BLACKSBURG, Va. — Ohio State coach Urban Meyer finally revealed his starting quarterback Monday and the defending national champion Buckeyes avenged their only loss from last season with a 42–24 win against Virginia Tech.
Here are three takeaways from an enlightening night at Lane Stadium:
1. Cardale Jones is the Buckeyes’ QB1
The fourth-year junior, who led Ohio State to three postseason wins last season while subbing for the injured J.T. Barrett—who had himself subbed for the injured Braxton Miller—won the most fascinating quarterback competition in college football history.
Jones wasted little time, leading Ohio State to a touchdown on his first series as the starter. He gained 16 yards on a third-and-21 play and then followed that with a 10-yard pass to Ezekiel Elliott on fourth-and-five. On the next play, Jones hit Curtis Samuel for a 24-yard touchdown.
Jones wasn’t perfect, though. He had a tipped pass—which he never should have thrown—intercepted in the second quarter, and the mistake led to a Virginia Tech field goal. Jones struggled through the second quarter but rallied in the third. On the second play of the second half, Jones ran for 20 yards. On the third, he hit Miller for a 54-yard touchdown pass to give Ohio State the lead for good.
2. Yes, that Miller
The two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a quarterback may wind up competing for the award a third time as an H-back. After missing all of last season because of a shoulder injury and switching positions this off-season, Miller showed Monday that he has a bright future as a multipurpose offensive weapon.
Meyer pulled out some of the plays he used for Percy Harvin at Florida. The Buckeyes threw to Miller, handed to Miller and snapped to Miller. A direct snap to the senior created the highlight of the night. Miller ran left and then cut upfield. Just before Virginia Tech defensive tackle Corey Marshall closed in, Miller unleashed a nasty spin that left him nothing but green ahead. Miller scored a 53-yard touchdown on the play. He finished the night with 62 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown and 78 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
Barrett got into the game with 10:43 remaining. All he did was lead a 75-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.
3. The team that can beat Ohio State is the Buckeyes
Virginia Tech scored all of its non-garbage time points (17) in the second quarter, and two scores (a field goal and a touchdown) were direct results of Ohio State mistakes. The Jones interception led to a field goal. Meanwhile, a muffed punt return by Elliott—who had an otherwise excellent night with 122 rushing yards and one touchdown—led to a Hokies touchdown drive. Those gaffes allowed Virginia Tech to take a 17–14 lead into the locker room. The Buckeyes probably would have been leading anyway, but a double holding call in the first quarter wiped a touchdown off the board and forced a 43-yard field goal attempt that Jack Willoughby missed.
The Buckeyes probably won’t play another team that can match up with them until they face Michigan State on Nov. 24. Until then, their biggest enemies will be boredom and sloppiness. Because if they limit their mistakes, there aren’t many teams in the country that belong on the same field as them.