Led by a redshirt-freshman quarterback and a largely inexperienced offensive line, Ohio State put on one of the best offensive performances in school history Saturday, as it rolled to a 50-28 victory against Cincinnati.
The Buckeye offense totaled 710 total yards against the Bearcats, just eight yards shy of the school record.
In addition to yardage, the Buckeyes broke the school record and tied an FBS record for first downs with 45 and tied a school record for most plays run with 101.
OSU coach Urban Meyer said after the game that the offensive diversity — along with improved line play — is what contributed to the record-setting night.
“We’re an offensive line-driven team. And they won the game for us. And they controlled that line of scrimmage,” Meyer said. “They protected our (redshirt-freshman) quarterback. J.T. (Barrett) played well. Other than a dropped third down and a fumble, I was very pleased for the night, offensively.”
The explosive and balanced attack could have easily broken the school record, had it not been for a fumble by freshman running back Curtis Samuel and a dropped third-down pass by senior wide receiver Devin Smith, both in the second quarter. Despite the drop, though, Smith scored twice on the night.
Smith’s fellow senior, tight end Jeff Heuerman, who recorded three catches for 38 yards Saturday after sitting out the Kent State game because of a foot injury, said the Buckeyes could have played even better.
“We did a whole lot as an offense tonight. The crazy part is we didn’t play our best,” Heuerman said after the game. “We left points and yards out there, too. We punted once, but we fumbled and kicked two field goals. Overall, it was a pretty impressive performance.”
Perhaps the most impressive performer was Barrett, who totaled 409 yards of offense. His performance left him just three yards shy of the all-time school record for most individual yards in a game, a mark held by Art Schlichter, a quarterback who accumulated 412 yards against Florida State in 1981.
Barrett completed 26 of his 36 pass attempts for 330 yards Saturday, and six of those completions were to sophomore H-back Dontre Wilson, whom Barrett found wide open for a 24-yard score late in the third quarter.
Wilson said Barrett’s hard work in practice is starting to show during games.
“He is playing very well. I always knew he had it in him because he is such a great leader,” Wilson said. “He works really hard and now, he is just perfecting his craft.”
Barrett said he attributes his big night to the big guys up front.
“All the credit goes to the offensive line,” he said following the game. “They got it started for us and that’s what coach Meyer always talks about is relying on them to keep the offense going.”
The Buckeyes seemed to do just that as Barrett was sacked only once, and OSU rushed for 380 yards.
Of the 380 yards on the ground, 182 belonged to sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott in a new career high. But Elliott also said afterward that the offensive line deserves the credit, despite his big stat line.
“It all goes to the line. The line made those big holes. It is not that hard to run when you got those gaping holes,” he said.
Co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman said following the game that it did not dawn on him how impressive Elliot was until after the clock hit zero.
“I honestly didn’t realize we had run the ball so well until the end of the game,” Herman said. “The guys up front deserve a lot of that credit too. (Elliot) certainly got his pads north and south and was running through arm tackles, and it was fun to watch him run tonight.”
Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville said he thought his team played hard, but it couldn’t find a way to stop the Buckeye rushing game.
“I’m proud of my team for fighting,” he said. “Effort was good on both sides and we played hard. We just got knocked off the ball on zone plays.”
The win over the Bearcats marked Meyer’s first-ever win over Tuberville in three tries. Meyer lost twice to Tuberville when both coached in the Southeastern Conference at Florida and Auburn, respectively.
The Buckeyes are set to travel to College Park, Md., to take on the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.