That was actually fitting. First-time starter Joe Bauserman and tight end Jake Stoneburner took the spotlight after big performances, but the defense quietly did its job. The Buckeyes earned a shutout and held the Zips to 90 yards of total offense. Even without projected starting cornerback Travis Howard, the OSU secondary limited Akron quarterbacks to seven completions. The ground game went nowhere as well. The Zips managed 44 rushing yards and starting quarterback Clayton Moore had the most with 32.
Ohio State lost seven starters on defense from its 2010 team but did not appear to lose a step against the Zips.
"I think we've got a lot of young guys that are fully capable of getting the job done," junior linebacker Andrew Sweat said. "We had a competitive camp at each position and we were ready to play today. Our defensive staff got us prepared.
"We weren't really sure what to expect because it's the first game. We obviously scouted them last year, but we didn't know what to expect. But I think we played our base fundamentals and did well today."
Sweat was Ohio State's leading tackler with six stops and also had the play of the game defensively when he made an acrobatic interception in the second quarter. Moore threw a deep pass that was broken up by sophomore cornerback Dominic Clarke – the man who started in place of Howard. Clarke battled the ball into the air near the Ohio State sideline, and Sweat rushed in and grabbed the ball out of mid air and got both feet in before falling out of bounds.
"I just caught it," Sweat said. "(Clarke) did all the work."
"The Silver Bullets are still the Silver Bullets," sophomore left guard Jack Mewhort said. "It's still the Ohio State defense. Those guys are freaks, and I'm glad they play the way they do."
To say Saturday was a big day for Stoneburner would be an understatement.
Coming into the game, the junior tight end had two career touchdown receptions. After the Ohio State football team thumped the visiting Zips, Stoneburner had five. The Dublin (Ohio) Coffman product became only the eighth player in program history to catch at least three touchdowns in a game and the first tight end in the modern era to do so.
Stoneburner caught three touchdown passes from first-time starting quarterback Joe Bauserman. The duo connected four times, including for scores on passes of 28, 11 and 2 yards.
"I was just excited we won," Stoneburner said. "Also I'm excited that I scored three times. I'm just happy to be out there making plays."
Ohio State has been maligned in the past for not utilizing its tight ends, but with Stoneburner, the Buckeyes might not have much choice. Stoneburner boasts good hands, size and speed.
"People are always knocking Ohio State for not throwing to the tight ends, so I think today shut a lot of people up," Mewhort said. "It was really cool to see my buddy catch three touchdowns."
Stoneburner naturally said he hopes the focus on the tight ends in the passing game is a sign of things to come.
"Hopefully we can keep it going," he said. "I probably won't score three touchdowns every game, but I just want to be out there making plays."
Hyde, Smith Carry Load
The Buckeyes boasted good depth at tailback prior to the season, and that was on display against Akron. Fifth-year senior Dan "Boom" Herron was serving the first of his five-game NCAA suspension, but he was not the only running back sidelined against Akron. Junior Jordan Hall was suspended for the game and sophomore speedster Jaamal Berry was out with a hamstring injury.
That forced sophomore Carlos Hyde and redshirt freshman Rod Smith to take the bulk of the work. Hyde, after an impressive preseason camp that saw him get plenty of work with the No. 1 offense, was the first tailback to take the field. Smith saw nearly as many carries as Hyde in his first game.
Hyde led all rushers with 93 yards on 19 carries in his first career start.
"Coach called on me to be the starter today, so I had to step up to it," he said. "I can't let me teammates down. I was playing hard all through camp, so it wasn't really new to me. My mentality for this game was to play hard like I've been playing. So that's what I did."
Smith had an up and down day. He lost a fumble in the red zone in the first half but later rebounded and scored his first touchdown on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter. He finished with 74 yards on 18 carries.
"It was just a great feeling, my first touchdown at the college level," Smith said. "It was a blessed felling."
Smith also debuted a new number. He had been No. 24 but switched to No. 2 before the game. The reasoning was simple.
"I started on recon (OSU's kickoff return team), and as you know our kicker (Drew Basil) is No. 24. So I had to change. … This is just the number I picked. Nothing special."
Buckeyes Happy To Play
An offseason of scandal was met with a scorching Saturday sun. Still, nothing could deter from a feeling of happiness from the Buckeyes that they were back on the field.
"I would say we were ready to play a good game," Sweat said. "With all of the adversity in the offseason we were finally ready to strap it up and hit someone else. Maybe someone would use the word relief just to get it going, but we were just ready to play the game."
Another player happy to just get the games going was quarterback Braxton Miller. The freshman from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne was the second signal caller to see action but played well when he was on the field. His first series, which came in the second quarter, was a three-and-out that included a dropped pass by tight end Reid Fragel and a bad snap from center Michael Brewster.
Still, Miller's final stat line was not bad. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown – a 14-yard scoring strike to fellow freshman Devin Smith in the fourth quarter that drew some praise from teammates and fans.
"When I came off, people were (asking), ‘How did you put that in there?' I said, ‘I don't know.' I saw him and I went for it," Miller said.
Miller had to adjust to playing in front of a larger crowd than he ever saw in high school. More than 105,000 were at Ohio Stadium for his college debut.
"Playing in front of 105, 000, that's a big step," he said. "I liked it. I felt comfortable with it, and I'll keep going with it."