The 16th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes put the wraps on their season-opening, four-game home stand this Saturday, as they welcome the UAB Blazers to Columbus for the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
UAB is playing a ranked opponent for the second straight week following a 49-6 blowout loss at No. 8 South Carolina last Saturday. It was the second loss in as many games for the Blazers to start the season, the team also dropping a 39-29 decision at home to Troy back on Sept. 1. UAB kicks off Conference USA play next weekend at home versus Tulsa.
UAB has never beaten a Top-25 team outside of Conference USA, but first-year head coach Garrick McGee liked the fight he saw in his guys last week at South Carolina.
"I'm really proud of our team. I think that our team really hung in there and played with a great attitude for a long time," He continued, " I think we are developing, and I think we are getting in position to go after the Conference USA championship. Even though in the win column it doesn't show it, we are a better football team than we were two weeks ago."
As for Ohio State, it was fortunate to escape last Saturday's bout with California with a victory, as the Golden Bears missed three field goals in what turned out to be a 35-28 final. The win kept the Buckeyes perfect after three games in this, Urban Meyer's first year as head coach. OSU took care of Miami-Ohio (56-10) and UCF (31-16) in its first two outings, and the Buckeyes will head out on the road for the first time this season to open Big Ten Conference play next week at No. 21 Michigan State.
A win in this contest will be No. 400 for OSU in the 90-year history of Ohio Stadium, and will also be the Buckeyes' 60th straight at home against an unranked, non-conference foe.
Despite the inefficient play of QB Jonathan Perry (35-of-67, 536 yards, two TDs, one INT), the UAB offense certainly relies more on the pass (282.5 ypg) than it does the run (80.5 ypg). Both Jackie Williams and Patrick Hearn have logged 11 catches each, combining for 376 yards, but neither has reached the end zone just yet. Darrin Reaves is the team's leading rusher, but he averages a paltry 29 ypg. No back averages better than 3.6 ypc, thus putting the Blazers at a huge disadvantage when trying to keep opposing defenses honest.
In last week's blowout loss at South Carolina, UAB generated just 27 yards on the ground, and that came on a whopping 42 attempts. Perry wound up throwing for 219 yards, but he was sacked four times, his backup Austin Brown another two, as the Gamecocks swarmed to the ball all game long.
The South Carolina offense was on the field for less than 24 minutes last week, but the home team had very little trouble moving the ball against what was a porous UAB defense, tallying 501 total yards (179 rushing, 322 passing) and scoring a pair of TDs in every quarter except the first.
UAB is being torched for 477 yards and 44 points per outing this season, the enemy having near-equal success both running and throwing the football. A total of three players have posted double-digit tackles coming into this contest, with Marvin Burdette leading the way with 17. Chris Babb has two of the team's three sacks, both of which came last week against the Gamecocks.
Despite being outgained by Cal (512-412), the Ohio State offense, led by QB Braxton Miller, made enough big plays to keep the team undefeated after the first three games of the season. Miller accounted for all five TDs the Buckeyes would score on the day, including a career-best four passing TDs. His final yardage totals were 249 passing and 75 rushing. RB Jordan Hall led the OSU ground attack with 87 yards on 17 carries, the team averaging just about five yards per attempt. WR Devin Smith caught five balls for 145 yards and two TDs, with his biggest play proving to be the game-winner as he caught a 72- yard TD pass late in the fourth quarter.
The Buckeyes are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 40.7 ppg this year, amassing 453.7 ypg in the process. The yardage totals have been nearly even to this point, with the run generating 237.7 ypg and the pass 216.0 ypg. Miller is hitting better than 61 percent of his passes with seven TDs and only two INTs, with receivers Philly Brown and Smith combining for 29 catches, 399 yards and four scores. Miller is also the team's leading rusher with 377 yards and five TDs, with RB Carlos Hyde a distant second with 109 yards and two scores.
California RB Brendan Bigelow ripped off a pair of long TD runs (81 yards, 59 yards), and he finished with 160 yards on only four carries last week. The Buckeyes, who were credited with six sacks on the day, saw Ryan Shazier, Johnathan Hankins and C.J. Barnett each finish with double-digit tackles.
Shazier continues to pace the club in tackles with 27, and seven others have at least 10 stops on the year. The defense as a whole is giving up just 18 points and 108.7 ypg rushing, but the effort against the pass yields 283.3 ypg, most of which has been accrued by the opposition in an attempt to mount a comeback. Still, Meyer would like to see fewer yards permitted, something he knows will be difficult considering the quality of teams the Buckeyes will face once conference action kicks into gear.
Realizing they didn't play their best game against the Golden Bears, senior DL John Simon spoke afterward.
"I think both sides of the ball were physical. Cal is a very good football team. Fortunately we were able to come out on top, which makes everything a little better."