Ohio State fans love football.
It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly football. The game doesn’t have to count. If the fans don’t know the names of all the players, that’s not a big deal either. On a warm, sunny day in April, Buckeye fans would flock to the Horseshoe for, well, horseshoes.
A crowd of 99,391, the largest in the nation ever to see a spring game, did see football Saturday at Ohio Stadium — or a version of it — as the national champions took the next step in defending their crown.
The good news for Buckeye fans is Ohio State won. The Gray team, led by quarterback Cardale Jones, beat the Scarlet team 17-14. The bad news is neither side resembled the team that beat Oregon 42-20 in the national championship game 14 weeks ago.
“That was not a good team out there,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “We did not improve as a team (this spring). Last year, I thought (we improved) because they were so young. I felt we got better as a team because we weren’t very good. As a team, that’s much worse than what you saw in January, obviously. But we did individually get better.”
That’s the key point. There was no way the Buckeyes were going to look better Saturday than they did against the Ducks, or against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
This game was much more about the individuals than the team, and many new players left good impressions. Meyer started writing down their names late in the game so he would remember to mention them.
“Chase Farris has earned his way,” Meyer said. “He’s a starting right tackle at Ohio State. (Left guard) Billy Price is night and day what he was years ago. (Running back) Bri’onte Dunn has earned a right to contribute to the Buckeyes next year, and (defensive end) Sam Hubbard’s going to be in the rotation.
“(Linebacker) Chris Worley played outstanding today. He had a great spring. (Wide receiver) Noah Brown has had an excellent spring. He made some plays. And (cornerback) Gareon Conley is penciled in now. We’re going to make the call to the family and say your son has earned a right to start at Ohio State. And (defensive tackle) Tommy Schutt has had a very good spring.”
Jones completed 19 of 42 passes for 304 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns. Stephen Collier quarterbacked the Scarlet team and completed 15 of 33 passes for 157 yards and three interceptions.
Corey Smith caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Jones for the first touchdown of the game and finished with six catches for 174 yards.
Brown had four receptions for 44 yards and made the catch of the day, a one-handed grab in the middle of the field. Jeff Greene and Paris Campbell each had five receptions for the Scarlet team.
The most impressive stat, of course, was the attendance. The Buckeyes broke the national record of 95,722 they set in 2009.
“I couldn’t believe that,” Schutt said. “When that number came up on the scoreboard, it was like wow. This place is really special. The people behind us, it’s unbelievable.”
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