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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The second game of the Urban Meyer era wasn't as lopsided as its predecessor was, but it still allowed the first-year Ohio State coach to remain undefeated on the season as the Buckeyes defeated Central Florida by a score of 31-16. Although it was sometimes sloppy and featured some statistics that left Meyer shaking his head, OSU was still able to walk away from Ohio Stadium on Saturday with a win, and advance to 2-0 heading into its game with California next Saturday.
Starting the fourth quarter in the OSU red zone and trailing 31-16, UCF was threatening to erase what was a 21 point Buckeyes' lead. That, however, was before Knights quarterback Blake Bortles dropped back from OSU's 9-yard line, only to have his pass attempt intercepted by Buckeyes safety Orhian Johnson.
"I just saw ball, get ball," Johnson said of the play. "We knew we were going to get around the ball, but we wanted to make sure we made the play when we got there."
Johnson's interception- the Buckeyes' third of the day- erased the closest opportunity that the Knights had to get back into the game, and was the final UCF possession that didn't end in the Knights turning the ball over on downs.
"Turnovers, we had a couple down in there that changed the game, that were kind of the checkmate plays of the game," Meyer said. "They were going in to score."
Numbers don't lie
OSU quarterback Braxton Miller accounted for all four of the Buckeyes' touchdowns on Saturday, three of which came while rushing the ball. Miller's first touchdown was a 37-yard run off of a quarterback draw to give OSU a 7-0 lead after its first offensive series of the game.
"Man, the hole opened up and I just shot through it," Miller said. "(OSU wide receiver) Devin Smith got a good block, the offensive line made a good play."
Miller's only passing touchdown of the game came in the third quarter when he floated a 12-yard touchdown pass over a UCF defender and into the hands of OSU wide receiver/tight end Jake Stoneburner.
"I learned every time Braxton scrambles, just go deep. He has a tendency to throw it to guys deep back there," Stoneburner said. "He happened to find an open door and he saw me, and he made a great push pass."
Aside from Miller- who could probably be named the star of the OSU offense in every game he plays- wide receiver Corey Brown put together his second consecutive solid game as the Buckeyes' No. 1 receiver. With six catches for 48 yards against the Knights, Brown now has 13 receptions on the season- just one shy of the 14 he caught in all of 2011.
Brown also got it done on the ground, taking a reverse for 19 yards and totaling 33 yards on two total carries. Meyer said that he may experiment with using Brown as a runner more often in the coming weeks.
"Another guy that's done a nice job that I'll investigate more this week is Philly Brown," Meyer said, referencing Brown's nickname. "You might see him carrying to ball a little bit on the east-west stuff. We have to."
On the defensive side of the ball, Johnson has been an afterthought for much of his OSU career, but the fifth-year senior emerged on Saturday with perhaps his best effort as a Buckeye. Recording six tackles- five of which were unassisted- Johnson affirmed Meyer's decision to insert him in 'star'/nickel back spot that was occupied by safety Corey Brown last week.
"It felt good, I felt comfortable being on the field," Johnson said. "Just being out there, playing around, running around. It definitely felt good to get my hands on the ball."
Cause for concern
Between an inconsistent pass rush and Miller's 27 carries, there was plenty for Meyer to be worried about following the Buckeyes' victory, but perhaps nothing concerned the OSU coach more than the MCL sprain suffered by starting running back Carlos Hyde. Meyer expects Hyde to miss 1-2 weeks, but his temporary loss could not come at a worse position for the Buckeyes, who are already without Jordan Hall and Warren Ball at the running back position.
"Someone's gotta run the ball," Meyer said. "We've got to have a good week of practice."
Despite being dissappointed over Hyde's injury, Meyer remains optimistic about the choices he has to replace the junior running back in senior Zach Boren, sophomore Rod Smith, and freshman Bri'onte Dunn.
"Bri'onte Dunn, no problem. We'll take a Bri'onte Dunn anytime. Rod Smith, we'll take him anytime," Meyer said. "Good dudes, good guys, talented. Not a lot of production out of those guys, but usually when good guys work their tails off, good things happen to them."
Although excited by picking up his second win in as many games as the Buckeyes' head coach, Meyer was clearly left unsatisfied by the efforts of his team. After the game, Meyer admitted that he thought he'd see more out of his team by the second week of the season.
"Not where I thought we'd be. I thought we'd be a little more explosive on offense and thought we'd get some pressure on the quarterback," Meyer said. "I thought we'd be a little more explosive on offense."
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