Ohio State shuts out Akron in first game under Luke Fickell
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Even missing eight players suspended for breaking NCAA rules, No. 18 Ohio State had more than enough talent left behind.
Joe Bauserman, a quarterback starting his first game in eight years, ran for a touchdown and threw for three to tight end Jake Stoneburner to lead No. 18 Ohio State to a 42-0 win over Akron on Saturday in a sweltering season opener.
"We're going to focus on the guys we have here," Luke Fickell said after his first game as head coach since taking over for the scandal-ridden Jim Tressel. "That's the most important thing. If it changes week to week, we're going to continue to have guys step up."
Against overmatched Akron, the no-name Buckeyes had a bevy of stars.
Bauserman, who last started when he was a senior in high school, ran for a 15-yard score and threw TD passes of 28, 11 and 2 yards to Stoneburner -- who became the first Ohio State tight end to catch three scoring passes in a game. And the defense, led by linebacker Andrew Sweat -- who had an interception -- completely throttled the Zips.
Already missing five players because of the cash-for-memorablia scandal that cost Tressel his job, three other Buckeyes -- two starters and a backup -- were suspended indefinitely this week for accepting under $300 from a charity. Instead of being stunned by yet another body blow, the rest of the players picked up the slack.
"That's the thing that I might be most excited about and this team might be most excited about, is that they didn't whine about it, they didn't bat their eyes about it," Fickell said. "They just said, 'Next man up.' That's the amazing thing."
First-year players also had a big day for the Buckeyes. Heralded freshman quarterback Braxton Miller tossed a TD pass to another true freshman, Devin Smith, and classmate Rod Smith ran for a score.
Bauserman, who spent the last two years on the sidelines watching Terrelle Pryor play, completed 12 of 16 passes for 163 yards and the three scores with no interceptions.
"Just waiting around all morning. Just waiting. That was the only thing," said Bauserman, when asked the hardest part of his day. "I just wanted to get on the field."
Akron's offense managed just 90 total yards. The Zips, 1-11 a year ago, came closest to scoring when a 41-yard field goal just before the half went wide.
"I just know that their line of scrimmage controlled our line of scrimmage today," Zips coach Rob Ianello said.
In addition to the final score, every stat was lopsided in Ohio State's favor, including first downs (27-5), rushing yards (224-35) and sacks (5-0).
"Although we don't have some big names like in the past, we have a lot of young guys who are fully capable of getting the job done," said Sweat, who also had two tackles for minus yardage and forced a fumble. "We had a competitive camp at each position and we were ready to play today."
The nearby Ohio State Medical Center reported around 20 people were treated for heat-related illnesses.
Almost half the crowd was gone by halftime as the temperature soared to the high 90s with high humidity. A referee had to leave the game because of dehydration. One Red Cross volunteer said his station had run out of baggies to put ice in and that all of the medical personnel were "swamped."
"It was smoking," said Akron quarterback Clayton Moore, who completed just 6 of 16 passes for 54 yards with the one interception. "I went in at halftime and I couldn't feel my legs. They were just dead."
The Buckeyes took control early.
Bauserman, a 25-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates prospect as a pitcher, completed passes for 9 and 28 yards on the opening drive, capped by an Akron misplay. Bauserman turned to hand off the ball to a back but there was no one there. He sidestepped a defender and zigzagged through several more potential tacklers on a lumbering 15-yard touchdown -- his first in college.
"That was a little miscommunication," he said. "I just decided I was going to turn and get back up to the line of scrimmage and I made a guy miss and it opened up."
The Buckeyes led 21-0 at the half after Bauserman hit a wide-open Stoneburner twice on scoring passes, the second after Sweat picked off a pass that was tipped by teammate Dominic Clarke.
Ohio State went with one of its youngest starting lineups ever with just six seniors starting. Another reason for all the youth is the legion of NCAA problems surrounding the program.
Leading returning receiver DeVier Posey, top 2010 rusher Dan Herron, starting offensive tackle Mike Adams and backup defensive lineman Solomon Thomas are all suspended for the first five games for receiving cash and tattoos from the subject of a federal drug-trafficking probe. They were also without linebacker Jordan Whiting, who had to sit out just the first game for the same NCAA violation.
On Thursday, Ohio State announced that starting tailback Jordan Hall, first-team cornerback Travis Howard and backup safety Corey "Pittsburgh" Brown were suspended indefinitely for keeping the gifts offered by a charity earlier this year, also an NCAA violation. Ohio State has appealed to the NCAA for their reinstatement after one game, but no one knows when they'll return.
Ohio State is awaiting final sanctions from the NCAA after its Aug. 12 hearing.
Fickell said he did not get any advice from Tressel in the days leading up to his debut.
"I have not talked with coach. That's about all we've got on that," he said. "I know he's rooting for us and for these guys. We're going to focus on what we have and not what we lost and we're going to continue to move forward."
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