COLUMBUS, Ohio — Urban Meyer is a perfectionist.
His second-ranked Ohio State team was less than perfect.
Braxton Miller threw two touchdown passes before fighting leg cramps and Jordan Hall ran for two more scores to lead the Buckeyes to a 40-20 victory over Buffalo on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.
The Buckeyes, striving for a crisper start after a lethargic outing in Meyer’s debut in 2012, led 23-0 after the first quarter before the Bulls made things interesting. Joe Licata threw two TD passes and linebacker Kahlil Mack returned a Miller interception 45 yards to make it 30-20 in the third quarter.
A crowd of 103,980 didn’t know what to think.
But after Miller was sidelined a second time with cramps, sub Kenny Guiton promptly tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Chris Fields and the Buckeyes were never threatened again.
Licata completed 19 of 32 passes for 185 yards and two scores with one interception, with Branden Oliver gaining 73 yards on 26 carries for the Bulls, who were playing Ohio State for the first time.
Ohio State was in control after its first three possessions. Miller, who was 15 of 22 passing for 178 yards and also ran for 77 yards on 17 attempts, hit Devin Smith on a 47-yard scoring pass on the fourth offensive play of the season. Then he found Fields on a 7-yard scoring pass.
As good as that first 15 minutes was — 216 yards of offense, a big lead and Buffalo looking thoroughly defeated — the Bulls were far from dead.
The Buckeyes, who had 10 new starters on defense to start the game, missed a punt block and roughed the punter, then failed on a Hall run on fourth and 1 near midfield. Meyer chewed out his offensive line when it returned to the bench.
After Ron Tanner picked off a tipped Licata pass for Ohio State, speedy freshman tailback Dontre Wilson gave it right back on the next play when he was hit by linebacker Blake Bean and Buffalo’s Derek Brim recovered.
No. 17 Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Devin Gardner ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the first half as Michigan went on to beat Central Michigan.
It was the highest-scoring opener for the Wolverines (1-0) since 1905, when they beat Ohio Wesleyan 65-0. They will face a tougher test against No. 14 Notre Dame next week at home in a prime-time game.
The Chippewas (0-1) fell behind 35-6 at halftime Saturday. After they gave up five straight TDs, Ron Coluzzi’s third field goal made it 56-9 with 3:12 left in the game.
Gardner was 10 of 15 for 162 yards with a 16-yard TD pass to Jeremy Gallon and two interceptions. He ran for a 22-yard score midway through the first quarter when Michigan led by just four points and had a 4-yard TD on the ground late in the first half.
No. 23 Wisconsin 45, Massachusetts 0
MADISON, Wis. — Melvin Gordon ran for 144 yards, James White added 143 and Wisconsin’s revamped defense pitched a shutout of Massachusetts in coach Gary Andersen’s debut.
Gordon and White padded their totals by each running for touchdowns of at least 51 yards for the Badgers, who didn’t stray far from their trademark rushing attack with the defensive-minded Andersen now pacing the sideline.
Joel Stave overcame a slow start at quarterback to connect with Jared Abbrederis for two long touchdown passes in the second half.
UMass was simply overmatched against the Big Ten’s three-time defending champion. The Minutemen are only in their second year as a major college program, and they had to play Saturday with running back Jordan Broadnax and tight end Rob Blanchflower out with injuries.
Stacey Bedell finished with 70 yards on 19 carries for UMass.
Cincinnati 42, Purdue 7
CINCINNATI — Munchie Legaux regained his job as the starting quarterback and had a solid showing on Saturday, throwing for a touchdown and running for another in Cincinnati’s victory over Purdue — the Boilermakers’ worst opening loss in 17 years.
Legaux’s dual-threat performance highlighted a game featuring new coaches and a new league — Cincinnati (1-0) in the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats were sharp their first time under Tommy Tuberville.
Legaux was back at quarterback because incumbent Brendon Kay has been limited by a sore passing shoulder. He was 13 of 20 for 146 yards.
Purdue (0-1) got a whole new offense under Darrell Hazell, and it didn’t work. The Boilermakers took their most lopsided defeat since a 52-14 loss at Michigan State in 1996.
Northern Illinois 30, Iowa 27
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Mathew Sims hit a 36-yard field goal with four seconds left and Northern Illinois rallied to beat Iowa in the season opener for both teams.
Jordan Lynch threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns for the Huskies, who scored 10 points in the final 5:05 to record their first win over the Hawkeyes.
Northern Illinois cornerback Jimmie Ward intercepted Iowa’s Jake Rudock with 1:17 left. He brought it to the Hawkeyes 30-yard line, setting up the game-winning kick from Sims.
Rudock threw for 256 yards, a touchdown and two picks in his debut for Iowa, which lost its seventh straight game dating back to last season.
The Hawkeyes also lost their first opener since 2000.
Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nathan Scheelhaase threw for career-best 416 yards and two touchdowns to lead Illinois to a win over Southern Illinois. But the Illini had to hang on late to beat the Football Championship Subdivision school.
Trailing with 44 seconds to play and fourth down at the Illini 3-yard line, Saluki quarterback Kory Faulkner threw too high for leaping wideout Adam Fuehne.
Illinois was up 42-24 with as little as 12 minutes left.
The Illini offense was mostly Scheelhaase. He was 28 for 36 and his second-quarter touchdown passes to Jon Davis and Josh Ferguson built a 25-7 halftime lead.
Ryan Lankford caught six passes for 115 yards.
The temperature hit 95 and the heat index 108. Big Ten officials said one linesman, Bob Davis, was hospitalized for heat exhaustion.