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BERKELEY, Calif. — Ohio State’s 52-34 win Saturday at California confirmed two truths: Passion for Buckeyes football runs deep as ever and maybe offensive coordinator Tom Herman was right.
Kenny Guiton probably could start at quarterback for a majority of the nation’s 125 FBS teams.
On a night where OSU fans annexed Memorial Stadium — “What an environment,” coach Urban Meyer said of a sold-out crowd close to evenly split between visitors’ scarlet and home yellow — Guiton’s superb debut start in place of the injured Braxton Miller presented the Buckeyes with an enviable dilemma.
After Guiton became the first Buckeye to capture Walter Camp national player-of-the-week honors since Heisman-winning quarterback Troy Smith in 2006, how does he go back to the bench?
Is Miller the next Wally Pipp?
These are silly questions, of course. Miller is the proven star, the radiant dual-threat who broke the school record for total offense as a sophomore last year and was expected to smash it again this fall. He is the player to whom the fate of the season is most closely tied.
“Kenny knows his role,” Herman said late Saturday. “When Braxton gets healthy, that train probably moves as it was before.”
Yet could the train have room for one more? Meyer and Herman both suggested Guiton would not be wedged back into the bottle when Miller returns from a strained left knee, which could be as early as Saturday against Florida A&M of the second-tier FCS.
Asked if Guiton will continue to have a role in the offense, Meyer said, “I think Kenny will get in the game a little bit. ... That’s something I’ll need to think about.”
Expect then an extremely downsized version of a two-quarterback system. For all of Miller’s gifts, Guiton is further ahead in some areas — including his leadership and decision-making in the read-option game.
The fifth-year senior captain completed 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns and added 92 yards rushing Saturday. In all, Ohio State (3-0) put forth the most prolific offensive effort of the Meyer era with 608 yards — 110 shy of the school record set against Mount Union in 1930 — while Guiton’s 368 total yards of offense tied Miller’s career day against Miami (Ohio) last season as the sixth-best single-game output in program history.
Even if Cal’s rancid defense means the performance should be taken with a touch of salt — the rollicking shootout featured 86 combined points, 1,111 total yards, and 177 plays — the Buckeyes fulfilled Meyer’s vision for what an offense should be. They had 332 yards rushing and 276 yards passing, big plays, a people-eating offensive line, and a poised director leading it all.
“A guy who’s in his fifth year getting his first start, it’s just a blessing, man,” Guiton said. “I can’t thank anyone but God.”
Meyer said he was most impressed by Guiton’s deep throws. Though he lacks Miller’s arm strength, he let fly perfectly placed touchdown passes of 90 and 47 yards to Devin Smith within the first four plays.
“A few of those were right on the dot with a couple of excellent catches,” he said. “I’m not surprised with him distributing the ball the right way, but I am surprised that he looked complete.”
Herman said he choked up when he singled out Guiton, the former eleventh-hour recruit who had waited more than four years for his first start.
“Just because of his story, it touches me,” he said. “I don’t know why it still does. This is pretty normal now.”
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.