Buckeyes Get Win Over UAB in Ugly Fashion
By Tony Gerdeman
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It wasn't ever pretty, but a win has never needed lipstick in order to count in the standings.
The Buckeyes turned what was expected to be an easy win over UAB into an improbably close game, and one that ultimately wasn't decided until the final minutes, despite the 29-15 final score.
"We've got a long way to go," Urban Meyer said after the game.
"The fact is we're not a great defense, which is painful to watch. (We) missed too many tackles today again. And then offense, just a couple of times we're second and long, but we're not a methodically dominating offense. I mean, we're not a very good offense right now. So we have to get a lot better and fast."
The Buckeyes put up just 347 yards of total offense, while allowing UAB to amass 403 yards of their own on 80 plays.
Not to be outdone by the poor play by the defense or the offense, it was the Ohio State special teams that gave up the game's first big play when UAB's Calvin Jones blocked a Ben Buchanan punt that was then picked up by Nick Adams and returned for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked, but the damage had been done.
It was the first time UAB had returned a blocked punt for a touchdown since 2003.
"It's nonsense," Meyer said of the punt block.
"Just a flat missed assignment. We're playing a lot of young players. Injuries are kind of forcing some guys in. C.J. Barnett and (Bradley) Roby obviously didn't play. They're big special teams performers for us. You get a true freshman in there, we have a missed assignment. Just flat bust."
As they have done in the past, the Buckeyes opened very slowly in the first quarter, with Braxton Miller completing just 1-5 passes for seven yards. Ohio State was even outrushed in the quarter, 36 yards to 35. The Buckeyes finished 0-3 on third down in the quarter as well.
The Blazers added a field goal early in the second quarter to make it 9-0, which seemed to wake the Ohio State offense up a bit. If nothing else, it certainly forced a response.
It was after the UAB field goal that the Buckeyes embarked on their most methodical drive of the game. They went 75 yards on ten plays, with their smallest gain coming on Rod Smith's one-yard plunge into the endzone.
"He's earned it," Meyer said of the redshirt sophomore tailback who carried the ball six times for 24 yards, including the touchdown.
"That was not a hit or miss, and 'Boy, I hope this works out.' He's done it in practice, and he's earned that right."
"I've been focusing more and running hard," Smith said.
"I had to show them I could do it in practice. My number was called today and they gave me an opportunity. I think I did a good job."
Smith's touchdown was just the first of three in rapid succession to close out the second quarter for the Buckeyes. Following a school-record 54-yard field goal by Ty Long with just 3:44 remaining in the half, Miller led his Ohio State offense on another 75-yard scoring drive, but only used five plays to do so.
Miller completed all four of his pass attempts, moving the ball 63 yards down the field in the process, before finishing the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run that saw him spin out of a tackle and dive into the endzone. The touchdown gave Ohio State a 14-12 lead, their first of the afternoon.
"Yeah, he's a dynamic athlete," Meyer said of his agile quarterback.
"I think he's got great acceleration, but he's got an uncanny ability to make guys miss. He's without a question one of the best athletes in college football. That's a true statement."
Ohio State quickly added another touchdown after cornerback Doran Grant forced a fumble and recovered it at the UAB 32-yard line. Three plays later, Zach Boren was also making a defender miss as he plowed his way into the endzone, giving the Buckeyes a 21-12 halftime lead.
Seemingly satisfied with the 21 points, the Ohio State offense went dormant in the third quarter. Though that tends to happen when you only have the ball twice because the Buckeye defense simply couldn't get off the field. UAB had the ball for 10:29 of the third quarter, but couldn't put any points on the board.
It was a quarter wallpapered with missed tackles from the Ohio State defenders, and one that saw UAB punt twice from the Buckeyes' own side of the field.
The fourth quarter wasn't much different, though the Blazers did add another field goal to make it 21-16 with 13:44 remaining in the game.
Ohio State finally added their insurance touchdown on a 71-yard drive, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Miller, and the subsequent run by Miller for the two-point conversion to make it 29-15.
Tailback Jordan Hall got the start again for the Buckeyes and posted his first career 100-yard rushing day, finishing with 105 yards on 17 carries. Miller added 64 yards on eleven carries. He completed 12-20 passes for 143 yards.
Defensively, it was very similar to what the Buckeyes have shown all season. UAB attacked them with screens, and attacked them out wide. They tried to put pressure on Ohio State's defense, which missed plenty of tackles, but ultimately didn't get the job done.
"I felt like it was much better than a week ago," Johnathan Hankins said of the Buckeyes' defense.
"I don't think they scored big on us. We did pretty well today. As a team, we want to keep it 'on' and keep our foot on the pedal and just go, but sometimes stuff doesn't go our way."
Ohio State was without starting cornerback Bradley Roby and starting safety C. J. Barnett. In their places were Doran Grant and Orhian Johnson. Grant ended up finishing with seven tackles, including a sack. He also forced and recovered a fumble, and had an interception late in the fourth quarter.
"I think I did okay," Grant said of his performance.
"I just came in and did what I had to do in the absence of Bradley Roby and in helping the team any way I could. There really wasn't any pressure today. Coach Coombs has always prepared me just in case of a situation like this, and I think I handled it okay."
The Buckeyes now find themselves heading towards Big Ten play, and they are not yet where they need to be. Fortunately for them, no one else in the Big Ten is either.
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