COLUMBUS - Coming into the 2013 season, the offensive line, anchored by center and Boardman graduate Corey Linsley, was supposed to be one of the more stable units for the Buckeyes.
The line, with four returning starters, only had to christen in sophomore Taylor Decker, who started on Saturday at right tackle against Buffalo in the season opener.
After Saturday, the line might need more work than expected.
Linsley left after 16 snaps due to a nagging foot injury, putting in backup Jacoby Boren to man center. Decker had a heck of a day trying to contain outside linebacker Khalil Mack, and the line gave up four sacks - to a Mid-American Conference opponent. Granted, the Buckeyes still won 40-20, but that doesn't mean coach Urban Meyer was happy with the offensive front.
"They've got a kid that kicked our tails," Meyer said in reference to Mack. "That outside linebacker, had a couple of sacks, pressures. I know he beat guys that I expect to play very well on our offensive line. So we've gotta get that fixed."
In the first quarter, when Linsley was still in the game, the offense looked fluid and crisp. In the first quarter alone, the Buckeyes put up 216 total yards. Jordan Hall, who got the start at running back in the absence of Carlos Hyde, ran for 85 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter. Braxton Miller, in his junior season under center for OSU, looked like a Heisman hopeful. He was 7 of 8 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. At the end of the first quarter, Ohio State led 23-0.
Then came the rest of the game. For the other three quarters, Ohio State only put up another 244 yards - an average of 81 per quarter.
"Coach (Tom) Herman (offensive coordinator) challenged us to come out fast, tried to get things going and I think we did that," said Hall, who finished the game with 159 yards rushing. "In the second half, we kind of slowed down a little bit, but we'll be better next week."
Wide receiver Devin Smith, who caught the first of Miller's touchdown passes, said he could feel the tide change when Linsley went out of the game.
"He's the head coach of the offense and he's a big part of our offense," Smith said. "When he went down, it kind of hurt us a little bit. But we got guys behind him to step up."
On the day, there were bright spots and dark marks for the offensive line. The Buckeyes did finish with 460 yards of total offense (261 rushing, 199 passing) and at times, the front gave Miller all the time in the world to throw the ball. The dark mark is the four sacks given up - and that sticks out to Meyer.
"That's unacceptable," Meyer said. "Completely unacceptable. We'll get it fixed."