For the first time since 2005, the San Diego State Aztecs visited Columbus to play the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Aztecs failed to score until late in the 3rd quarter, falling 42-7 in a near total domination in all phases of the game. With Braxton Miller down with a minor injury, Kenny Guiton stepped up and delivered 19/27 passes for 152 yards for 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, and added 9 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart put up 21/34 for 207 yards, one score and one interception.
For the running game specifically, Jordan Hall ran the ball the most for the Buckeyes, who spread the ball around among their running back committee, and picked up 13 carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. Most impressively, the young defensive line held an experienced running team to 60 total running yards on 24 attempts for the day, forcing them to go away from their preferred style of play.
The Aztecs got the first shot at offense but found the going troublesome early against the OSU defense. While opportunities were present for moving the ball, SDSU wasn’t able to connect on either of their first two passes. After starting with atrocious field position, they were forced to punt the ball back to OSU, giving them the ball at the 50.
Braxton Miller, taking advantage of his Heuerman up the middle, managed to keep the first drive moving. Unfortunately, Miller suffered an MCL sprain while converting a third down close to the endzone and was kept out of the game for the remainder of the day. On the next play, Kenny Guiton tossed the ball to Dontre Wilson on an outside run to the left for the first touchdown of the young running back’s career.
Dingwell tossed a pick on the very next possession straight into the waiting arms of Doran Grant. Unfortunately Guiton wasn’t able to get the offense moving, and the Buckeyes were forced to punt despite the excellent field position. But things changed on Guiton’s second drive. He made a number of good reads on the zone read with Dontre Wilson, and delivered a huge touchdown strike to Corey Brown 27 yards down the left side of the field. Impressively, the Buckeye backup QB stood tall and took a shot while delivering the ball exactly where it needed to be.
Things were not much different on his third drive. While the OSU offense had its occasional gaffe, including a forward pitch from Guiton to no-one in particular, they continued to find ways to move the football. On second and goal from the four, Guiton gave the ball to Jordan Hall up the gut for his third touchdown of the season.
Not everything was perfect for Kenny Guiton. He went down the field to Devin Smith early in the second quarter on the right side of the field, but badly underthrew the ball. Aztecs DB Damontae Kazee undercut the short line drive and made an excellent one-handed grab to intercept the ball. It was the first good news of the day for the struggling SDSU team. They got more good news later on their drive when Jordan Hall roughed the punter while going for a block. Not surprisingly, the Aztecs were unable to do anything with the football and had to give it back to the Buckeyes.
Jordan Hall wasn’t the only one to get into the running game. Guiton had a solid day trucking the rock on more than a few occasions. That included an excellent run up the middle on a 5 WR bunch set that left the middle of the field wide open for him. He scored from 44 yards out to give OSU a 28-0 lead with 5 minutes left in the half.
The Buckeye defense found a lot more success getting to the quarterback this week. Against the quick throws there were few sacks to be had, but the Silver Bullets still put a hit on Dingwell to remind him that they were still hanging around to do bad things. That caused more than a few off-target throws, and a handful of holds to try to maintain protection. And the improvement wasn’t localized only in the backfield. The OSU coverage was much tighter, and the ball hawks were out in force stuffing screens and short passes for most of the first quarter. It’s worth noting that the Buckeye defense held San Diego State to all of 3 *total* yards for the first stanza – and were one play away from holding them to negative yardage.
Still the Buckeye defense wanted to help out the offense some more. The Defensive Line, which had been getting better pressure today compared to last week, popped QB Quinn Kaeler in the backfield and jarred the ball loose. OSU recovered the football and the offense quickly drove for another score on the continued strong running of Jordan Hall, who had 60 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
With scant minutes left in the half, the Aztecs finally began to find some success on offense. A few runs to the left side gained them a pair of first downs, and then a defensive holding penalty on a 10 yard pass play put SDSU in their best field position of the day. With 3rd and goal from the two with 4 seconds to go, Kaeler tossed a quick pass on a slant route over the middle that was well defended by CJ Barnett to complete the first half shutout.
Much credit needs to be given to RB Adam Muema. He had a tough game running the football, but did an excellent job to keep churning his legs and trying to make something out of nothing. The pursuit demonstrated by the OSU defense proved to simply be too much for him and severely limited his success on the ground for the day. That said, SDSU found a lot more success (relatively) running Chase Price (5 carries 22 yards) and Donnel Pumphrey (3 carries 18 yards).
The Buckeye offense bogged itself down on its first drive of the second half. A facemask penalty on Chris Fields after Ezekiel Elliott gained a first down on his first run set the offense back 15 yards. That was followed by Marcus Hall picking up an illegal hands to the face penalty, forcing OSU into a first and 31 that they were not able to convert. The mental mistakes are a good reminder that this team is still young and still learning as they go – even if they were both committed by players who should know better.
The poor drive resulted in solid field position for an Aztec team that had started to build some momentum at the end of the first half. It appeared briefly that the momentum would continue into the second half, until Michael Bennett blew through the line on 2nd and 6 and crushed the SDSU RB in the backfield. The Aztec drive swiftly stalled in a three and out and the Buckeye offense was again on the field for another shot. Kenny Guiton capitalized after a slow and plodding drive on another touchdown toss to Corey Brown, this time in double coverage. Brown did an excellent job of elevating to grab the 24 yard toss at it’s highest point, and Guiton had placed it where only Brown could make a play on it.
SDSU finally managed to score, this time not falling prey to the end of the half. They collected themselves and Kaehler systematically disected the OSU zone in the passing game. While the Bucks gave up very little after the catch, the passes were sufficient to keep the sticks moving. Eventually, they found themselves two yards from the endzone and needed only a quick pass to the flat to Chad Young to finally put points on the board. It was the only points they would score for the game, as their final drive was stopped by an Armani Reeves pick to redeem him from his struggles from last week.
The Buckeyes offense was particularly diverse in this one. Four different runners scored at least one touchdown today, including Dontre Wilson and Rod Smith. Corey Smith and Guiton also connected twice to find the endzone. While the Tight Ends were not a major focus of the offense, Jeff Heuerman still caught a pair of passes for solid gains in important moments. All in all, the offense is in very good shape this season, even if key pieces have to sit.
The defense is not far behind. Despite the gnashing of teeth from Buckeye nation last week, it was pretty clear the defense was pretty solid. That was proven today as they kept San Diego State pinned down for the majority of the game, and forced four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles). Only late, once younger players were starting to see playing time, did the defense start to allow SDSU to move the football. Now, there’s no question that this isn’t a stern test for the defense, but any doubt about what they can do as a unit should be safely put to rest for at least another week.
The Buckeyes will next play California in Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 14th. That game will be played on Fox at 7:00 PM Eastern Time.