Silence isn’t always golden.
Early in the first quarter Saturday, on just the seventh offensive play of the game for Ohio State, a nervous hush fell over Ohio Stadium. Nearly everyone in the crowd of 104,980 was focused on the prone figure lying on the 7-yard line.
Quarterback Braxton Miller — his helmet knocked off in a violent collision with a San Diego State defender — was flat on his back. He’s the guy who makes this Buckeye team special and now he wasn’t moving.
“The stadium was not only quiet, but our sideline was very quiet,” said OSU coach Urban Meyer.
Miller had not only gotten his bell rung, but he had strained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and once helped to the bench, he was carted to the dressing room. He later returned to the sideline — but not the playing field — wearing a protective knee brace.
By then the place was rocking again. In fact, the place had erupted in cheers on the next play after he had departed the field,
Kenny Guiton, the Buckeyes’ backup quarterback, had come in and the Bucks had promptly scored on a 7-yard run by freshman Dontre Wilson. Then Guiton led the team to another score and then another and another and another.
Forget silence, Kenny Guiton is golden.,
The Buckeyes overpowered SDSU, 42-7, as Guiton completed 19 of 28 passes for 152 yards and two touchdown passes to Corey Brown. He also ran for 83 yards, including a 44-yard TD jaunt.
OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman calls Guiton the best backup quarterback in college football.
Wilson did him one better: “Kenny is one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football. It was kind of heartfelt when Braxton (went down), but we don’t really lose a lot with Kenny. Braxton Miller is a Heisman candidate but Kenny is a great thrower.”
Bucks left guard Andrew Norwell was just as gushing: “He’s just really a great leader … just a great dude. When he comes in we don’t miss a beat. You can always count on Kenny.”
That’s the trait that Guiton, a fifth-year senior who is also one of the Bucks’ captains, savors most.
“I look at that as leadership,” he said. “I try to let the guys know everything’s gonna be OK. I try to make the whole team see I’m confident. I want them to see I’m not worried, that I’m going to lead them to a win.”
Guiton is something of a cult hero around OSU now. He’s come off the bench to lead the Bucks to victory before — especially in a last-seconds, come-from-behind win last season against Purdue — and he always conducts himself with class.
Other backups who have been pushed into the shadows as many times as he has over his years here might leave and certainly would grumble. But he appreciates the opportunity OSU has given him.
Coming out of Eisenhower High School in suburban Houston, he was bypassed by most college teams and was about to sign with Prairie View A&M.
At the time OSU was having trouble filling out its quarterback rank. With Terrelle Pryor getting all the hype and the snaps, a couple of name recruits opted to go elsewhere. A week before the national signing day, OSU gave Guiton a call and he hung up because he thought it was a teammate pulling a prank.
The Bucks tried again and got their man although they didn’t seem to realize his worth the first three years. Guiton was redshirted in 2009, played just a few games the next season and just one in 2011
Meyer took over last year, Guiton blossomed in his reliever role and now the head coach says Guiton should one day be a coach because he so understands the game.
Guiton was asked if he ever thought of leaving OSU during those lean years.
“I wouldn’t say I flirted with it, but everyone wants to play,” he said. “Those thoughts come up in your head at times but you have to fight it and stay focused on the task at hand.”
And then comes a day like Saturday.
“I’ve always told the team you have to cherish every moment on the field,” he said with a smile. “And today was one of those moments I will always cherish.”
He sat there quietly and thought about what he had just said and then smiled.
This time the silence was golden.