wanted to see how he handled that and he handled it great.”
Miller didn’t re-enter the game until midway through the third quarter, but looked as if he had shaken his first-game jitters while he ran the Buckeyes offense for the remainder of the game.
Miller, who starred at Wayne High in Huber Heights, completed eight of 12 passes for 130 yards, and threw his first career touchdown pass to fellow freshman Devin Smith early in the fourth quarter.
“It was good for both Braxton and I to get out there,” Bauserman said. “Braxton came in and did well, and moved the ball. We both were focused.
“Now, it’s time to watch the film and prepare for Toledo.”
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Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State tight end
Stoneburner became the first tight end in Buckeyes history to haul in three touchdown catches in a game, and just the eighth Ohio State player to accomplish the feat.
Senior quarterback Joe Bauserman found Stoneburner twice in the second quarter – for 28 and 11 yards, respectively – and again in the third for a 2-yard score to push the Buckeyes’ lead from 7-0 to 28-0.
“I redshirted my first year and (Bauserman) was the scout team quarterback, so we built some chemistry there,” Stoneburner said. “The next year we were both on the second team so we continued to get to know each other there. We’ve always kind of been together on the team.”
Clayton Moore, Akron quarterback
The sophomore completed six of his 16 passes for 54 yards and an interception. He was also sacked twice and spent most of the afternoon trying to find ways around the charging Ohio State defenders.
“We had a good game plan going in but we didn’t execute as well as we would have liked to and some of that was on me,” Moore said. “We made some good things happen but the little things beat us today. You have to do the little things right versus Ohio State.”
PLAY OF THE GAME
While Ohio State used solid – not spectacular – plays to wear down the Zips, the Buckeyes’ lone takeaway was one of the more exciting plays of the day.
After a missed field goal by the Buckeyes and down 14-0, Moore tried to complete a sideline pass that sophomore defensive back Dominic Clarke was able to tip away. Senior linebacker Andrew Sweat rushed in, leaped in the air to grab the ball and landed with his feet just inside the field for the interception.
“It was a little bittersweet since I couldn’t come down with it myself,” Clarke said. “But I am glad Andrew was able to come up with it – anything that helps the team makes me happy.”