CINCINNATI — There were still plenty of questions to be answered after Ohio State’s spring game Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, but who was the game’s top player wasn’t one of them.
Junior quarterback Braxton Miller threw for 217 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for a third score to lead the Scarlet team to a 31-14 victory over the Gray team.
“It was a pass-heavy game because that was an area where we were not very good at last year,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “I thought at times Braxton Miller did very well, and I think several of our receivers did really well, too.”
Miller opened the scoring with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Devin Smith early in the first quarter, then broke a 7-all tie in the second quarter with a perfect pass to Corey Brown.
“It all depends on how the corner defends it,” Miller said of the second TD. “If he’s on top, then I’m going to hit (Brown) with the back-shoulder throw. We work on that all the time, so that worked out pretty good.”
Miller said he’s a lot more comfortable in the offense this year for several reasons.
“Just knowing how the plays develop and where guys are going to be,” he said. “If I have to move out of the pocket, it feels good knowing where the guys are going to be.
“Guys last year were going out there and just hoping to get open. It was tough with the transition into a new offense. So it was like night and day (between the two spring games).”
The one glaring issue on the statsheet was Miller being sacked seven times. He finished with 11 rushes for minus-13 yards, but he was wearing a black no-contact jersey so defenders only needed to lay hands upon him to score a sack.
Would he have been brought down seven times if he’d been allowed to try to escape their clutches?
“I don’t know how many of those would have been sacks … (the defenders) were pretty quick,” Miller said.
No. 2 quarterback Kenny Guiton, who played for both teams, was 13-of-22 for 151 yards and No. 3 Cardale Jones was 7-of-16 for 65 yards.
Ohio State played its spring game in Paul Brown Stadium — home of the Cincinnati Bengals — because of renovations at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Meyer, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati, wanted to make sure his players got a representative taste of the Queen City.
During their trip south, the Buckeyes:
** Were given a pregame pep talk from Bengals coach Marvin Lewis.
** Visited the Cincinnati Reds museum at Great American Ball Park.
** Enjoyed a postgame meal of ribs and chicken at the city’s famous Montgomery Inn and followed with Graeter’s ice cream for dessert.
** Later ate chili dogs from Skyline Chili.
“I consider this a great day for Ohio State football and I consider this partly my hometown. To have almost 40,000 people show up for a scrimmage …,” Meyer said. “Coach (Woody) Hayes started that tradition years ago when they’d go visit a place to play. He’d show them around and educate the players. We just don’t have time to do that, but I think that’s a great concept.”
Meyer decided to make a few changes with this year’s spring game, including taking in the action on the field just a few steps behind the quarterbacks.
Meyer and his staff divided up the team Friday morning, with assistant Everett Williams named coach of the Scarlet team and Ed Warinner coach of the Gray squad.
Williams’ assistants were Tom Herman, Mike Vrabel, Tim Hinton, Matt Groom and Jason Osborn. Warinner’s assistants were Luke Fickell, Kerry Coombs, Stan Drayton, Zach Smith, Shane Bowen and Drew Mehringer.
Other changes included:
** The game consisted of four 10-minute quarters.
** There were no kickoffs, and each possession after a score began on the offense’s 35-yard line.
** Punts had to be fair caught.
** Miller and Guiton wore no-contact black jerseys, while freshman Jones, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 241 pounds, wore a regular jersey to gain game-like experience.
The trip to Cincinnati and Paul Brown Stadium was the first for Ohio State since a 23-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats on Sept. 21, 2002 — one of the biggest scares during the Buckeyes’ undefeated national championship season.
** Graduated seniors Travis Howard (cornerback), Zach Boren (fullback/linebacker) and John Simon (defensive lineman) were at the game to receive their Big Ten championship rings.
** Cincinnati connections included cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Coombs — a former player and head coach at Colerain High and assistant at the University of Cincinnati — senior left tackle Andrew Norwell (Anderson High), junior offensive lineman Eric Kramer (St. Xavier), defensive lineman Adolphus Washington (Taft), linebacker Joe Burger (LaSalle) and safety Kevin Niehoff (Mason).
Saturday’s crowd of 37,643 was well under last year’s 81,112 — Meyer’s first on-field appearance as Ohio State’s coach — but that had a lot to do with the move to Paul Brown Stadium.
** The Buckeyes-Bearcats game in 2002 was attended by 66,319 — the largest crowd ever to witness a sporting event in Cincinnati.
** The last 10 spring games attendances before Saturday: 2012 — 81,112; 2011 — 44,276; 2010 — 65,223; 2009 — 95,722; 2008 — 76,346; 2007 — 75,301; 2006 — 63,649; 2005 — 23,000; 2004 — 45,074; 2003 — 57,200.
Several players changed jersey numbers since the 2012 season — receiver Devin Smith went from
No. 15 to No. 9, cornerback Adam Griffin No. 9 to No. 11, receiver Evan Spencer No. 16 to No. 6 and linebacker Joshua Perry No. 15 to No. 37.
** Several Buckeyes were unable to participate due to injuries, including linebacker Ryan Shazier, safety Devan Bogard (knee), cornerback Nagee Murray (knee) and safety Jamie Woods (shoulder).
** Five true freshmen graduated from high school during the winter and took part Saturday, including Elyria High’s Tracy Sprinkle, who was a defensive lineman for the Scarlet team. Joining Sprinkle were cornerback Eli Apple, quarterback J.T. Barrett, cornerback Cam Burrows and defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis.
** The losing team will spend next Friday giving Buckeye Grove — a grassy area south of Ohio Stadium where each first-team All-American has a Buckeye tree planted in his honor — a cleaning and landscaping makeover.
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