Braxton Miller made Urban Meyer’s debut even more memorable.
Miller rushed for 161 yards, a record for an Ohio State quarterback, and threw for two scores to lead the 18th-ranked Buckeyes to a 56-10 victory over Miami (Ohio).
Meyer, who won two national titles at Florida, is unbeaten in 11 season openers. He had worked as a TV analyst a year ago after stepping down from the Gators job due to health and family considerations.
He was hired last November to revive the beleaguered Buckeyes.
The slow-starting Miller, who stutter-stepped for a 65-yard score just 17 seconds into the second half, was 14-of-24 passing for 207 yards. He connected with Devin Smith for one highlight-reel score and also hit Corey Brown on a 5-yard TD pass.
After Miller’s long run made it 28-3, Bradley Roby recovered a high Miami punt snap in the end zone and the rout was on.
Travis Howard had two interceptions and Carlos Hyde scored on 4- and 8-yard runs for Ohio State.
Miller and Hyde, who had 82 yards on 17 carries, helped the Buckeyes roll up 294 yards on the ground and 244 through the air.
Much like during the early spring – when Meyer called the attempts to learn his new hurry-up, spread offense a ”clown show” – the Buckeyes struggled at the outset. With Miller completing just one of his first seven passes, Ohio State was outgained 172-48 in the opening quarter before a stunned crowd of 105,039 at Ohio Stadium which came expecting to see a refurbished and cutting-edge offense. The first four possessions ended with punts.
Meanwhile, the RedHawks bumbled despite taking a 3-0 lead after the first 15 minutes.
Zac Dysert, who completed 31 of 53 passes for 303 yards and one touchdown with the two interceptions, was victimized by dropped catches again and again. Three times it appeared the RedHawks had a first down after a catch when the ball abruptly came loose.
Smith’s spectacular reception turned the tide.
Taking over at their own 17 after a punt, the Buckeyes needed just four plays to cover the distance and take the lead for good. Miller used a play-action fake to freeze the defense before hitting Brown for a 38-yard gain to the Miami 23. Miller then threw high and hard into the right corner of the end zone where Smith leaped, snagged the ball with his right hand and, while twisting, tucked it in as he crashed to the ground.
Once they figured out how to score, the Buckeyes kept it up.
Miller rolled right and flipped a short pass to Brown for a TD before Hyde burst in off right tackle for a 21-3 lead.
A 44-yard throw from Miller to Evan Spencer with 3 seconds left in the half gave Ohio State the ball at the 1, but Hyde was stopped by Miami’s Justin Bowers short of the goal line.
Miller scored just 17 seconds into the second half, juking and then speeding past the Redhawks’ D.J. Brown down the left sideline for the lengthy score. Moments later, a high snap tipped off the fingertips of Miami punter Zac Murphy, with Roby winning a scrum in the end zone for the touchdown and a 35-3 lead.
Miami’s Nick Harwell, fourth in the nation a year ago in yards receiving per game, had a couple of the drops but still finished with 120 yards on eight receptions. Harwell caught a 44-yarder from Dysert for the RedHawks’ touchdown early in the third quarter.
The RedHawks had taken advantage of Ohio State’s early offensive misplays to take the lead on freshman Kaleb Patterson’s 22-yard field goal – not long after he had missed a chip shot from almost the same distance.
Miller’s rushing total eclipsed the previous record of 146 yards set by Cornelius Greene against Wisconsin in 1974.
Brown finished with seven catches. The Buckeyes’ leading receivers a year ago had 14 receptions in 13 games.
Meyer took over a battered program that was nailed by suspensions and NCAA investigations last year while going 6-7 last year, the program’s first losing record since 1988. As a result of NCAA violations committed under the Jim Tressel regime, the Buckeyes are banned from playing in a bowl game after the season.