In the end, it was exactly like every other game between the Ohio State football team and an in-state opponent since 1921 – a Buckeye win.
The Buckeyes raced out to a 30-7 lead early, watched Cincinnati battle back to within one score and then pulled away again, beating the visiting Bearcats by a 50-28 score in front of a stadium-record crowd of 108,362 fans.
Ohio State’s offense was nearly unstoppable, cranking a school record for first downs (45, breaking the total of 39 set vs. Drake 1935). The Buckeyes also nearly set the school mark for total yards, getting to 720 to pass the mark of 718 set in 1930 vs. Mount Union, but a bad snap on the penultimate play of the game resulted in a 20-yard loss. Instead, OSU finished with 710 on the day, a modern-era record.
J.T. Barrett was stout in the pocket and efficient when he did deliver the ball, going 26 for 36 for 330 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first Buckeye quarterback since Troy Smith – who was enshrined into the OSU Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend – in 2005 to throw for 300 yards in consecutive games. Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott was a perfect complement, rushing for a career-high 182 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
Cincinnati receiver Chris Moore had three long touchdown catches – a 60-yarder on the first drive to give UC a 7-0 lead and scores of 83 and 78 yards on either side of halftime to make things interesting – to total 221 yards, but it wasn’t enough. Quarterback Gunner Kiel also lived up to the hype, completing 21 of 32 passes for 352 yards and four scores.
But after Moore’s long touchdown just 1:24 into the game, Ohio State took control. The Buckeyes marched down the field on their first drive, going 75 yards and tying the score when Roderick Smith scored on a 3-yard run.
The Buckeyes didn’t mess around on the next drive either, going 91 yards and taking a 14-7 lead with 4:32 left in the first when Elliott scored on another 3-yard run. Then, on UC’s next play, Joey Bosa sacked Kiel and the ball flew backward into the OSU end zone, resulting in a safety that gave the Buckeyes a 16-7 lead.
Ohio State didn’t waste the ensuing free kick, either, marching 58 yards in nine plays. Barrett found Devin Smith open over the middle for a 19-yard TD, and Sean Nuernberger’s PAT gave the Buckeyes a 23-7 lead with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
After a UC three-and-out, the Buckeyes made it 30 consecutive points, as Barrett found Evan Spencer on a screen pass for a 19-yard TD with 12:34 left in the half.
UC then had a long TD pass called back for an illegal man downfield, and the Buckeyes looked to be marching for another score when freshman running back Curtis Samuel fumbled. The Bearcats finally took advantage, going 58 yards in six plays and getting a 19-yard screen pass from Kiel to Johnny Holton to make it 30-14.
Ohio State drove again late in the half but a couple of drops gave the Bearcats back the ball late in the half, and Kiel took advantage, lofting an 83-yard bomb to Moore – who got behind Eli Apple in single coverage – with 26 seconds left in the half to make it a 30-21 game at halftime.
After a “Wizard of Oz” themed halftime show, Nuernberger kicked a 25-yard field goal on the Buckeyes’ opening drive of the second half to stop the bleeding, but on UC’s second play, Moore again got open thanks to a miscommunication in the OSU defense and housed a post pattern for a 78-yard TD. Suddenly, with 9:20 to play in the third quarter, the Bearcats were within a score at 33-28.
The Buckeyes answered with another Nuernberger field goal, this one from 42 yards, and the Bearcats were stopped on the next drive thanks to an offensive pass interference call. Ohio State then settled things down with a seven-play, 62-yard drive capped when Barrett pump-faked and found Dontre Wilson behind the defense for a 24-yard score that made it 43-28 with 1:18 left in the third.
Things were polished off by the Buckeyes on the next drive as Devin Smith caught a 34-yard TD from Barrett to allow OSU to hit the 50-point mark at 50-28.