No one would have bet any money on K.J. Hill scoring the first touchdown of the 2016 season for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
A redshirt freshman from North Little Rock, Ark., Hill had never appeared in a college football game. He sat out last season and participated in spring drills despite a hand injury. He didn’t start Saturday against Bowling Green but was listed as a backup on the depth chart.
Then with Ohio State trailing 7-0 early in the first quarter, quarterback J.T. Barrett threw a deep pass to Hill. He caught it in stride at the 8-yard line and broke a tackle as he crossed the goal line for a 47-yard score. That was the beginning of a 77-10 route that featured five more touchdown passes by Barrett but only one more catch by Hill.
Hill was one of nine receivers to make a catch and one of five different players to score in the first half. That’s the kind of balance Ohio State expected to have this season, and it’s a good sign for the 11 games to come.
“That’s the hope,” Barrett said. “We definitely want to spread the wealth and try to get it in the playmakers’ hands. We are deep at receiver. A lot of guys can rotate in and make plays for us, even at tight end with Marcus (Baugh) and A.J. (Alexander). I was trying my best to get it to the right person.”
Team effort: Twenty eight Buckeyes made tackles. Seven tied for the team lead with four tackles. Safety Malik Hooker, who made two interceptions, was the defensive star.
In the first three quarters, when Ohio State’s defensive starters were on the field, Bowling Green had only two drives of more than five plays.
Ohio State’s dominant defensive effort came against a team that ranked second in the country last season with 82 touchdowns.
“I’m sure we’ll see mistakes on the video, but the fact that you can get the 11 guys at least positioned close to where they’re supposed to be in that hurry-up tempo, you have a chance,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said. “A couple times guys were running loose, and the pass rush picked up the pass coverage, and sometimes we didn’t have the best pass rush, and the coverage picked it up. That’s what defensive teams do.”
Special teams: Tyler Durbin filled in for injured starting kicker Sean Nuernberger and made 11 of 11 extra points. Cameron Johnston had to punt only once. It went for 48 yards.
Poll position: The Buckeyes ranked sixth in the Associated Press preseason poll and fifth in the coaches poll. They’ll likely rise because No. 6/5 LSU lost 16-14 at Wisconsin on Saturday, and Oklahoma, ranked third in both polls, lost 33-23 at No. 15/13 Houston.
Next game: Ohio State plays Tulsa at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The Golden Hurricane opened the season Saturday night against San Jose State.
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