Grading the Buckeyes: Big plays lead to win

Braxton Miller celebrates his 53-yard touchdown run. David Jablonski/Staff
Braxton Miller celebrates his 53-yard touchdown run. David Jablonski/Staff

Amid all the fun story lines in No. 1 Ohio State’s 42-24 victory Monday over Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium, how about this one?

Running back Ezekiel Elliott revealed after the game that suspended teammate Joey Bosa was back home in Columbus watching Elliott’s puppy Ace.

Bosa will be busy next Saturday when Ohio State hosts Hawaii as he, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson return from suspensions. Ace, a dog Elliott loves to tweet about, will be on his own for a few hours.

As for Elliott, his pursuit of the Heisman began with a so-so game. Here’s how Ohio State graded in the running game and other areas:

Rushing offense: Virginia Tech again focused on shutting down Ohio State's running game and succeeded to a large extent in the first half. Elliott finished with 122 yards on 11 carries, but 80 of those came on one touchdown run.

There just wasn’t room for Elliott to run, so the Buckeyes turned to quarterback Cardale Jones for carries. He gained 99 on 13 rushes. Braxton Miller added 62 yards on six carries, 53 coming on one touchdown run.

Big plays turned the running game's night into a big one. Grade: A

Passing offense: Cardale Jones didn't find out he would start until moments before he did. Maybe the uncertainty hurt him. Maybe Ohio State's lack of experience at wide receiver did.

Maybe Jones struggled because it was the first game, but he was not as sharp as he was at the end of last season. He completed 9 of 18 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and one ill-advised interception. Grade: B.

Rushing defense: The Hokies gained 128 yards on 44 carries. Their longest run was 16 yards.

Joshua Perry, Gareon Conley, Raekwon McMillan and Tyvis Powell all had eight tackles for the Buckeyes. Grade: A.

Passing defense: Until he left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter, Michael Brewer gave the Buckeyes trouble for the second straight season. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 156 yards with two touchdowns. Grade: B-.

Special teams: Elliott, Ohio State's new punt returner, at least until Marshall returns, fumbled a punt. Jack Willoughby, the new kicker, missed a 43-yard field goal that would have given Ohio State a 17-0 lead. Grade: C.

Coaching: Urban Meyer's unorthodox decision to delay naming the starter until moments before the game seemed to work out … OK. Well, Ohio State won.

No one in the postgame press conference really believed Jones at first when he said he didn't know he would start, but he was adamant about it. If anything, the intrigue added to a fun season opener. Grade: B+.

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