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Ohio State starts strong

September 4, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Doubters said Ohio State's two quarterbacks didn't add up to one really good one.

Based on Saturday's 42-0 victory over Akron in the 18th-ranked Buckeyes' season opener, maybe Ohio State isn't so bad at the position after all.

Fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman passed for three touchdowns and ran for another and true freshman Braxton Miller survived a rocky start to have a solid first outing with a TD pass of his own.

"Those guys work great together," said Luke Fickell, who won his debut as head coach after taking over when Jim Tressel was pushed out for violating NCAA rules. "They're not going to be distracted by the things that are outside and all the outside influences. We know we're going to need them both. We're just going to put them in situations and see how they handle it, and let them compete."

Bauserman was 12 of 16 for 163 yards passing, with all three scores going to Jake Stoneburner, who became the first Ohio State tight end with that many touchdown receptions in a game. Bauserman also ran six times for 32 yards.

"I felt like I went out there and tried to lead the guys best I could," the 25-year-old said. "Jake happened to be running the routes so I threw it to him."

Miller, who graduated from high school early so he could enroll at Ohio State last January, didn't get much help on his only series of the first half. He kept for 2 yards, had a pass dropped that would have gone for a first down, and then All-American center Mike Brewster made a bad snap that Miller fell on.

Things got better in the second half. Miller showed a steady hand and completed 8 of 11 passes for 130 yards including a 14-yard scoring strike to fellow freshman Devin Smith. He also carried six times, gaining 30 yards.

"When I was in high school I did the same thing, then I went out in the second half and I was more comfortable," Miller said.

The vacancy arose at quarterback when Terrelle Pryor gave up his final year of eligibility to jump to the NFL.

Suddenly, Ohio State was left with triggermen who had never really run a collegiate offense with a game on the line.

Four candidates - Bauserman, Miller, Kenny Guiton and Taylor Graham - battled it out in the four-man competition through spring ball, summer workouts and August practices. The field narrowed to Bauserman and Miller two weeks ago, and Bauserman gained the edge enough to take the first snap.

Against Akron, both Bauserman and Miller made good decisions on when to run and when to pass. Both had a good touch on short to medium-length passes. (The Buckeyes had no need to throw deep).

The Zips, coming off a 1-11 season, were overmatched in personnel no matter who was under center. Next up for the Buckeyes is another in-state Mid-American Conference foe in Toledo, picked to be the top team in its league.

Fickell and his staff will be keeping a close eye on the top two quarterbacks in the days ahead. They'll be monitoring how they handle hardships, how they can make decisions on the fly and how they perform as the pressure of the season mounts.

"We've told them nothing goes unnoticed," Fickell said. "Those are the things we're watching. We want to see how guys handle it, their body language, how they come to the sideline and work together."

It could take a while to decide which is the clear starter.

"They know we have confidence in them, but they're willing to work together," Fickell said. "We'll see how it grows."