COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State came into the opener with a stand-in coach and a new starting quarterback after a truly bizarre preseason that led to a three-game suspension for coach Urban Meyer.
The day worked out OK for the offensively prolific No. 5 Buckeyes, though their defense might still be more of a work in progress than expected.
New starter Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw for a record five touchdowns as Ohio State scored on five of its first six possessions and cruised to a 77-31 rout of overmatched Oregon State on Saturday.
The Buckeyes shook off Meyer’s first absence from the sideline in six years, piling up 721 yards and tying the record for points scored in an opener. 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, jumping ahead 21-7 in the first quarter and going ahead 42-14 at halftime.
“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.
Day coached from the sideline, with co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson in the press box.
“I didn’t notice anything different,” Haskins said. “Just having coach Wilson on the field vs. coach Day, they both did a great job giving advice, communicating with me after the drives. There wasn’t any stress with that.”
BRIGHT SPOTS FOR BEAVERS
Oregon State was able to exploit the Ohio State defense, just not enough.
Quarterback Conor Blount, forced into duty when starter Jake Luton went out with a possible concussion on the game’s sixth play, found plenty of cracks, 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 slashed the Ohio State secondary for touchdowns of 80 and 78 yards on two of the Beavers’ first three plays from scrimmage in the second half. Oregon State piled up 392 offensive yards.
“Obviously, falling short isn’t fun, but when you go out and put 31 points on a defense like that, I think it says there’s a bright future here,” Blount said.
RUNNING BY COMMITTEE
One of the questions in training camp was how Ohio State was going to use talented backs Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins.
Day platooned the pair Saturday until the backups took over in the second half.
Weber was the star , showing the form he displayed two seasons ago when he rushed for over 1,000 yards. A leg injury slowed him last year and that allowed true freshman Dobbins to grab the limelight.
Weber had 20 carries for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Dobbins had 15 for 74 yards.
“We talked about it, think about it a lot,” Weber said. “It’s the reason I came back. We knew that we were going to split carries. But splitting carries is actually good on the bodies for both of us.”
Oregon State: Showed some fight and big-play ability, but the Beavers made too many mistakes and couldn’t slow down Ohio State’s more talented offensive players.
“There’s lots of things to learn from, and be encouraged by,” first-year Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith said. “We were in position to make some plays, we didn’t tackle all that well.”
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 tuneup 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.