Devin Campbell was smiling as he ran onto the field at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
The Boardman High graduate — a sophomore running back and return man for the Buffalo Bulls — had envisioned the moment since he was a young boy.
Later, an hour after Ohio State’s 40-20 victory in the season opener for both teams, Campbell still felt good about the experience. He believes the Bulls played like they belonged.
“We played like how we knew we could play,” Campbell said, referring to the final three quarters after Buffalo weathered a 23-0 first-quarter punch in the mouth from the Buckeyes.
“We didn’t come out like we should have in the first quarter, but then our coach [Jeff Quinn] got us going, our seniors got us going and we just took it from there and played our game,” Campbell said. “We just had to calm down. I think we were a little overexcited.”
Campbell attended Ohio State home games against Michigan and Wisconsin while he was a high school standout for the Spartans. But neither experience rivaled actually playing in the Horseshoe.
“Everything was just as great as I thought it would be,” Campbell said. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little boy.”
He returned six kickoffs for 76 yards and caught two passes for 31 yards.
“Devin’s a great competitor,” Quinn said. “He has a lot of gifts. He can run, he can catch the ball and he can block.”
Campbell’s best play was a 25-yard catch and run to give the Bulls a first-and-goal at the Buckeyes’ 3-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Campbell sprinted out of the backfield and broke open along the left sideline behind Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.
Buffalo QB Joe Licata lobbed the ball over Shazier, but Campbell had to wait a moment for it. He still nearly scored, but stepped out of bounds as two defenders converged on him just before he lunged for the corner of the end zone.
“I thought I scored … I was getting ready to celebrate,” Campbell said.
The Bulls needed him to get into the end zone, because they were unable to punch it in from the 3. They turned it over on downs at the 2 with 12:18 to play and Ohio State leading, 37-20.
Buffalo wasn’t able to overcome a poor start, but Campbell took something positive from the game.
“We showed we can play with them,” Campbell said.
Ohio State senior center Corey Linsley, another Boardman High product, left the game with a foot injury in the first quarter. Linsley had been hurt in preseason practice and still isn’t 100 percent.
“Corey played 16 or 17 plays, that’s when we pulled him,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “I almost put him back in.”
Buckeyes WR Devin Smith noticed a difference with Linsley on the sideline.
“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.”
Buffalo senior backup quarterback Alex Zordich (Mooney) entered the game with 6:59 to play. He did not attempt a pass, but ran twice for four yards. … Ohio State junior J.T. Moore (Boardman) moved from the defensive line to tight end during fall camp. Moore played against Buffalo, but did not have a catch.