CINCINNATI: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer preferred to talk about Tiger Woods’ 2-shot penalty at the Masters Tournament than his team’s final spring workout.
“Do you mind if we talk about that for a minute?” he said after the Buckeyes’ annual spring game. “That’s probably more interesting than what I’ve got to say.”
Still, there were plenty of noteworthy items from Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage played at the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium because of reconstruction being done at Ohio Stadium.
Braxton Miller threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Scarlet to a 31-14 victory over the Gray before 37,643 scarlet-clad fans.
The junior was the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year last season as the Buckeyes surprised many with a 12-0 season in Urban Meyer’s first year as coach. Miller, who was 16-of-25 passing for 217 yards, threw scoring passes of 20 yards to Devin Smith and 3 yards to Corey Brown, and also rushed for a 3-yard score.
“I’ve still got to work on some things, watch some film and fix some mistakes,” Miller said. “I was just trying to make the pass, get guys open and get the ball in their hands.”
Miller, heralded as a Heisman Trophy contender this fall by several national publications, had a solid performance.
“Fundamentally, he’s pretty good. When it breaks down, that’s when it starts to go,” Meyer said. “But he’s much improved. We have to improve everyone around him.”
It was an informal practice session with scoreboards. There were TV cameramen on the field during some plays, and Meyer stood a few yards behind the backfield on almost all of the offensive plays for both squads.
There were 11 sacks by the two defenses, including four by Cincinnati native Adolphus Washington and three more by Noah Spence.
“Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play,” Meyer said. “He’s a legitimate player. You saw him today just have his way with our offensive line at times.”
Washington raised his hand after each sack.
“It’s a thing that the D-line does,” he said. “It’s called ringing the ball. That’s what we do.”
Safety C.J. Barnett believes the defensive line — which must replace all four starters — could be the key to the entire team’s season. “The line is the most important part of the defense,” he said. “We’re going to go as far as they take us.”
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton hit on a total of 13-of-22 for 151 yards and one score, playing for both teams, and third-teamer Cardale Jones was 7-of-16 for 65 yards with a touchdown pass, two lost fumbles and an interception to Kevin Niehoff on one of the last plays of the game.
Jones was a target for tacklers, unlike Miller and backup Kenny Guiton, who wore black jerseys and were not allowed to be hit to guard against injuries. That led to some two-hand tap sacks.
No rusher amassed 50 yards, while Michael Thomas — who had 12 catches a year ago in the spring game and followed with just three during the entire regular season — had seven more receptions for 79 yards and a 4-yard touchdown for the Gray. For the Scarlet, Smith, running back Bri’onte Dunn and Brown each had five catches.
“We just wanted to come out and play a full game and see what everybody’s got,” Brown said.
Miller led the Scarlet to scores on three consecutive possessions to break the game open. After helping Scarlet forge a seven-point lead at the half on a last-second score, he ran it in from 5 yards the next time his team got the ball to make it 21-7.
There were constant reminders that this was no typical game. Drew Basil kicked for both teams. And after the Gray’s second-quarter touchdown, he attempted seven extra-point kicks, the last three from 54 yards out.
On some plays, Scarlet players mingled with Gray players on the same defensive front.
Meyer stood a few yards back of the quarterbacks, watching closely, on each play for both teams. A 1986 University of Cincinnati graduate, Meyer was all in favor of taking the game to Cincinnati when Athletic Director Gene Smith first proposed the switch.
The team toured the Cincinnati Reds museum, and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis spoke to the team before the game. The Buckeyes were scheduled to go out for local specialties such as barbecued ribs, chili and ice cream on their way home.
“To have almost 40,000 people show up for a scrimmage [was great],” Meyer said. “It’s been a great trip.”