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COLUMBUS, Ohio - After three less than stellar- albeit victorious efforts in its first three games of the 2012, Ohio State's matchup with UAB figured to be the first time that the Buckeyes put together a full 60 minutes of quality effort under head coach Urban Meyer in a single game. And although OSU managed to escape out of conference play unscathed and advance to 4-0 on the season on Saturday, a number of the issues that plagued the Buckeyes in their first three games of the season were apparent during their 29-15 win over the Blazers.
After a Braxton Miller rushing touchdown secured the Buckeyes their first lead of the game with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, OSU safety Christian Bryant forced a fumble out of the hands of UAB tight end Kennard Backman. The loose ball was quickly recovered by OSU cornerback Doran Grant, giving the Buckeyes' offense the ball at the Blazers' 32-yard line.
"I saw the ball spinning and I just tried to pick it up and run with it, but I knew I was down," Grant said. "The ball was on the ground, I just tried to react."
Following two more Miller runs, OSU fullback Zach Boren punched in a two-yard rushing touchdown, to give the Buckeyes a two-score lead heading into halftime while capping off a second quarter that saw OSU score three of its four touchdowns on Saturday.
"It just swung the momentum," Bryant said. "We're just trying trying to make big plays every game just to swing the momentum and get the ball back into the offense's hands so they can score touchdowns."
Numbers don't lie
Despite Meyer constantly stressing the importance of third down conversions, the Buckeyes were only successful on three of their 10 third down attempts, leaving punter Ben Buchanan to punt the ball six times against the Blazers. Meyer admitted after the game that was disappointed with his offense's lack of production.
"On offense, our explosive plays, our explosiveness is obviously nonexistent for much of the game," Meyer said. "If there's one thing we could make adjustments and fix, it's more than one thing right now."
The Buckeyes' offensive output included 347 yards on 57 plays- 23 less plays than what UAB ran- and resulted in their lowest scoring output of the season.
"I don't think anybody's pleased right now," OSU wide receiver Corey Brown said. "We're winning games right now, but we're not winning them by what we're supposed to."
In his second game since returning from offseason foot surgery, Jordan Hall rushed for a career-high 105 yards on 17 carries and added another 21 yards on two receptions. The senior running back said that he felt better prepared for his workload against the Blazers than he did last week against California.
"I felt more comfortable this week. I didn't even want to watch the film after last week's game," Hall said. "This week I felt like I was a little bit more comfortable 'cause I seen some of the things I wanted to see that I knew I would see after watching the film."
Of defense, Grant performed admirably while filling in for injured cornerback Bradley Roby, recording seven tackles, one sack, and an interception in addition to his fumble recovery. The sophomore cornerback said that it felt good to be making his presence felt in his first career start.
"You have to earn your keep," Grant said. "You have to earn your playing time and respect from the older guys and your coaches and just do what you have to do."
Cause for concern
Despite facing an under-matched opponent that already had two blowout losses on the season to its credit, the Buckeyes got off to a slow start on both sides of the ball, which was reminiscent of their failure to come out of the gates strong in their season opener against Miami (OH). A blocked punt following OSU's first offensive series gave UAB a 6-0 lead to start the game, before a 54-yard Ty Long field goal gave the Blazers a nine-point before the Buckeyes ever got on the scoreboard.
"Basically, we came out slow today, it was obvious," Brown said. "We prepared well throughout the weak and our main focus is to come out strong. I don't know what it was about today."
It wasn't just Saturday's slow start that was reminiscent of the Buckeyes' previous problems. After spending a week of practice with a strong emphasis on tackling, the OSU defense had trouble bringing ball-carriers to the ground for the second consecutive game, allowing 403 yards to its Conference USA opponent.
"It's something we still have to work on," linebacker Etienne Sabino said. "We missed too many, I missed too many. We aren't where we need to be yet."
Despite escaping a rocky out of conference road with an undefeated record intact, it's clear that the first-year OSU head coach is still unimpressed with his team heading into its Big Ten opener and first road game of the year at Michigan State next weekend.
"No," Meyer stated bluntly, when asked if he liked the progress the Buckeyes have made this season. "Defense, offense, and kicking game- we have to be better in all three phases."
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