Fourth-ranked Ohio State overcame the adversity of Urban Meyer’s absence and its toughest test so far — and is still undefeated for the return of the suspended coach.
Trailing No. 15 TCU and with star defender Nick Bosa in the locker room because of an apparent left groin injury, the Buckeyes scored three touchdowns in a four-minute span in third quarter — including a 28-yard interception return by big defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones — in a 40-28 victory Saturday night.
“Once we found (the momentum), we had to hold on to it,” Jones said. “We had to rely on each other.”
Parris Campbell turned a short pass from Dwayne Haskins Jr. into a 63-yard touchdown to start the quick scoring spurt.
Ohio State still trailed 21-19 after a 2-point try failed, but TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson was under pressure on the ensuing third down when he tried to shovel a pass to his running back — but instead it went right to Jones, the 286-pound tackle who rumbled to the end zone.
The next drive for the Horned Frogs (2-1) ended with a blocked punt, and two plays later Haskins threw a 24-yard TD to K.J. Hill.
“Getting through this game, the way it went down, we knew there were going be ebbs and flows in a game like this,” acting coach Ryan Day said. “We knew that were going to be times when we’d hit adversity and we’d have to stick together at times like that.”
Meyer completed his three-game suspension for mismanaging domestic-abuse allegations and other misconduct by former assistant Zach Smith. Meyer was able to take part in practice the last two weeks, but will be back on the sideline when the Buckeyes play their final non-conference game at home next Saturday.
“We’re just so excited to get coach back,” Day said.
The Buckeyes jumped out to a 10-0 lead after All-America defensive end Bosa’s strip-sack in the end zone, a fumble that was recovered by Davon Hamilton for a touchdown.
But Bosa left the game after rushing Robinson early in the third quarter. Bosa could be seen pointing at his groin area when sitting on the turf after the play, and went to the locker room with Ohio State down.
By time Bosa got back on the sideline in street clothes late in the third quarter, the Buckeyes were leading for good.
Darius Anderson had two rushing TDs for TCU, including a school record 93-yard sprint that was the longest play from scrimmage ever against the Buckeyes. Anderson added a 16-yard score when he dived to the left pylon to make it 21-13 before Ohio State’s quick scoring spurt.
“Usually in early games, big games, you lose them more than you win them,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “Can’t give them (20) points. Outside of that I thought our team played a really good football game. Ohio State’s a good football, got to give them a lot of credit.”
IN JERRY WORLD
The game was played at the NFL home of the Dallas Cowboys, about 20 miles from the TCU campus — and where they Buckeyes won the national championship four seasons ago. That was after Ohio State jumped past Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU into the fourth and final playoff spot for the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Ohio State: Ohio State and Haskins, the sophomore quarterback starting his third game, passed their biggest tests. Haskins (24 of 38 for 344 yards and two TDs) was able to withstand the pressure by defensive end Ben Banogu and the Frogs.
“I go against the best defense in the country every day in practice,” Haskins said.
TCU: The Horned Frogs overcame some early mistakes, including a holding call that wiped out a touchdown run before a missed field. Robinson was involved in all three turnovers (two interceptions and the fumble on the sack), but the sophomore quarterback was solid going 24-of-40 for 308 yards and a touchdown. “We had a shovel pass call, probably our fault,” Patterson said. “As far as looking at everything else, I thought he handled things really well.”
Ohio State’s victory over TCU looks more impressive than lopsided wins Saturday by No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Georgia, so there is always the possibility of the Buckeyes gaining a spot. Regardless, after a couple of easy wins, they proved themselves worthy of their high early ranking. TCU likely will slip a few spots, but is a Top 25 team going into its conference schedule.
Ohio State is back home Saturday to play Tulane in its final game outside of Big Ten play.
TCU opens Big 12 play at Texas next Saturday.