COLUMBUS – The best tackle of the night when Ohio State beat Cincinnati 50-28 on Saturday night belonged to OSU assistant coach Anthony Schlegel, who body slammed a fan who ran onto the field late in the first half and undoubtedly soon regretted that decision.
Other than that, it was offense, offense and more offense.
No. 22 Ohio State (3-1) rolled up 710 yards total offense, the third-highest total in school history and broke a 79-year old record for first downs with 45 of them.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 26 of 36 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns against a Cincinnati defense which has struggled all season. Running back Ezekiel Elliott had the biggest game of his career so far with 28 carries for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel was 21 of 32 for 352 yards and four touchdowns – three of them on throws of 83 yards, 78 yards and 60 yards to wide receiver Chris Moore, who ran by a different OSU defensive back on each of the three catches.
Coach Urban Meyer said the biggest part of the credit for the win belonged to the Buckeyes’ often-questioned offensive line.
“We’re an offensive line driven team. They won the game for us,” Meyer said. “Except for a dropped third down (pass) and a fumble, I was pleased offensively. Defensively, we’re back to the drawing board on pass coverage.
“We’re going to get that fixed. You can’t play championship football until you get that fixed,” he said. “We’re Ohio State, we’d better learn how to play pass defense.”
After Kiel and Moore connected on a 60-yard scoring play on UC’s third play of the game, Ohio State answered with touchdowns on its next four offensive possessions and a defensive score on a safety to go ahead 30-7 with 12:34 left in the second quarter.
OSU tied the game 7-7 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Rod Smith after a 75-yard drive on its first possession. The next time it had the ball it went up 14-7 on a 3-yard run by Ezekiel Elliott.
Defensive end Joey Bosa’s sack of Kiel forced a fumble and knocked the ball into the end zone, where UC offensive tackle Eric Lefeld swatted it out of play for a safety, which gave OSU a 16-7 lead.
A pair of 19-yard touchdown passes to Devin Smith and Evan Spencer made it 30-7.
But any thoughts it would remain that easy disappeared over the next 15 minutes.
A fumble by freshman running back Curtis Samuel at UC’s 38-yard line with seven minutes left in the first half started the momentum swinging in Cincinnati’s direction.
Kiel threw two TD passes in the final 5:23 of the first half, including the 83-yarder to Moore that cut OSU’s lead to 30-21 at halftime.
Things got even tighter when Moore’s 78-yard touchdown catch made it 33-28 with 9:20 left in the third quarter.
That was as close as the Bearcats could get, though.
Ohio State handed the ball to Elliott and Rod Smith often down the stretch and Barrett threw touchdown passes of 24 yards to Dontre Wilson and 34 yards to Devin Smith to get OSU to 50 points. And the defense finally figured out a way to keep Moore out of the end zone.