COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The goal was simple enough, and Ohio State made it look even easier to accomplish.
Maybe Urban Meyer should have asked for more than a fast start out of the blocks as “The Chase” officially started on Saturday afternoon.
Even with a shorthanded roster, the Buckeyes looked every bit the contender they’re expected to be in Meyer’s second season leading them in the early stages of the opener against Buffalo at Ohio Stadium. The offense was brutally efficient, the rebuilt defense was pitching a shutout and the biggest question was how long Meyer would keep his foot on the pedal.
But while the Buckeyes got a look at just how quickly they can get to full speed against overmatched Buffalo, they didn’t have enough gas to stay there long enough, leaving plenty for Meyer to fine-tune after a 40-20 win that leaves some questions still to be answered.
“First quarter was script, and you can’t play much better than our guys did,” Meyer said. “ ... I like the fact they jumped out early and they like to play. That’s a positive.
“The negative is that you need to sustain consistent effort and intensity.”
Whether it was the heat and humidity that sapped the energy, maybe the suspensions that knocked out two of their best players before the game even started, or perhaps just rust after not playing a game since November, the Buckeyes certainly didn’t look like the same team from the first quarter much after it was over.
Braxton Miller capped the opening frame with a pair of touchdown passes that showed his newly improved mechanics and accuracy, giving Ohio State the balance it craves in the spread attack. Then he turned around and blindly tossed an interception to a linebacker on a screen pass, which was promptly returned for a touchdown.
There was a rushing attack that opened enormous holes for Jordan Hall to cruise through for a pair of long touchdown runs on the way to a career-high total of 159 rushing yards. That was the same unit that failed to convert a fourth-and-1 near midfield, leading to the first vicious spiking of Meyer’s headset this season.
The promise of Dontre Wilson’s athleticism was on full display on his first touch in the opening quarter, an 18-yard reception that threatened to be much more. The next time the freshman phenom had the ball in his hands, he put it on the turf for a costly fumble.
That inconsistency obviously didn’t hurt the Buckeyes on the scoreboard, and really the outcome was never in serious doubt after that fast start. But by comparison, the final three quarters weren’t even close to meeting the early standard -- and it’s no secret which version of the Buckeyes is needed to claim a crystal football.
“It’s good to see that we can [get out quickly], but we have to keep going with it,” defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “We have to keep putting up points and keep stopping them and not have any of the slip-ups we had today. But to put up 23 points in the first quarter, that has to feel good a little bit.
“You want everyone to go out there and execute really well, but at the end of the day it’s about winning. We will be able to fix all the stuff we messed up and go into Week Two better.”
A more talented team will be waiting there for the Buckeyes, and San Diego State will no doubt have seen some occasionally poor tackling, a few missed blocks and some questionable decisions with the football that it will try to take advantage of next week.
But it also will see a truly scary, complete team when it watches the first quarter. It will be up to the Buckeyes to figure out a way to keep that one on the field.