By Bryant Billing
COLUMBUS — Cincinnati’s bid to become the first in-state opponent to beat Ohio State in nearly 100 years turned into a showcase as to just how far ahead the Buckeyes are of every other Ohio collegiate football program.
Ohio State’s offensive line cleared the way for a big day by Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins and the squad’s defense was even more dominating in a 42-0 victory in front of 104,089 fans at Ohio Stadium.
It’s the first shutout the team has had since a 56-0 victory against Rutgers nearly two years ago and comes as a sign of progress by a defense that struggled for much of last season. Cincinnati — which had 417 yards of offense in a season-opening win against UCLA — managed 273 yards against Ohio State and had two turnovers.
“I thought we owned the line of scrimmage today,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “They were flying around. That’s what we envisioned when we put this together. …I thought they were running around tackling well and creating turnovers against a good Cincinnati team.”
Fields followed up last week’s solid debut in a 45-21 win against Florida Atlantic with an even better showing. He completed 20-of-25 passes for 224 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 46 yards and two TDs on nine carries.
Dobbins ran 17 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns, all of which came in the first half. His yardage total is the most he’s had in a single half in his career.
Dobbins broke the game open with a 60-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to increase the lead to 21-0.
“I was a little more focused this week,” Dobbins said. “(I focused on) me instead of everything else. I think that helped a lot.”
The Buckeyes struggled for much of the last three quarters after taking a 28-0 early lead against Florida Atlantic. They took a 28-0 lead by halftime against Cincinnati and never slowed.
Fields, who was in his second game as Ohio State’s starting QB, thinks there are more performances like that to come.
“I think we can be as good as we want to be,” Fields said. “If everybody stays focused, we limit the injuries on the team, I think we can do big things this year.”
The Bearcats finished 11-2 last season and were expected to give Ohio State a game — especially after starting the season with a 10-point win against UCLA and the Buckeyes fading after the first quarter against Florida Atlantic.
They barely even challenged to find the end zone.
In the third quarter, Cincinnati moved to the Ohio State 4-yard line before a false start moved UC back to the 9. Tuf Borland intercepted a tipped pass on the next play to end the drive.
An earlier scoring threat ended when Chase Young jumped up and got a hand on a 32-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter.
The Bearcats drove in the red zone late in the fourth quarter but fumbled at the 1-yard line. Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
“They’re a good team and good players,” Day said. “And they ran down the field. But to strip the ball down out on the 1-yard line shows we have a backbone, shows we’re going to keep on fighting and I thought it was a good sign for the defense.”
The Buckeyes will try to keep up the stellar defensive play next Saturday when they open Big Ten play at Indiana.
“We go into conference play next week, and we have to start over again,” Day said. “When you come into the game so much comes into it preparation wise — physically, emotionally, mentally — to make sure you need to execute on Saturday. And so we have to start that journey again.”