5 Answers: UCF at Ohio State

Ohio State downed UCF 31-16 on Saturday at Ohio Stadium in a game that saw the Buckeyes get out to a better start, hold their own against the run, utilize play action and improve in the red zone. Those are among the things we're analyzing this week in Five Answers.

1. Which team will have a better start?

The Buckeyes got the better of the action early on both sides of the ball, particularly the Ohio State offense that had struggled at the beginning of a win against Miami University one week earlier.

After the Buckeye defense forced a three-and-out to open the game, the OSU offense took control at its own 29 and marched 71 yards in just seven plays, the final 37 coming on a touchdown run that was vintage Braxton Miller as the quarterback weaved his way through the middle of the line then turned on the jets with the goal line in sight.

A failed fourth-down attempt represented a moment of frustration, but overall the first quarter was a positive one for the Buckeyes, who outgained visiting Central Florida 95-17 and doubled the Knights in first downs 6-3 while building a modest 7-3 advantage in points.

"We came out fast, better than last week," Miller said. "We're getting better."


2. How will the Ohio State defense handle the power running game?

Playing from behind most of the day, UCF did not lean heavily on its running game as the Buckeyes' coaches suggested they might during pregame interviews. The Knights found modest success at times on the ground, but for the most part a young and reshuffled defensive line held up for the home team.

Tailback Storm Johnson totaled 75 yards on 12 carries, but more than half of his production came on a 48-yard off-tackle run.

There was not a lot of running room inside as OSU tackles Garrett Goebel and Johnathan Hankins controlled things with assists from freshmen Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt.

When things spilled outside, linebacker Ryan Shazier (five tackles) and safeties Christian Bryant (team-high seven stops) and Orhian Johnson (six) did the most cleaning up.


3. How will Ohio State attack the Knights offensively?

This evolved as the game went on due to health issues in the Buckeye backfield. They started out throwing the ball around a little bit with Miller working the sidelines up with screens and curls then went back to their bread-and-butter ground attack.

After starting running back Carlos Hyde went to the bench with a sprained knee, the bulk of the carries went to Miller as Hyde's young backups Brionte Dunn and Rod Smith struggled to find traction.

Miller finished with 27 carries, some by design and others when he scrambled or kept the ball on the zone read. That was a total everyone seemed to agree was too much.

"You lose Carlos and then you've got to decide how you want to manage the rest of the game," co-offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. "Is Brionte ready to handle the rest of the load? Or Rod? We just didn't want to put it all on his shoulders with Bri'onte being a freshman, so we converted it to the quarterback run game a little bit more."


4. What about the red zone?

Ohio State was a perfect four-for-four on scoring chances inside the 20-yard line, but the Buckeyes were forced to settle for one field goal on the afternoon. That still represented an improvement from week one when they came away empty-handed twice in seven chances.

UCF crossed the Ohio State 20 five times but scored on only three of those trips, including having to settle for a field goal in the first quarter. That came after Johnson broke up a pass attempt over the middle on third down.

Johnson also snuffed out a UCF scoring chance with an interception at the OSU 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 31-16 at the time, the Knights had a chance to pull within one score before the turnover.


5. And play action?

UCF quarterback Blake Bortles executed a good play fake before finding tight end Justin Tukes wide open in the end zone for the Knights' first touchdown, but the visitors never really got the running game in gear enough to draw the Buckeyes up to the line.

The Buckeyes used the cousin of the play-action pass – a draw – to much success, particularly early in the game. Miller's first touchdown run came on a play when he dropped back, pretended to set up to throw then took off up the middle.


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