If you're one of those who were confused, and maybe even a little upset, that Ohio State dropped four spots in the polls after their win last week, you only need to look to their opening series this week to understand why.
UAB had the ball first, and on their very first set of downs, Ohio State had them at 3rd & 1. The defense that was called was the right one, as it allowed Ohio State's Simon to get in on UAB's quarterback quickly. But Blazer quarterback Jonathan Perry, in a panic, tucked the ball in and took off, causing Simon to blow right past him. Perry ran for a big gain. On the very next play, Perry throws outside to a wide open running back, Greg Franklin, who has a lane a mile wide. The only thing that saved Ohio State was that Franklin couldn't make the catch. Ohio State was eventually able to stop the Bllazers, and took over on downs.
On their first set of downs, Ohio State is unable to generate a first down. Their subsequent punt is blocked by an untouched safety, Calvin Jones, who is able to run straight at the punter as the entire punt return team penetrates the line of a very odd Ohio State punt formation. The blocked punt is picked up and ran into the end zone by Franklin for a UAB touchdown. Ohio State was able to block the PAT, and UAB led the Buckeyes 6-0.
Through the remainder of the first quarter Ohio State continued to struggle on offense with several dropped passes and stuffed runs. And, while the defense gave up some yardage, they were able to keep the Blazers offense from scoring.
The second quarter started with the Buckeyes punting and the Blazers starting their drive from their own 27. They proceeded to drive down the field until they were stopped at the Ohio State 30. There they attempted – and made – a 47 yard field goal. Not much the Buckeyes can do about that one. Score UAB 9, Ohio State 0.
After receiving the subsequent kickoff, Ohio State started on their own 25, and drove down the field almost as if there were no UAB defense on the field. Through a series of completed passes and good runs, Ohio state quickly found themselves on the UAB 13. Miller handed off to Rod Smith who had a great run, getting pushed out of bounds just before reaching the goal line. With 1st and 1, Miller hands off to Smith again who drives up the middle for a touchdown. PAT good. Ohio State is now within 2.
After a Buckeye penalty on the kickoff return, UAB started at their own 44. They drove to the Ohio State 38, where they were stopped. With the wind at their back they elected to try a field goal. UAB's Ty Long stepped up and booted a 54 yarder to put his team up by 5. Again, not a whole lot the Buckeyes can do about that.
Starting on their own 25, Ohio State's rhythm found in their last drive stayed true. After consecutive completed passes of 12, 6, 20 and 25 yards, Braxton Miller held the ball and ran up the middle for a 12 yard touchdown run. PAT was good. It was another drive where the UAB defense simply didn't know what to do to stop the Buckeyes. Score: Ohio State 14, UAB 12.
The first break of the game falls to the Buckeyes
With 1:45 remaining in the first half, UAB started their next series from their own 23. On their second play, UAB's tight end, Kennard Backman, received the ball and ran to the first down marker where he was tackled. But as he fell to the ground he lost the ball, and Ohio State recovered the fumble on the UAB 32 yard line.
With 1:28 left on the clock in the first half, Ohio State's Braxton Miller drops, fakes the pass, tucked in the ball, and ran to the UAB 13 before he was knocked out of bounds. Miller then takes the snap and throws a quick pass to wide receiver Corey Brown inside the UAB 5 yard line. From 3 yards out Ohio State elects to hand the ball off to Zach Boren who punches through the UAB defensive line for a touchdown. Score: Ohio State 21, UAB 12.
UAB starts their next series with just 56 seconds in the half, and no time-outs remaining. After a first down and a near interception by OSU 6, they are able to drive up the field to their 33 yard line, where the clock runs out. End of the first half. Both teams go into the locker room with a once confident Blazer team looking very rattled with all of the momentum on the side of the Buckeyes.
Second Half Not Much Different Than The First
Ohio State had deferred receiving the ball until the second half. The Blazers tried to regain some momentum with a brilliantly executed on-side kick that they recovered at the OSU 46. The Buckeyes were not affected, and their defense held. With a little wind in their sails, UAB was able to hold the Buckeyes as well, so both teams went 3-and-out on their first possession of the second half.
The remainder of the third quarter was laden with stopped drives and big plays negated by penalties for both teams. Outside of a few plays it was rather uneventful.
Finishing out a drive that was started at the end of the third quarter, UAB was stopped on the Ohio State 16. It was a good defensive stand for the Buckeyes. The Blazers opted for the field goal, and Long's 33 yarder made the score Ohio State 21, UAB 15 in the fourth quarter.
UAB stops the Buckeyes on their next drive, then the Buckeyes have the Blazers stopped when their drive is continued by yet another Buckeye penalty. This time it was an unsportsmanlike penalty by defensive back Christian Bryant. The Buckeyes held them again, though, and this time Blazer kicker Ty Long missed a 46-yard field goal, ending his consecutive streak at 12.
Ohio State then sustained a nice 10-play drive that ate a lot of the clock and gave the Buckeyes a 13-point lead on a 1-yard run into the end zone by Braxton Miller. Not being satisfied with the odd lead, Urban Meyer made the decision to go for 2 points, which the Buckeyes made on a misdirection play by Braxton Miller who walked into the end zone untouched. Score:Ohio State 29, UAB 15.
On their next drive Blazers quarterback Perry was intercepted by Ohio State. UAB then held the Buckeyes, and the subsequent punt pinned them down inside their own 5 yard line. They ran out the clock on their drive, and the Buckeyes win 29-15.
In this game Ohio State was the better team, but it should have been more obvious. They gave up too many yards and too many points. The Buckeyes managed to come from behind to get a strong win, but evident in the first quarter was a serious problem that the Buckeyes are going to have to fix as they prepare for next week's game at Michigan State. They simply can no longer afford to allow teams to score so much so early. Michigan State and the other Big Ten teams are not going to be as forgiving as UAB (and the others). It's one thing for the coach to use the first quarter to analyze the other team and determine how best to adjust the game plan for what he sees. But it's quite another to permit points while you're doing it. The first quarter defense has got to ensure those points don't get scored, but just as important is that the offense has to keep the ball for more than 3 downs at a time. If the Buckeyes can't get this worked out (and eliminate the penalties), then it's likely to be a long Big Ten season for the Buckeyes.
This is why Ohio State wins, but still drops in the polls. What is great for the Buckeyes, but sad for the Big Ten, is that Ohio State – a team that is ineligible for post-season play – is now the highest ranked Big Ten team in the polls.
We'll see if that changes next week.
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