COLUMBUS, Ohio (UCFAthletics.com) - No. 14 Ohio State took a 31-16 victory over UCF at Ohio Stadium Saturday. Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller rushed for 141 yards and three scores to lead Ohio State.
UCF went toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes for much of the contest. But three touchdowns by Miller (one through the air and two on the ground) over the course of about seven minutes - spanning the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third - made the difference.
"Basically, we played sporadically," head coach George O'Leary said. "You can't turn the ball over against good football teams. Obviously, Ohio State's a very good football team. We didn't tackle very well. Too many missed tackles. They have athletes that make you miss. Everything they talk about with Braxton Miller is accurate."
With the score tied 10-10 late in the second quarter, Miller scored on a six-yard run to make it 17-10 at the intermission. He then followed up with a TD pass and another scoring run in the first 6:52 of the third quarter. Those three TDs gave Ohio State a 31-10 lead.
UCF responded with an 84-yard scoring drive, capped by a Bortles-to-Billy Giovanetti two-yard scoring strike to pull within 31-16 late in the third quarter. But that was the final time either team would light the scoreboard.
"I thought we fought back and were resilient with what we were trying to get done," O'Leary said. "We had opportunities to score points and we didn't do it."
Bortles was 25-of-41 for 251 yards and two scores, but was intercepted three times. J.J. Worton hauled in seven passes for 96 yards. Storm Johnson led the Knights on the ground with 75 yards on 12 rushes, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Terrance Plummer paced the UCF defense with a career-best 16 tackles, including one tackle-for-loss. Two other Knight defenders - Kemal Ishmael and Clayton Geathers - recorded 10 tackles apiece.
Each team gave the ball away three times. Ohio State put together 411 yards of offense, compared to 352 for UCF. The Buckeyes held a 33:16-26:44 advantage in time of possession.
Ohio State opened up the scoring on its first possession of the contest, as Miller took a quarterback draw up the middle for 37 yards and a score. The Buckeyes led 7-0 after less than six minutes. UCF answered with a 28-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining on the first quarter clock. The Knights' defense helped set up the score, when linebacker Jonathan Davis stopped Miller on a fourth-and-1 keeper at the Buckeyes' 47-yard line. Eight plays later, Shawn Moffitt converted from 28 yards out to make it 7-3.
Ohio State increased its lead back to 7 points early in the second quarter. The UCF defense stiffened at the 7-yard line before Drew Basil knocked a 24-yard field goal through the uprights to put OSU on top 10-3. But UCF answered again.
Running back Storm Johnson accounted for 68 yards on the first two plays of the Knights' ensuing possession. He took a pass from Bortles for 20 yards and then went around right end for 48, setting UCF up at the Ohio State 10-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 1, Bortles found tight end Justin Tukes wide open in the end zone. Moffitt's PAT tied the game at 10-10.
After an Ohio State fumble late in the third quarter, Bortles had a pass tipped and intercepted at the Knights' 48-yard line. Eight plays later, Miller kept it around the left end for a six-yard TD run with just 15 seconds left in the first half to put Ohio State up 17-10 at halftime.