CINCINNATI - The Buckeyes wrapped up spring practice with their annual Spring Game but not from the familiar grounds of Ohio Stadium but rather Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati as Braxton Miller passed for a pair of touchdowns (16-25, 217 yards, 0 INT) and ran one in as his Scarlet team beat the Gray team 31-14 in front of more than 37-thousand Ohio State fans who made the trip to the Queen City.
Backup quarterback Kenny Guiton passed for 151 yards and one score (13-22) as he played for both teams while third team quarterback Cardale Jones went 7-16, a touchdown and an interception in his first Buckeye action after redshirting last season.
"It was a pass-heavy game," Urban Meyer said after the game. "An area that we weren't very good at last year, an area that we have to get better in. I thought at times that Braxton Miller and a couple of wideouts, Corey Brown in particular, did very well. It's been a continuation of what we started all spring and Philly Brown is turning into a legitimate All-Big Ten candidate at wide receiver for us, which we need."
Brown went for 5 receptions and 25 yards on the afternoon, Devin Smith had five receptions and 76 yards and a score, Bri'onte Dunn had five catches as well for the Scarlet side. Michael Thomas led all receivers with seven catches for 79 yards and a score for the Gray, Chris Fields had four and a score as well and was named a starter by Meyer after the game.
"It feels good to be one of the starters on the team," Fields said. "I worked hard, like I said, in the off-season and we all worked hard as a unit and it seems it will pay off as we head into summer."
Many wanted to see the growth of Miller as a quarterback and while a Spring Game is not the ideal framework to get a full picture, it was obvious to see that Miller is getting more comfortable as he gets ready to enter his third season with the Buckeyes.
"I know the plays better, how they'll develop and where the guys are going to be," Miller said. "It allows me to move around the pocket more comfortably."
Both Miller and Guiton were in non-contact jerseys and the officials were quick to blow whistles when either was in trouble an the play was called dead.
The Ohio State defensive line was led by Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington who each had three and four sacks respectively as the Ohio State defense (between the Scarlet and Gray) combined for 11 sacks against an Ohio State line that is considered to be thin due to some injuries and the decision to not play Jack Mewhort in Saturday's action. The game was a chance for both Taylor Decker and Chase Farris to audition for the 5th offensive line position and there is no defined leader at this point to get the starting not when things count in a couple months at the start of the season.
"Adolphus Washington has really raised his level of play," Meyer added. "He's a legitimate player as a starter at Ohio State. We saw him today just have his way with the offensive line. He could be a very good player."
"I just went out there and played football and did what my coaches told me to do," Washington said. "It just so happened that I got four sacks."
Saturday's game was an opportunity for the Buckeyes to check out Cincinnati and postgame the team will sample some true Cincinnati culinary institutions after the game with dinner at Montgomery Inn (for ribs) with the addition of Skyline Chili and Graeter's Ice Cream. Assistant coach and native Cincinnatian Kerry Coombs could not be happier with the chance to bring a little Cincinnati into the lives of the team and bring some of Cincinnati's son's back home to play.
"What a great day for us," Coombs said. "For me personally, I couldn't be more proud of my town. There is something that fills your heart when you are a Cincinnati guy and you get a chance to come down (Interstate) 71 and you make the turn and there are the buildings."
The Cincinnati-born players agreed with coach Coombs after the game.
"It's a great experience playing in Paul Brown Stadium," offensive lineman Andrew Norwell said about having the chance to come back to Cincinnati. "I played in it before in high school but it's really a fun atmosphere out there. It's good to get to see my family and stuff afterwards so that's going to be great."
"It was a real good experience," Washington added. "I'm glad we were able to come here and play the spring game instead of Cleveland because those were our only two choices."
The Buckeye team now will have to work on its own until the start of fall camp per NCAA regulations where the coaching staff is not allowed to work with the team in organized team activities. Ohio State opens the season August 31st against Buffalo at home as the team goes for its 13th straight win.