Columbus, Ohio — Already a statewide celebrity after guiding Ohio State to three postseason wins and the national championship last season, Cardale Jones made the most of his very first collegiate start at home.
The senior-to-be completed 19 of 42 passes for 304 yards and two touchdowns to Corey Smith to lead the Gray to a 17-14 win over the Scarlet before a national spring-game record crowd of 99,391 at Ohio Stadium.
"It was pretty fun," Jones said. "I hope I can carry it over to the fall."
Jones also won a halftime quarterback challenge. But he was far from perfect, throwing two interceptions and being sacked three times.
Coach Urban Meyer was enthused about what specific players did in 15 spring workouts, but not so much by how far the Buckeyes progressed.
"As I just told our players is that we did not improve as a team. That was not a good team out there. As a team, that's much worse than what you saw in January, obviously," he said, referring to the Buckeyes' 42-20 win over Oregon in the College Football Playoff championship game. "But we did individually get better."
Defense dominated the spring game as the offenses were hampered by injuries. Erik Smith intercepted two passes and Nick Conner picked off a pass and forced a fumble for the Gray, while Joey Bosa, Adolphus Washington and Donovan Munger had sacks for the Scarlet.
Many of the Buckeyes' top players did not see action because they are recovering from surgery or injuries, including tailback Ezekiel Elliott (hand), quarterbacks Braxton Miller (shoulder) and J.T. Barrett (broken ankle), wide receiver Michael Thomas (groin) and several starting linemen.
The game, with tickets costing $5 for admission and $15 for a reserved seat, was played under sunny skies with temperatures in the 70s. The attendance surpassed the 95,722 at the 2009 spring game at Ohio Stadium, the previous high.
Jones, who took over after Miller missed the season and Barrett was hurt in the Michigan game, was off limits to tacklers and he passed on almost every down.
"Early, he was missing on a few things," said offensive line coach and co-coordinator Ed Warinner. "He was just a little bit off early and then he got some rhythm and hit some big plays."
Jones, who could have elected to go into the NFL draft but decided to return for his final year of eligibility, hit Smith on a 58-yard scoring pass with a minute left in the half and then won the game with a 37-yard throw to Smith with 3:43 remaining in the final period with a running clock.
Much of the action did not take place during the glorified practice. There was a circle drill before the game in which players squared off at midfield and attempted to block each other, with All-American defensive end Bosa bumping helmets with offensive tackle Taylor Decker. A quarterbacks challenge at halftime featured Jones and Barrett against former Buckeyes Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, with Jones winning the distance competition with a 74-yard heave. There were also races to determine if students could outrun the fastest Ohio State players (they could not, with Elliott edging Miller with the students far behind) and there was also a pushup contest featuring students at midfield.
Fourth-string quarterback Stephen Collier tossed a 35-yard scoring pass to Terry McLaurin at the end of the half to cut the lead to 10-7.
Collier, who was 15 of 33 for 157 yards with three interceptions, flipped a shovel pass to Parris Campbell for a 3-yard touchdown on the last play of the third quarter.
Even the game had light moments. At one point in the first quarter, Tyvis Powell — Jones' roommate — intercepted one of Jones' passes and returned it 38 yards before being run out of bounds by Jones. Powell then pretended to take a selfie while hugging his roomie.
"I said to myself, 'I know he knows that I know what he's doing,' " Powell said, laughing. "But he threw it anyway. So I had to show him why I was dad and he was son. So I picked him off."
Notre Dame's spring game did little to determine who will be the starting quarterback in the fall other than showing Malik Zaire can throw a long pass but can't catch one.
Zaire threw a perfectly timed 68-yard touchdown pass that Will Fuller caught at the 6 and raced in for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. But then on a flea-flicker play drawn up by a fan to start the third quarter, Everett Golson attempted a long pass to Zaire but safety Max Redfield jumped higher and picked it off. Redfield appeared to taunt Zaire lying on the ground, then took off and was credited with a touchdown even though officials blew the whistle at midfield.
Neither quarterback talked to the media after the game. Golson hasn't talked to the media since the end of last season.
Coach Brian Kelly said each player needs to focus on his own play.
"All they can control is what's in their purview and that is the fundamentals of what we've asked them to work on, and the rest they can't really worry about. It's not their call," he said.
Zaire, who started the Music City Bowl in a win against LSU, had the slightly better game statistically, completing 8 of 14 passes for 137 yards with no interceptions.
Golson, who lost his starting job after committing 22 turnovers last season, was 7 of 15 passing for 83 yards with one interception.
Golson needs to work on consistency and efficiency with his read-option game and making good decisions. Kelly said Golson passed up a wide-open receiver that would have given the Irish more room to punt and instead tried to make a big play. He added Zaire needs to improve his focus and passing, saying he's made great progress with his mechanics.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith said he's pulling for whoever will help the Irish win.
"They both provide the ability to run and they both have a strong arm. It's just about which one you want," he said. "I'm glad I don't get to make that decision."
Zander Diamont threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Damon Graham with 4 seconds left to give the Crimson a 13-10 victory in Indiana's spring game.
It was the only time the Cream team trailed all day.
Diamont finished 7 of 13 for 90 yards and two TDs for the Crimson, including a 90-yard drive to win it.
Incumbent starter Nate Sudfeld, who is coming off offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, went 17 of 24 for 187 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He threw a TD pass to Anthony Corsaro late in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead and set up a short Aaron Del Grosso field goal just before halftime.
Diamont made it 10-7 less than two minutes into the second half with his first TD pass.
Carlton Agudosi had seven catches for 96 yards in Rutgers' 101-play scrimmage Saturday after making four receptions for 96 yards in last week's scrimmage.
After five catches for 32 yards last season, and five catches for 79 yards in 2013, Agudosi is in line to have a much more significant role in the offense.
At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Agudosi can bring an element that few receivers can with his combination of size and speed.
Pittsburgh ended its first series of spring drills under new head coach Pat Narduzzi with its Blue-Gold spring game on Saturday.
Chad Voytik and Tyler Boyd led the Blue team to a 17-10 victory against the Gold. Voytik completed 11 of 24 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown and Boyd caught six passes for 112 yards.
Defending ACC Player of the Year James Conner scored on the game's first drive with a 3-yard dive. He played sparingly, carrying it five times for 11 yards.
Adam Bertke led the Gold with 162 passing yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted in the end zone with 1:30 remaining.
The defense prevented any of the Panthers running backs from breaking big gains as the teams combined to rush 54 times for only 103 yards. Qadree Ollison led all rushers with 14 carries for 34 yards, which included the day's longest carry of 12 yards.