By Bryant Billing
COLUMBUS — Ohio State had its slowest start of the season Saturday but followed with its fastest finish. The result: a typical big victory for the Buckeyes against in-state Mid-American Conference opponent.
Ohio State trailed Miami (Ohio) by five points and couldn’t get going through much of the first quarter of a nonconference game but scored six touchdowns in the second quarter to spark a 76-5 victory in front of 103,190 people at Ohio Stadium.
The RedHawks amassed 113 of their 130 total offensive yards in the first quarter and built an early 5-0 lead thanks to a safety and a 21-yard field goal.
The early offensive struggles for No. 6 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) didn’t last. The Buckeyes took advantage of three turnovers by Miami, racked up 251 yards and scored six touchdowns in the second quarter to take a 49-5 lead by halftime. The 42 points the team scored in the quarter is its most in a single quarter since at least 1960.
“We knew we started out slow and we had to do something about it,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “… I think that was kind of the first time we hit a little bit of adversity this year. So just seeing that bounce back, that was great.”
Ohio State coach Ryan Day said the turnovers the team’s defense created in the second quarter made the difference.
“I think anytime your defense can do what they did, which is shut them down, create turnovers like that and then flip a short field …it can flip fast,” Day said.
It was the biggest performance of the season for an Ohio State offense that has outdone itself each week through the first four games. The Buckeyes amassed 601 yards — but in start contrast to last week’s ground attack at Indiana, most came through the air on Saturday.
Fields completed 14-of-21 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns and backups Chris Chungunov and Gunnar Hoak combined to complete 8-of-9 passes for 151 yards and three TDs.
Fields ran for 36 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. J.K. Dobbins finished with 52 rushing yards and one TD on eight carries.
Thirteen different receivers caught passes for Ohio State, which used mostly backups in the second half. Garrett Wilson led the squad with four catches for 54 yards and one TD, while K.J. Hill had a team-high 78 receiving yards on two catches and scored one TD.
“After two or three drives, they kind of started to chuck it around,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “I feel like they said, ‘Hey, we’re going to throw it around on them.’ At times, we didn’t cover them very good and gave Fields his first look. Other times, we covered them good, but that’s when his size and strength took over.”
After Miami’s early success, it barely moved the ball in the last three quarters. Miami quarterbacks Brett Gabbert and Jackson Williams were sacked a combined five times, and the team averaged 1.6 yards per carry.
Day said he stressed to the team after the game that a lot of work remains before the squad travels to Nebraska, which was 2-1 heading into a game at Illinois on Saturday night.
“The first five, six minutes of the game, not great,” Day said. “We’ve got a lot of things to clean up if we’re going to beat those guys next week. Already on those guys and focused on preparing for next week.”
Fields lost a fumble out of the back of the end zone on Ohio State’s first drive for Miami’s safety. After the RedHawks (1-3) added their field goal, Ohio State scored on its next drive when Dobbins dove in the end zone on the end of a 26-yard touchdown run.
The Buckeyes punted their only time in the first half on the next drive. But the points then came fast and furious.
Hill caught a 53-yard TD pass from Fields with 14:36 left in the second. Jeff Okudah intercepted a pass from Miami’s Brett Gabbert on the next play, and the Buckeyes then scored on a 7-yard TD run by Fields with 14:04 left to take a 21-5 lead.
Fields added a 6-yard TD run a few minutes later and then threw TD passes to Chris Olave (13 yards) and Binjmen Victor (30 yards) to push the lead to 42-5 with 2:14 left. Shortly after a Miami fumble, Olave caught a 10-yard TD pass from Fields with 53 seconds left to push the lead to 44 points.