Lack of depth at key positions and impending stormy weather combined for an unusual climax to spring football at Ohio State.
Rather than a traditional contest pitting two distinct rosters against one another, OSU head coach Jim Tressel opted for a scrimmage format that wound up with the Scarlet-clad offense taking a 59-27 decision over the Gray-clothed defense in front of an announced Ohio Stadium crowd of 44,276.
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Most of those fans were eager to see the four-way quarterback battle to replace starter Terrelle Pryor, who is suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. During the 80-minute scrimmage, each quarterback got a like number of series and each flashed some success.
Perhaps the best performance was turned in by true freshman Braxton Miller, who led a pair of touchdown drives during his four series. Miller led a 92-yard scoring drive, during which he completed a nice 28-yard pass to senior receiver DeVier Posey, and later flipped a 15-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Corey “Philly” Brown.
“Braxton probably played a bit more relaxed and had a little bit more fun than he has, in part because we really limited what we were doing today,” said head coach Jim Tressel.
“Braxton hasn’t had as much time with the first and second units as the other three guys, but he needed to learn the plays. We wanted to bring him along slowly.”
Miller finished the afternoon with 7 completions in 12 pass attempts for 73 yards and the touchdown. He also scrambled four times for 19 yards.
All three of the other quarterbacks also threw TD passes during the scrimmage. Sophomore Kenny Guiton dropped in a 17-yard pass to redshirt freshman Verlon Reed, redshirt freshmen Taylor Graham and T.Y. Williams hooked up for a 68-yard scoring bomb and senior Joe Bauserman completed a 16-yard touchdown toss to redshirt freshman walk-on Ryan Reed on the final play of the scrimmage.
Guiton finished 5-for-11 passing for 43 yards while Bauserman completed 4 of 11 attempts for 42 yards. He was also sacked twice. Graham was 4 of 9 for 91 yards but was sacked five times.
Although it was eventually on the short end of the scoreboard, the Gray dictated the early tempo with three sacks — one each by senior defensive end Nathan Williams, sophomore cornerback Dominic Clarke and sophomore linebacker Jordan Whiting.
The Scarlet eventually settled down, however, as each side began to mix and match first-teamers with backups.
“For a lot of the younger guys it took them a while to get into the flow today, getting used to the crowd and the stadium,” said senior WR DeVier Posey. “But after the first hit and the first pass, everyone was able to relax and play well.”
“We have young guys at receiver, and they really came along this spring,” added Tressel. “They are starting to understand. First, they have to know where to line up. Then they have to understand what to do. Then they have to figure out how to it against the best guys.”
After the Gray blocked a 35-yard field goal attempt by junior Ben Buchanan, the offense responded behind Miller, who directed a drive that resulted in a 27-yard field goal from Basil. That tied the score at 13 and the Scarlet never looked back.
Guiton’s touchdown pass to Reed, followed by a PAT from redshirt freshman walk-on Russell Doup, made it 20-13 in favor of the offense, and then Miller directed his long scoring drive that culminated in a five-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Jordan Hall.
Hall tied senior Dan “Boom” Herron for game-high rushing honors. Hall carried eight times for 37 yards and a score while Herron had six carries for 37 yards. Just behind them was redshirt freshman Rod Smith, who picked up 36 yards on seven carries.
Graham experienced somewhat of a rough afternoon but made the most of the third of four series he directed during the game. He dropped in a perfect spiral to T.Y. Williams who had beaten Gray defender Vincent Petrella down the near sideline. Williams gathered in the football at about the 35-yard line and raced into the end zone untouched.
Miller returned to direct another scoring drive, finishing things off with a 15-yard toss to Brown, and Bauserman capped the afternoon’s festivities with a 16-yard pass to Ross, who got away from senior cornerback Travis Howard in the end zone.
The Scarlet wound up with 369 yards of total offense — 120 on the ground and 249 through the air.
The Gray was led by senior linebacker Andrew Sweat, who was credited with 10 tackles. In addition to Nathan Williams, Clarke and Whiting, true freshman defensive back Jeremy Cash, redshirt freshman lineman J.T. Moore, junior linebacker Dorian Bell and true freshman lineman Joel Hale each had one sack.