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September 8, 2012
Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham
COLUMBUS - Urban Meyer insisted all week that Central Florida was a Big Ten-caliber team. The Knights showed flashes of the talent that made Meyer leery of the George O'Leary-coached Knights, but Ohio State displayed its superiority in the end.
Central Florida couldn't handle quarterback Braxton Miller and for the second consecutive week the sophomore quarterback carried the 14th-ranked Buckeyes with his legs and arm in a big way.
Miller rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns on 27 attempts and was 18-of-24 passing for 155 yards and a TD to lead Ohio State to a 31-16 victory in Ohio Stadium before 104,745.
The last Buckeyes quarterback to run for three touchdowns in a game was Art Schlichter against Illinois in 1978.
The Buckeyes (2-0) managed to get past UCF (1-1) despite some periods of sloppy play that included 10 penalties and three turnovers in a nonconference game that was closer than some OSU fans might have expected.
"But, overall, once again, I don't want to be a downer around here," Meyer said. "We won a frickin' game. Won by two touchdowns against a quality opponent. Time to move on."
Miller's performance came on the heels of his OSU quarterback-record 161 rushing yards on 17 carries and 207 passing yards in a rout of Miami University the previous week. Meyer had suggested that the Buckeyes were relying too much on Miller's legs, but he was the team's workhorse again.
"That's too much," Meyer said of the 27 carries. "That's 27 hits. He's blown out right now. We have to be smart. Someone's gotta run the ball. And right now he's our best answer. Braxton Miller's the most talented runner on the team."
Miller opened the second half with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner, his 10th career TD reception, to cap an impressive 76-yard opening drive and the Buckeyes were on their way to Meyer's second win as coach.
Miller added an 8-yard rushing touchdown on the Buckeyes' next possession to extend Ohio State's led to 31-10.
"We tried to make too many arm tackles and you can't do that against a team as good as Ohio State," O'Leary said. "They have athletes that can make you miss, especially Braxton Miller. He is a good player who can make you look bad."
Miller had pushed the Buckeyes in front, 17-10, with 15 seconds left before halftime with a 6-yard touchdown run after Ohio State took possession with 3:18 left following an interception by cornerback Travis Howard, his third in the first two games.
Howard was bothered by a shoulder stinger during the game, but Meyer said Howard should be fine next week when California visits Ohio Stadium.
OSU wide receivers Devin Smith and Corey Brown each had six catches. Brown now has 13 receptions in two games. In 2011, he totaled 14 to tie for the team lead in a passing-challenged offense.
"Another guy that's does a nice job that I'll investigate more this week is Philly Brown, turning into that playmaker." Meyer said. "You might see him carrying the ball a little bit on the east-west stuff."
Running back Carlos Hyde limped off the field in the second quarter with an MCL sprain and did not return for the second half. He could be out for several weeks, Meyer said.
Hyde had gained 27 yards on seven carries in the first half. Freshman Bri'onte Dunn was pressed into service in Hyde's place and rushed for 29 yards on five carries.
The Buckeyes' four running backs combined for just 89 of the team's 282 rushing yards.
"Offensively, we're down to our third tailback, and it looked like it.," Meyer said "We have to get better. The guys carrying the ball are talented, just terrible mistakes."
Blake Bortles threw two touchdown passes for Central Florida but was intercepted three times by the Buckeyes defense. Storm Johnson rushed for 75 yards on 12 carries for the Knights, who gained 352 total yards to the Buckeyes' 411.
The Buckeyes recorded only one sack of Bortles but limited UCF to 103 rushing yards, including 34 in the second half.
"We do need to get more pressure as a team," said linebacker Etienne Sabino, who had one of the Buckeyes' interceptions, the first of his career.
Mistakes also were an issue for Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost two fumbles and an interception and accumulated 10 penalties for 79 yards.
"That was not good," Meyer said. "We have to try to fix that."
NOTES: Central Florida played without running back Latavius Murray, its leading rusher last week in the opener against Akron who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. ? Ohio State running back Jordan Hall, expected to be the team's starting running back after the spring, missed his second consecutive game while recovering from a foot injury. He could return next week against California. ? Central Florida coach George O'Leary backed off comments from earlier this week that Ohio State fans weren't as loud as Knights fans and "sit on their hands," saying it was "typical media" that distorted what he said. ? Ohio State has won 59 straight home games against unranked nonconference opponents since a loss to Florida State in 1982. ? Central Florida fell to 0-7 against Big Ten teams after its first meeting with Ohio State and 0-2 against Urban-Meyer coached teams.