Ohio State went into Saturday’s nonconference finale against winless UAB looking to shore up a few things and put some polish on its game headed into Big Ten play next week.
Urban Meyer discusses OSU's win over UAB
Instead, the Buckeyes came away from this game with only more questions after experiencing serious breakdowns in nearly every phase of the game.
No. 16 Ohio State rallied from an early 9-0 deficit to take a 29-15 win over UAB before 105,019 Saturday at Ohio Stadium. But there were enough gaffes in there to probably keep OSU coach Urban Meyer and his staff awake all week heading into next Saturday’s Big Ten opener at Michigan State.
“It's glaringly obvious we've got to get a lot better or we won't win next week,” Meyer said minutes after the win. “I thought our guys were ready to play. I think they were ready to play. That's a cop out. They're ready to play. We didn't play very good. I thought I really had confidence this was going to be an Ohio State looking team. And it wasn't.”
The first quarter was nothing to write home about. UAB (0-3) blocked an OSU punt for a touchdown and a quick 6-0 lead. That bulge went to 9-0 after a USB field goal early in the second quarter. At that point, the Blazers – a 36-point underdog -- had outgained the Buckeyes (4-0) by a margin of 147 yards to 42. OSU gave up an onside kick to start the second half as well.
“It's nonsense,” Meyer said of the miscues. “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 didn't play (due to injuries). They're big special teams performers for us. You get a true freshman in there, we have a missed assignment. Just flat bust. So we can't have obviously mistakes like that.”
The Buckeyes awoke from their slumber and reeled off three touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the first half to go up 21-12 at halftime. But more mistakes in the second half meant that OSU struggled mightily to put away a UAB team that was drubbed at No. 8 South Carolina 49-6 last week.
“We’ve been barely scraping by,” said OSU offensive tackle Jack Mewhort. “We know we have to improve; myself and the offensive line are included in that. We need to execute better. The schemes are there, but it’s about us doing everything right and not making mental mistakes.”
Quarterback Braxton Miller was 12 of 20 passing for 143 yards and also carried the ball 11 times for 64 yards and two touchdowns for the Buckeyes. Meyer said Miller was given more of an opportunity to audible at the line of scrimmage this week.
“He did pretty good in that phase of it,” Meyer said. “We gave him the keys to the offense a little bit today. He did good. It was very minimal, but it was a great first step for him. We're developing a quarterback as we speak. And it takes time. He's still an elite competitor with some elite talents, but we just have to keep improving. It can improve around him as well.”
Running back Jordan Hall had 17 carries for a career-high 105 yards for the Buckeyes.
“It was fun,” said Hall, who started his second straight game in place of Carlos Hyde (knee; Hyde could return next week). “We’re not where we need to be, though. We felt we had our best week of practice as backs. We want to continue to grow and keep going. I was a lot more comfortable this week.”
Rod Smith had six carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. Devin Smith had four catches for 39 yards, while Philly Brown had four for 67 for the Buckeyes.
UAB went to backup quarterback Austin Brown and he ended up completing 21 of 35 passes for 196 yards with a late interception.
“Our defensive staff does a good job on game planning, but we turned the ball over a lot,” said UAB coach Garrick McGee. “Overall I thought we did a good job on one of the most explosive players in the game.”
The Blazers were aided by a ton of missed tackles and penalties on the OSU defense. UAB outgained OSU 403-347 in total offense. The Blazers converted 7 of 17 third-down predicaments, allowing them to hold on to the ball for almost 34 of the game’s 60 minutes.
“I think we seem like a very passive team,” Meyer said. “We're on defense, we give up little screens, little bubbles. They didn't score a touchdown on our defense but we gave up a lot of yardage. I sit there, I'm pained watching it. But we've got to be more aggressive on defense and play a little snuggler coverage. If our corners are as good as we think they are, we have to go play a little man coverage on people.”
When Meyer was asked with his team’s progress from the season opener until now, he answered with a succinct “No.”
When pressed on what concerns him the most, he said, “There's too much. Defense, offense and kicking game. We have to be better in all three phases.”
Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led the Buckeyes with 13 tackles, was asked how Meyer may view his new team after four games.
“I think he really likes this team a lot,” Shazier said. “I think he sees what we can do. But I think he is also aggravated because we’re a lot better than we’re playing right now. He wants us to play at our full potential, which we haven’t done yet.
“We had a punt blocked, the defense gave up 400 yards. We just didn’t do that well today.”
As It Happened
UAB had the ball to open the game and drove from its own 25 down to the OSU 34. But on fourth-and-3 there, quarterback Jonathan Perry was upended by OSU’s Johnathan Hankins and Ryan Shazier short of the first-down marker and the Buckeyes took possession.
But OSU went three-and-out after a pair of incompletions. Worse yet, UAB blocked Ben Buchanan’s punt. It appeared that UAB’s Calvin Jones got around the protection and blocked it. Teammate Nick Adams scooped it up at the 20-yard line and rolled into the end zone. The PAT kick was blocked by OSU’s Orhian Johnson, but the Blazers still led 6-0 with 9:21 left in the first quarter.
The OSU offense could not get going, allowing UAB to add to its lead. The Blazers went 44 yards in 10 plays, setting up Ty Long’s 47-yard field goal that made it 9-0 with 10:27 left in the first half.
“We’re not coming out with enough energy -- somebody’s got to get our energy to rise,” Miller said. “Our mind-set isn’t where it needs to be at the start of the game.”
The Buckeyes got off the mat and finally mounted a scoring possession, moving 75 yards in 10 plays. Hall got it started with runs of 14 and 13 yards. Miller then kept it for his own 14-yard scamper. Rod Smith had a tough 11-yard run down to the UAB 1. On first down there, Smith took it between center and right guard and scored from 1-yard out to cut the UAB lead to 9-7 with 6:31 left in the first half.
UAB, set up by a 35-yard kick return by Jackie Williams, was in good shape at its own 44. The Blazers moved 19 yards in six plays. Facing fourth-and-2 at the OSU 37, Long came on and drilled a 54-yard field goal to put the Blazers up 12-7 with 3:44 left in the first half.
The Buckeyes took over after a touchback on their own 25-yard line and went 75 yards in a brisk five plays to grab the lead for good. Miller started it with 12-yard toss to Smith. He then found Michael Thomas for a 6-yard gain and then went to Philly Brown for gains of 20 and 25 yards. Finally on first down at the 12, Miller faked a give to fullback Zach Boren. He followed Boren over right guard, bounced off UAB’s Greg Irvin, spun forward and dove for the goal line and the 12-yard touchdown that made it 14-12 with 1:50 left in the first half.
The Blazers, backed up in their own end, could have held the ball for the rest of the half. But they made a critical error here. Backup quarterback Austin Brown hit tight end Kennard Backman in the right flat. OSU’s Doran Grant and Christian Bryant submarined Backman, who fumbled. Grant recovered it with his knee on the ground and the Buckeyes were in business at the UAB 32 with 1:28 left in the half.
Miller and the Buckeyes needed three plays to find the end zone. Miller kept it for 19 yards on first down, making a nifty cut outside for extra yardage down to the 13. Miller then hit Brown over the middle for 11 yards and a first down at the 2. On first down, Boren took the give and plowed in from the 2 for the touchdown and a 21-12 lead with 1:02 left in the first half.
UAB’s kicker Long then pooched the second-half kickoff past OSU’s front line and Blazers safety Cortez Webb made the easy recovery at the OSU 47. But UAB netted just 3 yards on its ensuing possession with OSU’s Garrett Goebel making a key stop on a third down screen and the Blazers had to punt it away.
For the second week in a row, the OSU offense faltered in the third quarter. The Buckeyes had two third-quarter possessions and netted 43 yards on 10 plays. The drought opened the door for UAB to draw closer as the defense struggled again with tackling. UAB held the ball for 16 plays on an 80-yard march that netted a 34-yard Long field goal that cut the OSU lead to 21-15 with 13:44 left in the game. The key play was Austin Brown’s 21-yard screen pass to Williams on third-and-16 at the OSU 40.
The OSU offense went three-and-out on its ensuing possession after Miller was stopped for a 6-yard loss on a first-down run.
The Blazers, aided by a personal foul on OSU safety Christian Bryant (his second of the game), moved as close as the OSU 24-yard line. But Long’s 46-yard field goal missed the mark with 10:03 left.
The Buckeyes finally regained some mojo, moving 71 yards in 10 plays to a critical touchdown. Miller converted an early third down on a 12-yard pass to Smith. He later hit Hall for 14 yards and Jeff Heuerman for 10. Finally on third-and-goal at the 1, Miller kept it on the quarterback run for the touchdown that made it 27-15 with 5:03 left.
The Buckeyes went for the two-point conversion. Miller again kept it, shook off a UAB defender and jogged into the end zone for the conversion that made it 29-15.
OSU’s Doran Grant picked off a Brown pass with 4:56 left and the Buckeyes cruised to the win.
* The Buckeyes played without a couple of injured defensive starters in safety C.J. Barnett (ankle) and cornerback Bradley Roby (shoulder). Nickel back Orhian Johnson replaced Barnett with Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown filling in at nickel. Doran Grant replaced Roby and made his first career start.
Grant posted a career-high five tackles. He had his first career sack, forced fumble and interception vs. the Blazers.
“I think I did OK,” Grant said. “I just came in and did what I had to do in the absence of Bradley Roby and in helping the team in any way I could.”
Tight end Nick Vannett and Jeff Heuerman each started on offense. It was Vannett’s first career start and Heuerman’s second.
* Cornerback Travis Howard had an apparent interception negated by an offsides penalty in the third quarter.
“It was kind of an up-and-down day,” Howard said. “We had trouble putting a dagger in them. We kept them in the game, especially on some third-and-long situations. Those are things we have to work on.”
* Long’s 54-yard field goal was the fifth-longest ever by an OSU opponent and third-longest by an opponent in Ohio Stadium history. Morten Andersen hit a 63-yarder for Michigan State in 1981, while Penn State’s Chris Bahr hit a 55-yarder in 1975.
* This was the first-ever meeting between the schools. UAB played Division III football in 1991-92, I-AA football in 1993-95 and moved to the I-A level in 1996. UAB joined Conference USA in 1999.
Since moving to the I-A ranks in 1996, UAB is now 10-46 all-time against teams currently in BCS-aligned conferences. The Blazers have lost their last 18 such games, though, dating to 2004.
* UAB is playing a ranked team on the road for the second week in a row. The Blazers lost at No. 8 South Carolina 49-6 last week. UAB is now 3-15 all-time against ranked opponents.
UAB’s wins over ranked teams came in 1999 against East Carolina, 2005 at UTEP and 2011 against eventual Conference USA champion Southern Miss (34-31).
* Ohio State is now 14-1-1 all-time against teams currently in C-USA. The Buckeyes have posted a 7-1-1 record against SMU, two wins each over Marshall and Rice and one win over UAB, Houston and Central Florida. (The Buckeyes defeated UCF 31-16 on Sept. 8.)
OSU has never played Southern Miss, East Carolina, Memphis, Tulsa, UTEP and Tulane. OSU is scheduled to face Tulsa for the first time in 2016.
* Ohio State is only the second Big Ten Conference opponent that UAB has faced on the football field. The Blazers opened the 2007 season with a 55-18 loss at Michigan State.
* OSU has now won 64 straight regular season nonconference home games against unranked teams. That string dates to a 1982 loss to Florida State.
* Meyer improved to 38-4 as a college head coach.
* Miller’s touchdowns were his sixth and seventh of the year.
It was his second game this season with multiple rushing touchdowns after scoring three vs. UCF and he has rushed for at least one each game.
* Rod Smith tallied his second career rushing touchdown (Akron, ’11) and first of the season in the second quarter.
* Zach Boren recorded his second career rushing touchdown, and second of the season (Miami) in the second quarter.
* Michael Thomas recorded his first career reception in the second quarter.
* Senior linebacker Etienne Sabino collected a career-high 12 stops, besting the three eight-tackle games he has had in his career (last at Michigan 2011). Seven of his tackles were solos, also a career high, and he matched his career best with two pass breakups.
* Sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier posted a team-high 13 tackles vs. the Blazers, two shy of the career-best 15 he had vs. Penn State last season. He leads the squad with 41 tackles in 2012 and has back-to-back games with at least 10 tackles.
* Junior defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins had a career-best 10 tackles for the second-consecutive game.
* The Buckeyes open Big Ten play next Saturday at No. 21 Michigan State. That game will start at 3:30 p.m. and will be televised by ABC.
The Spartans (3-1) had their own issues on Saturday, trailing winless Eastern Michigan 7-3 at halftime before rallying for a 23-7 win.
Here are more postgame videos with OSU players:
Braxton Miller: Link
John Simon: Link
Johnathan Hankins: Link
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