In an Uneven Affair, Ohio State Ultimately Vanquishes Cincinnati

By Patrick Maks on September 28, 2014 at 12:02 am
Urban Meyer raged for a bit.

For three long seconds, Urban Meyer huffed, puffed, clenched his fists, and stared at his offense in disgust.

It was midway through the second quarter and he had just watched right guard Pat Elflein commit a false start — a small error in an otherwise flawless beginning to a 50-28 win over Cincinnati and one of the biggest offensive outpourings in Ohio State history.

But Meyer let himself steep in rage as if a premonition had come over him. Then he exploded.

“TAKE CHARGE,” he bellowed. “TAKE CHARGE!” His face turned red and he pumped his right arm like a man who could sense this game — which was, at the time, decidedly in favor of the Buckeyes — was not over. Turns out, he was right. 

The Bearcats, which used big passing plays to kindle a shortlived comeback, cut a 30-7 deficit to nine before halftime and as few as five points in the third quarter.

In the end, though, they were vanquished by an Ohio State offense that amassed 710 yards and 45 first downs Saturday night.

This was an impressive and convincing win for a team desperate for momentum and confidence after an unnerving loss to Virginia Tech three weeks ago. But the shaky outing by the pass defense — which has for so long been the achilles heel of the Buckeyes — spoiled this celebration. 

“Pissed,” Meyer said, cracking a half-smile. He was half-serious.

“Great teams don't do that. I didn't want to take anything away from UC because UC is a legitimate — probably the best throwing team we've faced since we've been here,” Meyer said.

“But we're Ohio State, too. So we better learn how to play pass defense and get that fixed.”

After all, it was an inability to ground teams through the air that doomed the Buckeyes last season. Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, who threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns, and a talented corps of wide receivers made certain it’s still a considerable defect.  

Added Meyer: “We're back to the drawing board … We've got to get that fixed. You can't play championship football until that gets fixed.”

Ohio State’s offense, on the other hand, was simply unstoppable. Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett tossed the ball for 330 yards and four touchdowns on 26-of-36 throws. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott chugged up and down the field for 182 yards on 28 carries, a career day for the talented, but previously unproven, sophomore running back.

For every miscue made or big play surrendered by the defense — and trust there were blunders against the Bearcats — Barrett, Elliott and the offense were there to bail it out.

“It was obvious that our offense was gonna have their way early on in the game,” co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash said. "And after we gave up a couple big plays, we’re like, ‘Let’s just play safer and try to keep things in front of us and that’s what we ended up doing.’

“Obviously, the offense took care of the rest. It was obvious that we were gonna be able to go up and down the field.”

Yet it was the Bearcats that scored first after Kiel lobbed a 60-yard bomb to wide receiver Chris Moore, who made a spectacular catch over the head of sophomore safety Vonn Bell.

Grossly outnumbered, a chorus of cheers from the contingency of Cincinnati fans — clad in black and red — echoed throughout the Horseshoe. But it wasn't long before they were swiftly swallowed up by the din of the home crowd as Ohio State made play after play and scored touchdown after touchdown.

Senior running back Rod Smith scampered in for a three-yard touchdown and Elliott did the same a series later. Just like that, the Buckeyes led, 14-7. 

Eight seconds later — and here's where the momentum changed — sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa crushed Kiel to the ground and forced a fumble into the end zone for a safety. Two more points. And when he watched himself do it all over again on the scoreboard's jumbotron, he bounced from his feet, flexed and roared.  

This was, after all, the juncture in which he and Ohio State seized control of a game that had been billed as something of a statement game for the Buckeyes and a chance to break onto the national stage for the Bearcats. 

"Their team speed just absolutely dominated anything we did on both sides of the ball, other than the deep ball," Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville said during his postgame press conference. 

Because for as bad as the Buckeyes’ pass defense looked at times, the Bearcats were worse in their effort to hand their neighbors to the north their first loss to an in-state foe since 1921. It's been even longer since Cincinnati tasted a win against the Scarlet and Gray. 

"We want to compete and win, be top dogs in Ohio," Kiel told reporters after the game.

It's a title, of course, that still belongs to Ohio State, which left little doubt about the matter in the end.

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