Ohio State finally pulls away from Cincinnati
Columbus, Ohio — Urban Meyer was thrilled with his offense — and disgusted by his pass defense.
J.T. Barrett threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott ran for 182 yards and a score to lead No. 22 Ohio State past Gunner Kiel and Cincinnati, 50-28, on Saturday night.
"When you have a horizontal and vertical punch, that's the hardest offense to defend," the third-year Buckeyes coach said.
Kiel, the first-year starter for the Bearcats (2-1), completed 21 of 32 passes for 352 yards and four scores in a game of wild momentum swings before a stadium-record crowd of 108,362.
"Defensively, we're back to the drawing board in pass coverage," Meyer said.
The Buckeyes (3-1), who won their 40th consecutive game over an in-state opponent, totaled 710 yards. But their defense couldn't stop the Bearcats, who had wide-out Chris Moore catch three passes for TDs of 60, 83 and 78 yards.
Not until Barrett hit Devin Smith with a 29-yard scoring pass early in the fourth quarter was it clear the Buckeyes would survive. That made it 50-28 and finally eased the anxiety of the huge crowd.
Barrett hit on 26 of 36 passes and also ran for 79 yards on 14 carries.
"All props go to the O-line," said the freshman, who took over when three-year starter Braxton Miller was lost for the season with a shoulder surgery. "Coach Meyer always talks about the offensive line keeping the offense going. They did a hell of a job today."
It was the first time Ohio State had topped 700 yards in offense since totaling 715 against Utah on Aug. 27, 1986. The school record is 718 — all on the ground — against Mount Union in 1930.
Still, Moore was completely alone on a simple crossing pattern, going 78 yards in the third quarter to put the Bearcats within reach.
Down 36-28, Cincinnati had a chance to pull even on its next possession, but Johnny Holton was called for offensive pass interference. Replays showed a defender was holding onto his jersey, but the Bearcats were forced to punt and the chance to catch up vanished.
With Elliott and Rod Smith (61 yards on 11 carries) doing most of the damage on the ground, the Buckeyes covered 62 yards in six plays to push the lead to 43-28 before Barrett's final TD pass put it out of reach.
"We got whupped pretty good up front on the defensive and offensive lines for a lot of the game," said Bearcats coach Tommy Tuberville, who came in 2-0 against Meyer — the best record of any coach with more than one game against him.
The Bearcats scored stunning TDs on their first and last possessions of the first half. The first covered 60 yards from Kiel to Moore on the fourth play from scrimmage and the last was an 83-yard bomb that Kiel lofted to Moore, who was running clear on a post pattern.
"We've got to get that fixed," Meyer said. "You can't play championship football until that gets fixed."
In between those scores, Ohio State dominated. The Buckeyes scored on their first four possessions — 3-yard runs by Rod Smith and Elliott and 19-yard completions by Barrett to Devin Smith and Evan Spencer — and also notched two points when Joey Bosa sacked and stripped Kiel, resulting in a safety.
But with the Buckeyes leading 30-7 and at the Cincinnati 38 midway through the second quarter, Jeff Luc knocked the ball loose from Ohio State's Curtis Samuel and Leviticus Payne recovered for the Bearcats. Kiel led a six-play, 58-yard march capped by a 19-yard TD pass to Holton before hitting Moore on another defensive gaffe.
"I told (a teammate) before the play, 'We're going to score on this play,' " Kiel said. "'I'm going to throw a touchdown right here, guys.' "