For the first time since 2008, the Ohio State Buckeyes welcomed an FCS school into the confines of Ohio Stadium. Not surprisingly, Florida A&M was in no position to handle the Buckeyes and fell 76-0 in a game that was over by the end of the first quarter. Kenny Guiton again had an excellent game throwing the football, completing 24 of 34 passes for 215 yards and 6 touchdowns with only a single interception. Damien Fleming was solid but not spectacular for the Rattlers, going 10/16 for 30 yards and a pick.
The Buckeye Running game was spread around fairly evenly among 8 different backs, all who gained 364 yards on 42 carries. The sole exception was Ezekiel Elliott who got the balance of the yards in the second half and wracked up 162 yards and 2 TDs on 14 carries. The passing game was similarly distributed with 5 different receivers catching touchdown passes, and 10 catching passes. The receivers picked up 215 yards on 24 receptions, including 6 receptions for 70 yards for the tight ends. All of the passing yards came in the first half, as OSU stuck to the running game in the second.
Florida A&M was chosen for rather unusual reasons. While the Buckeyes have never shown a hesitation to play an FCS school (recall Youngstown State), but typically OSU has done it to spread the money around to other schools in the state. FAMU was asked to play a game at Ohio State so that they could show of their famous marching band – the Marching 100. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the band was suspended and not allowed to travel to Columbus.
Kenny Guiton earned the second start of his career, with Braxton Miller still recovering from his MCL sprain sustained against San Diego State. After FAMU shanked a punt following a three and out on their first drive, the Bucks had excellent field position with which to work. Guiton came out and threw 4 straight passes, getting the Buckeyes to the two yard line, and throwing an interception in the endzone. Thankfully for the OSU offense, the Rattler defender made a poor decision by running the football out of the endzone in the midst of traffic and fumbled away the turnover. Jordan Hall plowed the ball into the endzone on the resulting play for the first score of the game.
The second score followed not long after. With another 3 and out, FAMU was forced to punt to Corey “Philly” Brown. Brown returned the kick in a winding route to the Rattler’s 26 yard line. On the return, however, Florida committed a personal foul, placing the Buckeyes 11 yards from scoring. On the next play, Guiton hit Jeff Heuerman for a touchdown that well displayed Heuerman’s toughness. The Buckeye coaches chose to go for two with the swinging gate, but Hall couldn’t plunge the ball into the endzone on the screen pass.
Another three and out for the hapless A&M offense led to a blocked punt by Doran Grant, and placed OSU again in spectacular field position. This time, Guiton only needed two passes to find the endzone, as Evan Spencer nearly scooped it off the turf for six.
It’s worth noting that in the first 4 possessions (3, really, but the pick to fumble play breaks the first possession in two) Guiton spent a lot of time targeting Jeff Heuerman. He had three passes tossed his way, including the pick that was snatched from in front of him in the endzone. It appears that the coaches asked Guiton to put more emphasis on involving the tight ends in the offense.
Carlos Hyde finally saw the game with 3 minutes left in the first quarter. On 4th and 1 he was given the ball and plunged forward for four yards. It was more than just a one play deal, he was left in for most of the remainder of the drive. The rest of the possession was mostly spent throwing the football, but struggled to get the ball into the endzone with a couple rough drops from the receivers. After converting a long 4th down, Carlos Hyde punched the ball into the endzone from 3 yards out for his first touchdown of the season.
On the following possession, the Buckeye D-Line put lots of pressure on FAMU QB Fleming who tossed a pick to Bradley Roby. Roby charged the ball down to the 5 yard line, putting the OSU offense in great field position again. Guiton threw a strike to Devin Smith in the corner of the endzone, and Smith hauled the ball in for another score. For those keeping track at home, this gave the Buckeyes 34 points in the first quarter of play.
In 20 and a half minutes of play the Rattlers did not convert a single first down. Ohio State, on the other hand, coverted 13 – though none of them on third down. The Bucks were a surprising 0-3 converting on third downs, but made up for it by converting all of their 4th down plays in that time. It ultimately took just shy of 25 minutes for FAMU to finally pick up their first new set of downs. At that point, the second string defense had come into the game and was seeing regular time.
OSU spent the first few possessions primarily throwing the football. On one drive, the Bucks tossed 22 passes and ran the ball only twice. That severe skew in the balance began to disappear late in the first half as the FAMU defense started to tire. The OSU running backs began to gash the Rattlers defense for big gains of 20 or more yards, and everyone was getting in on the game. Jordan Hall ran one for 18, Carlos Hyde picked up 21 on a nice play where he dragged several defenders, and Rod Smith grabbed a 27 yard gain to start the last drive of the half. By the end of the half, OSU had thrown 34 passes (6.3 yards per completion) and run 13 times (8.5 yards per carry).
The second half began with the Buckeyes plugging in the 2nd string players on the offense. Cardale Jones got his first shot as signal caller for the offense, and several other young guns saw the game, including: James Clark, Ezekiel Elliott, Frank Epitropoulos, and Kato Mitchell. Despite putting in the second string, they still managed to move the ball down the field and score a touchdown, including a 4th down conversion. They may be young, but they have a lot of talent.
Ezekiel Elliott made the most of his opportunity to take the field. Where the majority of the running backs carried the ball well for a fair number of yards, Elliott was given the bulk of the carries. He demonstrated an excellent burst up the middle and an elusive shiftiness that was tough for FAMU to handle. He shows great promise for the future, and may have made a case for more playing time in the coming weeks.
There’s not much analysis possible from a game like this, but there is one thing that can be taken away. This offense is as close to plug and play as it can be. It doesn’t seem to matter who is on the field, the offense still works. It may not always be smooth – Cardale Jones struggled a little more than Kenny Guiton – but he still led a scoring drive. Now, it’s important to remember that this is just Florida A&M, so don’t take too much away, but things are promising.
The Buckeyes will next play Wisconsin in the Horseshoe. You’ll be able to see that game at 8:00 PM Eastern Time on ABC.