Trailing at the half, there was plenty of reason to be worried about the defending national champions in Monday night’s season-opener against Virginia Tech.
But the Buckeyes have too many weapons, too many explosive players who make too many explosive plays. And in a game where Ohio State didn’t appear at its best, it still turned in an impressive 42-24 win.
Cardale Jones — revealed in the first quarter as the winner of Ohio State’s preseason quarterback competition — and Ezekiel Elliott picked up where they left off during the Buckeyes’ run to the national championship. Jones tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel on the team’s first drive, and Elliott streaked 80 yards for a touchdown on his first carry of the game.
But Virginia Tech punched back with a dominant second quarter where it capitalized on Ohio State mistakes. The Buckeyes committed a few critical penalties, Jones threw an interception and Elliott muffed a punt, turning the ball over to the Hokies. Virginia Tech scored a pair of touchdowns with passes to wide-open receivers — including a 51-yard catch and run by the full back. That allowed Virginia Tech to head to the locker room with an improbable 17-14 lead.
But Braxton Miller, the former Heisman-candidate quarterback who switched to wide receiver this offseason, starred in the third quarter, helping put to bed any ideas of an upset of the first-ever unanimous preseason No. 1 team. Miller made a stellar catch and run on a Jones pass, resulting in a 54-yard touchdown. Then Miller dropped America’s collective jaw with a highlight-reel spin move for the ages during a 53-yard touchdown run.
Ohio State poured it on with a Jones touchdown run and a 26-yard touchdown pass from J.T. Barrett to Michael Thomas in the fourth quarter.
Even with Joey Bosa suspended, the Buckeyes defense made some big plays, forcing a pair of turnovers. Virginia Tech rushed for just 128 yards.
Jones was arguably a surprise as the winner of that quarterback competition, beating out Barrett, who led the Buckeyes in terrific fashion through the entirety of the regular season last year. But it was Jones who led those three postseason wins en route to a national championship. Monday night, Jones finished with 186 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes as well as 99 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
Barrett got into the game in the fourth quarter, throwing just one pass, the touchdown throw to Thomas, and carrying the ball one time for 40 yards.
Elliott finished with 122 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Ohio State rushed for a whopping 360 yards and out-gained Virginia Tech, 572-320.
The Buckeyes might have had people concerned in the first half, but they outscored the Hokies, 28-7, in the second half. And the big plays by the unending onslaught of high-caliber players showed that there’s no reason to think that Ohio State won’t be favored to repeat as national champion from now until November, when the next big test comes in a game against fellow current top-five team Michigan State.