COLUMBUS, Ohio – Despite its imperfect play, Ohio State is still unbeaten on the season.
Braxton Miller ran for two touchdowns and No. 16 Ohio State overcame a lethargic, mistake-filled and enigmatic effort to hold off UAB 29-15 on Saturday.
Coach Urban Meyer narrowed the problems to offense, defense and special teams, expressed his disappointment and said his players have to get dramatically better before opening Big Ten play at No. 21 Michigan State on Saturday.
He also reminded fans in so many words that he is no miracle-worker and that it was only a year ago that the Buckeyes were 6-7.
Youve got to think about where this team was, now. This is not a finely tuned machine right now; it hasnt been for a while, he said. Obviously, theres some growing pains and its not as easy. I thought wed be further ahead.
UAB (0-3) held its own against the Buckeyes (4-0), who committed drive-killing penalties, had a punt blocked for a touchdown and had trouble scoring against a defense that gave up 44 points and 477 yards in its first two games.
Were not playing to our potential, wide receiver Corey Brown said. Especially after a wakeup call like that, weve got to come out (this week) and practice hard.
There was plenty of blame to go around.
We werent as aggressive as last week, Ohio State defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins said. I feel like some guys have got to know their place, their schemes, when theyre out there.
The Blazers scored on special teams and started the second half by recovering an onside kick but were undone by four chop-block penalties and a giveaway that led to a score.
Moral victories are OK, but we really wanted to come back with a W, Blazers running back Darrin Reaves said.
Miller completed passes for 12, 14 and 18 yards and ran for 26 yards to set up his clinching 1-yard TD run with 5:03 left.
It was yet another curious performance by the Buckeyes. They have struggled in all four of their nonconference home games, having to come from behind last week before beating Cal 35-28 on a late defensive gaffe.
Miller completed 12 of 20 passes for 143 yards and rushed for 64 yards on 11 carries. Harding graduate Rod Smith had six carries for 24 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Hall gained 105 yards on 17 carries.
Ohio State was a 37-point favorite against UAB. Yet the Blazers outgained the Buckeyes 403-347 and had more first downs 22-20.
We seem like a very passive team, Meyer said. They didnt score a touchdown on our defense but we give up a lot of yardage. That hurts. I sit there and Im pained watching it. On offense our explosiveness is obviously nonexistent for much of the game. If it was one thing we could make adjustments and fix it, its more than one thing right now.
Meyer will have a busy week.
I have a very clear understanding of where were at, he said. Im disappointed, but that doesnt mean I dont love the guys. I think theyre working their tails off. Weve just got to keep grinding.