Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
Ohio State football made Horseshoe history against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, but the accomplishment was overshadowed by the on-field proceedings.
OSU’s 29-15 win against UAB, a contest that took place in the 90th season of play in Ohio Stadium, was the Buckeyes’ 400th victory on its storied home field.
There were no balloons or on-field ceremonies following the program’s milestone victory. A short announcement rang out in the press box as media scurried down to the postgame press conference. There, first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer and his players tried to explain away the problems that surfaced during the win against the winless and unranked Blazers.
Numbers told the story of Saturday’s game – UAB outgained OSU in total offense, 403-347, collected more first downs, 22-20, and held the ball for 33:55 compared against 26:05 of possession for the hosts. The Blazers also led, 9-0, and held a lead for most of the first half.
Meyer marked the occasion of OSU’s 400th all-time win at the ‘Shoe by saying his team has a long way to go on both sides of the ball.
“The fact is we’re a great defense, which is painful to watch. Missed too many tackles today again,” Meyer said. “And then offense, just a couple of times we’re second and long, but we’re not a methodically dominating offense. I mean, we’re not a very good offense right now. So we have to get a lot better and fast.”
Trailing in the second quarter, 9-0, the then-No. 16 Buckeyes exploded for 21 points in the final 6:31 of the first half. Scores came via touchdown runs from redshirt sophomore running back Rod Smith, sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and senior fullback Zach Boren from one, 12 and two yards out, respectively.
Miller said he was concerned it took the offense so long to make an impact on the game.
“We’re not coming out with enough energy,” Miller said. “Somebody’s got to get our energy to rise. Our mindset isn’t where it needs to be at the start of the game.”
OSU wouldn’t score again until there were just more than five minutes to play in regulation. At that moment, Miller scurried into the south end zone on a 1-yard run to put the game out of UAB’s reach. Miller followed up his seventh touchdown run of the year with a two-point conversion.
The Buckeyes’ defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown in the game. The Blazer’s lone touchdown came after OSU redshirt senior punter Ben Buchanan’s punt was blocked and returned 20 yards by UAB sophomore receiver Nick Adams.
UAB sophomore kicker Ty Long provided his team’s other nine points as he connected on 3-of-4 field goal tries.
OSU kept UAB’s offense out of the end zone, but the Blazers still had their way with the Buckeyes defense, mounting seven drives that lasted at least 8:58.
Buckeyes junior defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins said penalties helped keep UAB drives alive. OSU had seven penalties for 60 yards in the contest.
“As a team, we want to keep it on, keep our foot on the pedal and just go,” Hankins said. “But sometimes, you know, stuff doesn’t go our way. You just got to react and adapt and go out there and play.”
There was seldom a mention of OSU’s 400th Ohio Stadium victory – Nearly all of the focus on OSU was with regard to its perceived inadequacies.
OSU players and coaches reinforced this with answers to questions about what went wrong on Saturday rather than noting the historic victory they had won.
Meyer, the owner of four of the Buckeyes’ 400 all-time wins at that Horseshoe, said his team needs to improve.
“It’s glaringly obvious we’ve got to get a lot better or we won’t win next week,” he said. “I think we seem like a very passive team… We have to be better in all three phases.”
The Buckeyes will take on Michigan State Saturday in East Lansing, Mich. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.