With coach Urban Meyer serving a suspension, new starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw for a record five touchdowns as No. 5 Ohio State routed Oregon State 77-31 in the opener for both teams Saturday.
After a preseason fraught with drama, the Buckeyes shook off Meyer’s first absence from the Ohio State sideline in six years, scoring on five of its first six possessions and overcoming some defensive sloppiness.
Meyer will be allowed to return to practice on Monday, although his suspension by the university will last for two more games. He was sanctioned after an investigation showed he mismanaged former assistant Zach Smith, who was accused of domestic violence and other bad behavior. The scandal has dogged the program for the past month.
Acting coach Ryan Day wasn’t surprised the Buckeyes started strong.
“There was a quiet confidence about this team all along,” said Day, the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Haskins, who took the keys from four-year starter J.T. Barrett, was 22 for 30 for 313 yards. The five touchdowns and yards gained are records for a first-time Ohio State starter. Mike Weber rushed 20 times for 186 yards and three touchdowns for the Buckeyes.
Oregon State quarterback Conor Blount found some holes in the Ohio State defense, throwing for 169 yards and two touchdowns, but he also was sacked five times in the first half, twice by All-American defensive end Nick Bosa. Running back Artavis Pierce ran for two long touchdowns in the second half.
“There’s lots of things to learn from, and be encouraged by,” Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “We were in position to make some plays, we didn’t tackle all that well.”
Oregon State: Showed some fight and big-play ability, particularly on the two Blount-to-Tevon Bradford touchdown throws and Pierce scoring runs. But the Beavers made too many mistakes and couldn’t slow down Ohio State’s more talented offensive players.
Ohio State: Shook off all the disruptive off-the-field events of the preseason, scored a lot early and did what it was expected to do, albeit with some holes in the defense. The Buckeyes have another tune-up game next weekend before getting a test against TCU in Dallas in two weeks. Haskins looks like the real deal.
Oregon State: Beavers host Southern Utah in home opener on Saturday.
Ohio State: Buckeyes will be big favorites again when they host Rutgers on Saturday.