Even though it was Luke Fickell’s return to Ohio Stadium, the Ohio State Buckeyes didn’t hold back against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Behind a 100-yard day on the ground from running back J.K. Dobbins and 200-yard day in the air by quarterback Justin Fields, the Buckeyes dominated on both sides of the ball, defeating UC by a final score of 42-0.
In a more complete game than last week against Florida Atlantic, the Buckeyes went coast-to-coast in their domination. After opening the game with a punt, OSU scored a touchdown on four of the next five drives. Just like against FAU, the scoring was opened by a Justin Fields rush.
For the game, Fields’ passing ability was dialed in. He went 20-of-25 for 224 yards, throwing touchdown strikes to K.J. Hill and Garrett Wilson. On the ground, the Georgia transfer had nine carries for 42 yards, accompanied with two scores.
Dobbins was back to top form, leading all running backs in the game with 141 yards on 17 touches. Dobbins also took two rushes to the house, including a 60-yarder in the second quarter. His counterpart, Tavion Thomas, picked up 58 yards on 11 carries.
On the receiving end, Binjimen Victor led OSU with a nice 69 yards on five catches. Not too far behind him were Chris Olave and K.J. Hill. Olave hauled in two receptions for 60 yards, and Hill put together an eight reception, 57-yard afternoon in The ‘Shoe.
Defensively, the Bucks shutdown the Bearcat offense. Holding quarterback Desmond Ridder to 166 yards on 13-of-20 passing, the Buckeye defense tallied five sacks on the UC signal-caller. Chase Young led the sack effort, being credited with 1.5. Tyreke Smith, Shaun Wade and Brendon White all got a sack as well. Malik Harrison picked up 0.5 sacks, assisting with Young on one of them.
Cornerback Damon Arnette led the tackling effort, securing six total tackles (three solo). Tuf Borland snag a red zone interception off a deflection, and Dallas Gant knocked the ball out of running back Thomas’ hands at the OSU1 in the waning minutes of the game—ensuring the shutout.
Up-tempo was the name of the game for the first OSU series. The Buckeyes had five consecutive plays that went for positive yardage, with three straight plays going for first downs. Driving into Cincinnati territory, a holding call stunted momentum, forcing the Buckeyes to punt the ball from the CIN39. Ace punter Drue Chrisman pinned the ball at the CIN1, making the Bearcats go the distance for points.
Fortunately for OSU fans, the Bearcats could not, in fact, go the distance, and managed only two yards on their first drive of the game. A James Smith punt would put the Buckeyes on the CIN41 after a short 3-yard return from Demario McCall. Working with the short field, Fields and the offense went back to work — driving down the field with relative ease. After a rush and completion to Austin Mack, both first down plays, Fields took off up the middle for the game’s first score: A 7-yard TD.
Cincinnati had a little more success in drive No. 2, gaining 15 total yards over four plays. But that drive also ended without points. Ohio State was back on the warpath, gaining yards seemingly at will, but the Bearcat defense held tough in the red zone — stopping the Bucks on a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 from the CIN20.
One of the more lengthy drives of the game came in Cincy’s third series. Draining 6:12 off the clock, the Bearcats dialed up 12 plays for 66 yards across the first and second quarters. This was the first instance in the afternoon that things seemed to be going Cincinnati’s way.
Unlike the Buckeyes, Luke Fickell’s fourth-and-1 gamble paid off thanks to a Ridder QB keep on the option. On a third-and-4 just outside of field goal range, a roughing the passer penalty on OSU’s Tommy Togiai gave UC new life inside the red zone. Even though the drive stalled out at the OSU14, the Bearcats had a high probability to getting points.
And then things quickly fell apart. Sam Crosa’s 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Chase Young. Ohio State then quickly went down the field, marching 87 yards on six plays. Each play went for positive yardage, and included some whoppers. Dobbins broke off a 24-yard gain, and Fields hit Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor for first down completions. The drive ended with Dobbins following his blockers to the right side for a 4-yard sprint into the end zone.
52 yards and 1 TD already in the game for J.K. Dobbins. More of this, please. pic.twitter.com/VBERZCphJ9— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 7, 2019
Another three-and-out by the visitors gifted Ohio State the ball on the OSU39. After a Fields sack, Dobbins had his biggest carry of the season; the La Grange, Texas native took off down the near sideline — outpacing the Bearcat defense with ease. Sixty yards later, the Buckeyes had their third touchdown of the half, and held a commanding 21-0 lead.
Dobbins looks like he is crossing the line in a sprint when he gets into the endzone.— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 7, 2019
OSU up 21-0. pic.twitter.com/kRKLGR3Chh
Injuries took the day from bad to worse for Fickell’s squad. In one of the more scarier instances this season, safety Kyriq McDonald fell to the ground and convulsed. After a lengthy stop of play, McDonald was carted off the field. Ridder also left the game with an apparent wrist/shoulder injury for a brief time in Cincy’s next to last possession in the first half.
In contrast, Ohio State’s final full possession of the half put more points on the scoreboard. This time, it was through the air when Fields found a heavily covered Garrett Wilson in the back of the northeast corner of the end zone. It was Wilson’s first receiving TD in his Buckeye career, and capped off another quick drive down the field. This time, passing game coordinator Mike Yurich’s plan resulted in 88 yards in eight plays, taking just 3:31 off the clock.
Those are five-star hands from Wilson! pic.twitter.com/xyBcluKgC5— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 7, 2019
Through the first half, both sides looked impressive for the Buckeyes. The offense had 386 yards via a balanced attack. Fields was responsible for 186 yards, and the combination of Fields and Dobbins on the ground amassed 170 yards on 24 total carries. Defensively, the Bucks were smothering UC.
The Bearcats had 108 total yards, with a whoa-buddy total of 18 on the ground. In fact, midway through the second quarter, Cincinnati was sitting on a -1 rushing total — so 18 is a little better. Additionally, the Bearcat offense whiffed on all seven third down situations, while OSU was 3-of-5.
Deferring the opening kick, the Bearcats got the ball to begin the new half. Four straight plays of positive yardage gave the visiting AAC program some momentum. Especially after Ridder found tight end Josiah Deguara for 20 yards, the Bearacts were 50 yards from the first TD of the day. But like everything else that’s happened in the game, the Bearcats would get their momentum zapped in an instant. A 1-yard loss for Michael Warren was then followed up with an 8-yard Chase Young sack of Ridder. The Bearcats punted the ball away again, failing to get any points for the eighth straight drive on Saturday.
After both teams traded scoreless drives, the Buckeyes came back with another methodical drive that resulted in six more points. With the game safely in the bag, McCall and Master Teague were brought in to lead the rushing attack. Just like with Dobbins, the Cincinnati defense had a tough time bringing Teague to the ground. Two carries went for beyond 10 yards, and the Bucks easily scored from inside the red zone. Once again, this drive concluded with Fields rushing into the end zone — putting OSU up 35-0.
Drive No. 9 was one of the the more productive of the day for Fickell’s squad. Ridder found wide receiver Alec Pierce for a 46-yard connection, the longest play of the day for Cincinnati. Three straight plays of short yardage calls put the Bearcats at the OSU7. Faced with a third-and-1 from OSU7, RB Tavion Thomas picked up three, bringing the first case of ‘and-goal’ for the UC offense.
Like dangling a carrot with a stick, the treat was about to be yanked away from UC—and again, it came in the cruelest of ways. Intending to hit his wideout on a slant route, Ridder threw the ball to tight on the inside; the ball was tipped — floating in the air for a second — before landing in the hands of linebacker Tuf Borland. Borland sprinted down the far sideline with all his might, gaining 42 yards in the process.
Beginning the fourth quarter with the ball, OSU took their time. But like the five other times on this late summer afternoon, the drive ended the same: a touchdown. Teague was brought back into the scheme, and continued charging ahead for gains of eight and 10. Chipping away until they were back inside the CIN10, Fields collected his second throwing TD of the day with a 5-yard completion to K.J. Hill, who grabbed the ball out of bounds on a sideline route.
Love K.J. Hill being the reliable receiver around the goal line. pic.twitter.com/2ye9pyjGOA— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) September 7, 2019
From here on out, with a 42-0 lead in the back pocket, the OSU second team got their chance to play. On their first drive, the defense forced a Cincinnati three-and-out. The remaining eight minutes of regulation ran off without much fanfare, ensuring a dominant all-around performance for Ryan Day and his Buckeye program.
Ohio State travels to Bloomington, Ind., next week for their first Big Ten matchup of the season. The Indiana Hoosiers will host the Buckeyes, and the game is scheduled for noon ET kickoff. Fox will broadcast the contest.