By Bryant Billing
COLUMBUS — Luke Fickell’s first time on the sidelines at Ohio Stadium since leaving Ohio State didn’t give him any incentive to come back soon.
Fickell started 50 games on the defensive line at Ohio State in the mid-90s and coached at the school for 16 seasons before leaving to take the head coaching job at Cincinnati in 2017. He was hoping his Bearcats, which went 11-2 last year, would prove worthy of playing a top-five ranked opponent.
Instead, the Buckeyes dominated in every area in a 42-0 victory Saturday and showed Cincinnati and every other in-state school they’re on another level. It was the squad’s 42nd consecutive win against an in-state opponent.
“They just ruined any sentimental thought you might have had,” Fickell said of his homecoming. “It was emotional, a long week. Not just coming home and knowing what you’re up against. There were a lot of things involved in that. I didn’t do a good job of preparing our guys. I might have tried to avoid it a little too much.
“… I’m disappointed we couldn’t give them a real game.”
The Buckeyes particularly dominated on the offensive and defensive lines.
Ohio State’s defensive line sacked Cincinnati quarterbacks Desmond Ridder and Ben Bryant five times and didn’t give up much ground on running plays. The Bearcats finished with 13 first downs and had nearly 150 less offensive yards than they had in a season-opening win against UCLA.
Ohio State’s offensive line fought off any blitzes Cincinnati tried and opened many holes for J.K. Dobbins and Justin Fields, who combined to run for four TDs. Ohio State finished with 270 rushing yards.
“This is tough for every guy down in that locker room,” Fickell said. “Not just losing the game, but how we lost it.”
“…It’s not like we only took it in the mouth for two quarters. We took it in the mouth for four quarters, and it was a humbling experience for a lot of us. We have a real challenge for ourselves now to see what we’re made of.”
Big game for Young
Chase Young led the way in Ohio State’s defensive line terrorizing Cincinnati.
Young finished with 1.5 sacks and blocked a field goal attempt in the second quarter. He leaped and batted down the kick, which Tuf Borland eventually recovered.
He also nearly intercepted a pass in the second quarter that coach Ryan Day thought for sure was going to be returned for a touchdown.
“I almost blew out my Achilles jumping up and down because I thought we had that,” Day said. “Still feel a little loose there.”
Dominant offensive line
Ohio State’s offensive line opened up large holes throughout the game. Dobbins was untouched on both of his touchdown runs (including a 60-yard run in the second quarter) while Fields was untouched on his second TD run.
The unit’s dominance came as Cincinnati tried to blitz on most plays.
“They were stemming from a three-down defense to a four down, and I didn’t have time to say anything,” Ohio State center Josh Meyers said. “Our guys did a great job across the board of adjusting to that.”
Dobbins got in on blocking action as well on one of the few plays he was on the field in the second half. He took out a Cincinnati defender on a 4-yard TD run by Fields in the third quarter that extended the lead to 35-0.
“Honestly, doing a great block is better than a touchdown run,” Dobbins said. “… It’s (an) ecstatic (feeling). It gives you a lot of energy.”
Cincinnati backup suffers apparent seizure
Cincinnati backup safety Kyriq McDonald dropped to the ground near midfield and suffered an apparent seizure early in the second quarter after a 24-yard run by Dobbins.
He convulsed for several seconds before stopping and was attended to by Cincinnati and Ohio State medical personal for several minutes. He eventually stood on his own and was driven off the field in a cart.
McDonald’s mother told ABC’s broadcast crew he has a history of seizures.
Fickell said he was medically cleared later in the day. The incident happened on the drive after Young blocked the Bearcats’ field goal attempt.
“That was a scary situation, and I don’t think we ever recovered,” Fickell said.
The lengthy delay didn’t slow Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes finished the drive four plays later when Dobbins scored on a 4-yard TD run to increase the lead to 14-0.
10 inducted into OSU Hall of Fame
Ohio State inducted 10 former athletes or coaches into its Hall of Fame on Friday night and recognized all during halftime on Saturday.
Among the inductees are former football players Boyd Cherry (class of 1914), Mike Nugent (2004) and AJ Hawk (2005).
Nugent and Hawk played for more than a decade in the NFL. The pair are from the Dayton suburb of Centerville and graduated from Centerville High School. They played together from elementary school through college.