BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
COLUMBUS — A chill of concern made its way through Ohio Stadium as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier was carted to the locker room in Saturday’s first half.
On a remade defense further depleted by injuries and suspension, the preseason conference defensive player of the year was the last player the Buckeyes could afford to lose.
Turned out, though, the worry was for naught.
"It was cramps," said Shazier, who finished with team-high 6½ tackles. "[Strength] coach [Mickey Marotti] said I was probably a little too hyped beforehand, and it took away some of my energy."
In fact, a Buckeyes defense that went through much of a 40-20 victory over Buffalo with one returning starter should be back to full strength next week. Shazier returned late and said he felt good afterward, starting safety C.J. Barnett is expected to return from an ankle sprain that made him a late scratch, and All-American cornerback Bradley Roby will be back from a one-game suspension.
Defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said Roby, especially, "will definitely make us a different team, not just with his play but his confidence."
All factors considered, Fickell said he was content with his new-look defense holding the Bulls to 258 yards. Of particular note were sophomore end Noah Spence, who had 4½ tackles — including two for a loss — and a sack, and sophomore reserve defensive back Ron Tanner, who had his first career interception. Coach Urban Meyer also praised freshman end Joey Bosa, who figured prominently in the defensive line rotation. Meyer said Bosa’s "future is kind of silly, if he continues to keep going."
"I walk out of this thing a little bit disappointed," Fickell said. "But the reality is that you’re sitting there the night before thinking, ’I hope we have some adversity, because I want to see what guys we have.’ You kind of talk about it being Christmas morning with all these new guys. I wanted to see what happened when all of the sudden things didn’t go well."
BETTER THAN ONE: OSU was successful on two-point conversions after its first two touchdowns.
Backup quarterback and holder Kenny Guiton ran in the first one and connected with Jordan Hall on the second.
"It’s a pain in the rear end that [other teams] have to prepare for," Meyer said. "I think you try to find as many ways as you can to get cheap points and make people work. It looked good today."
GAME-CHANGER: After Buffalo pulled within 10 points in the third quarter, Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack rocked quarterback Braxton Miller at the Buckeyes 1-yard line. But the sack — and Miller’s lost fumble — were waved off as officials called Mack for a 15-yard illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty. OSU got the ball at the 37 and drove for a touchdown to pull ahead 37-20.
''That turnover would have changed the game,'' Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn said.
Mack, who finished with eight tackles and 2½ sacks, called the play a "big blow."
"We knew we would fight until the end regardless of what happened," he said. "But I really think that would have changed things."
EXTRA POINTS: The victory was OSU’s 62nd straight over an unranked nonconference visitor — a streak that dates to a 34-17 loss to Florida State on Oct. 2, 1982. ... Meyer is 43-4 in games played in August and September and is 12-0 in season openers. ... Junior receiver Devin Smith had a 47-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. His previous 10 career TDs went for an average of 39.3 yards.