The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes kicked off the season with a bang Saturday afternoon, beating the Buffalo Bulls, 40-20, in front of a sold-out crowd in Ohio Stadium.
Ohio State started fast, racing out to a 23-point, first-quarter lead, but the late-August heat, and Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, settled in and bogged the Buckeyes' offense down.
Ohio State remains undefeated in the Urban Meyer era. Here's 10 things we learned from the Buckeyes' 13th consecutive victory.
1. Braxton Miller Is Improved as a Passer, but Still Has Room to Grow
Miller worked hard this offseason to improve his passing mechanics, and that showed against the Bulls.
Miller completed 15 of 22 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns against one interception. His 68 percent completion percentage was a mark he failed to reach in 19 of his 22 previous starts.
Still, Miller wasn't perfect. The junior quarterback missed wide-open receivers on two occasions, and the interception he threw came off a horribly executed screen.
Even with the interception, Buckeyes fans should be encouraged by Miller's performance.
2. Jordan Hall Is No Fallback Option at Running Back
Hall was without question the star of the game for the Buckeyes. The fifth-year senior rushed for a game-high (and career-high) 159 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Hall's averaged 42 yards on his two touchdowns, and that big-play ability in the run game is what Ohio State's offense lacked last year. If Hall can consistently provide that element, Carlos Hyde will have a hard time getting his starting spot back when he returns from suspension.
3. The Buckeyes Missed Carlos Hyde's Physical Running Style
Even with Hall's incredible play, the Buckeyes still missed their 6'0", 240-pound running back.
There were a number of short-yardage situations where Hyde's physical running style would have benefited the Buckeyes. Never was that more evident then when Ohio State went for it on 4th-and-1 at midfield in the second quarter, only for Hall, who weighs 191 pounds, to get stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
Against the bigger defensive lines in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will need Hyde.
4. The Front Line Needs to Get More Pressure on the Quarterback
Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, both sophomore defensive ends, entered the season with a lot of hype surrounding their ability to get after the quarterback.
The two combined to register seven sacks during Ohio State's spring game, looking unblockable going up against Ohio State's makeshift offensive line.
Against the Bulls, Ohio State's entire defense notched just one sack (Spence), but it was negated by a flag against middle linebacker Curtis Grant.
Buffalo quarterback Joe Licata got the ball out quickly in most instances, so there wasn't a whole lot of opportunity there. If the Buckeyes want to be an elite defense, though, they'll need to get a better pass-rush going.
5. Buffalo Linebacker Khalil Mack is the Real Deal
There are a number of NFL scouts who expect Mack to go in the first round of the NFL draft this spring, and on Saturday, he did nothing to hurt his stock. In fact, he likely improved it.
Mack looked like the best player on either team for long stretches. He embarrassed right tackle Taylor Decker a number of times in pass-rushing situation. He showed great awareness and speed when he picked off Miller's pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown.
Mack finished with a game-high nine tackles, two-and-a-half sacks and one interception. Frankly, he looked like an NFL-ready linebacker.
6. Ohio State's Offensive Line Needs to Work on Its Pass Protection
There's no shame in losing a few battles to a guy who will be playing football on Sunday's next year, but there were times when Ohio State's offensive line looked overwhelmed by the Bull's pass rush.
Buffalo got to Miller four times on Saturday, and if not for a facemask penalty, the Bulls would have registered a fifth sack, resulting in a fumble at Ohio State's goal line.
Meyer seems confident that the Buckeyes will be able to fix that issue.
Meyer on giving up 4 sacks: "That's completely unacceptable. We'll get that fixed."— Rob Ogden (@Rob_Ogden) August 31, 2013
7. The Buckeyes Desperately Need Bradley Roby Back
Roby served his one-game suspension against the Bulls, and his absence was felt in a big way.
The Bulls only threw for 185 yards, but wide receiver Alex Neutz had his way with the Buckeyes' cornerbacks. Neutz was able to haul in nine receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown.
The Buckeyes' secondary was also without starting safety C.J. Barnett, and while that didn't help matters much, it was easy to tell that the defense missed Roby's presence.
8. Dontre Wilson Is Very Good, but He's Still a Freshman
The hype surrounding this heralded freshman has been enormous through fall camp, and on Saturday, Wilson showed why.
On his first play from scrimmage, Wilson caught a bubble pass from Miller, made a defender miss and darted forward for an 18-yard gain. If not for a shoe-string tackle from behind, Wilson had a chance to take it to the house.
Wilson also showed off his speed and agility on a 51-yard kickoff return, setting the Buckeyes up for a one-play touchdown drive it desperately needed to squash any hopes of a Buffalo comeback.
In one play, Wilson reminded everyone that he's still a freshman. In the second quarter, Wilson took a handoff to the perimeter and broke a few tackles, but a Buffalo defender came from behind and poked the ball out to force a fumble.
It's clear that Wilson will make some plays for the Buckeyes this year, but he'll also need to get acclimated with the speed of college play.
9. The Buckeyes Are Good at Making Two-Point Conversions
Following the Buckeyes' first two touchdowns, Ohio State lined up in a unique look and attempted two-point conversions instead of kicking for an extra point.
Meyer didn't make that call because the Buckeyes needed the points, according to ElevenWarriors.com.
Meyer calls the two-point conversions a way to get "cheap points" and mentions giving opponents something to prepare for.— Eleven Warriors (@11W) August 31, 2013
It is an interesting look that, because of its success against the Bulls, future teams will have to worry about.
10. If It Finds Consistency, Ohio State's Offense Could Be Scary Good This Season
In the first quarter, Ohio State's offense was operating more efficiently than it ever has under Meyer.
The Buckeyes put together three consecutive touchdown drives to start the game, piling up 216 yards of offense along the way. Miller completed seven of his first eight passes (for 103 yards and two touchdowns), and Hall had already run for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Whether it was the afternoon heat or the Buffalo defense settling in, Ohio State slowed down after that first quarter, gaining just 269 yards and scoring 17 more points in the final 45 minutes of game action.
If Ohio State's offense can consistently play at the level it did in the first quarter, few teams will have a chance to keep up with the Buckeyes this season.
All stats via ESPN.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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