Miller Carries Slipshod Buckeyes Past UCF
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Victory Bell rang Saturday at Ohio Stadium, just as it does after every Ohio State victory in Columbus, but Urban Meyer wasn’t much for celebrating.
Photo by Dan Harker
Not after his team turned the ball over three times and committed 10 penalties in a 31-16 win over visiting Central Florida.
“(We're) not where I thought we'd be. Not where I thought we'd be,” Meyer said following a victory, but one in which his quarterback was forced to carry the football a career-high 27 times.
“I thought we'd be a little more explosive on offense and thought we'd get some pressure on the quarterback.”
The only thing explosive about Ohio State’s offense Saturday was Braxton Miller, who followed up his incredible performance in the team’s season-opener with another game of Heisman Trophy-type numbers.
The sophomore out of Huber Heights Wayne High School ran for a school quarterback-record 161 yards last week against Miami (Ohio), and he followed it up with a 141 yards on the ground this week.
Photo by Jim Davidson
He became the first OSU quarterback to rush for three scores since the days of Art Schlichter in 1978, Meyer wasn’t too thrilled about the pounding his young quarterback endured from a talented UCF defense.
“That's too much. 27 hits. He's blown out right now,” Meyer said after a game in which he improved his record to 2-0 at Ohio State.
“We have to be smart. Someone's gotta run the ball. And right now he's our best answer.”
The Buckeyes (2-0) had a nice one-two punch going early in the game, with tailback Carlos Hyde getting a lot of the tough yards between the tackles. He finished with 27 yards on just seven carries, however, being forced to leave the game in the first half with a knee injury.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“We might lose Carlos Hyde for a week or two,” Meyer revealed after the game.
“I don't know, MCL sprain. I'm not sure how long he'll be out.”
The Buckeyes are already without starting tailback Jordan Hall, and they were also missing fullback Adam Homan Saturday, along with defensive ends Michael Bennett and Nathan Williams.
“He was all sore all week. He didn't practice,” Meyer said of the fifth-year senior coming off microfracture surgery.
“(It’s) frustrating for him, frustrating for us because is he in, not in? And it's a tough injury.”
Bennett missed his second-straight game with a groin injury, and as a result the Buckeyes failed to apply much pressure on UCF’s sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles for much of the day.
Sophomore Steve Miller and freshman Noah Spence did bring Bortles down once behind the line of scrimmage, but he was able to stay upright most of the day as he passed for 239 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“We're giving up a ton of passing yards,” Meyer said of his defense, which is being run by former interim head coach Luke Fickell.
“The negative I see right now is I don't see the quarterback getting hit. And that's something that has to be addressed. That's going to solve a lot of problems in pass defense. We'll address that, have conversation about that this week.”
Fickell’s defense did force three turnovers, all interceptions by seniors on the defense. The first came in the second quarter, after UCF had tied the game at 10 on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to a wide-open Just Tukes in the south end zone.
Miller had given the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on an electric 37-yard touchdown run. He would score again, this time a 6-yard touchdown run, just before the half after Travis Howard ripped a pass away from Bortles near midfield.
A pair of penalties forced Ohio State into a 3rd-and-16 situation a the UCF 30-yard line, but Miller scrambled for 24 yards on a draw play to set up his 6-yard touchdown run just before the half.
The Buckeyes scored again to make it 24-10 on a scramble play where Miller avoided two sacks and found tight end Jake Stoneburner open in the opposite corner of the end zone from 12 yards out.
It was a beautifully thrown ball by Miller, just over the outstretched hands of a Knights defender, and it seemed like that might be enough for Meyer to give his quarterback some rest.
Instead, Miller kept running the ball to the tune of 13 carries in the second half. He would score again on an 8-yard touchdown run with 8:08 left in the third quarter, but the second half was not what Meyer is looking for from his new team.
“The turnovers – the turnovers and penalties were – pick your poison,” he said.
“Turnovers and penalties, you can't win. That's not a good team. Right now we're not – I don't want to say we're not a good team, but we're not. We're just mushing around out there.”
Mushing around to the tune of 411 yards on offense, including 282 on the ground. Miller also added 155 yards through the air, completing 17 of his 24 passes in a two-touchdown victory over a quality football team.
“I don't want to be a downer around here. We won a frickin' game,” Meyer said, quickly turning the attention away from the negative.
“Won by two touchdowns against a quality opponent. Time to move on, get ready to go play.”
The Buckeyes host Cal next week, and they don’t expect to have Hall or Hyde available.
“When we jog the first unit out there, someone will jog out at tailback, choices are Zach Boren, Bri'onte (Dunn) or Rod Smith,” Meyer said.
“Those are the choices, and maybe some situations Philly Brown. That's the only thing you can do.”
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